The Hardest Letter to Pronounce in French
I’m regularly wrecked by the French R. Ridiculous! – Some Grade 10 Student, Somewhere
It’s finally time for that dreaded lesson. The one where we practice what letter students struggle with the most in French.
In my experience, and in many teachers’ experience, that is the French r!
What makes it so difficult?
It is so difficult because it is not a sound that exists in English, and so many students (and even some teachers!) can’t grasp how to pronounce it!
It makes words that look like this so scary… rotisserie
Nothing scary about rotisserie, or restaurants, though!
So how do we pronounce it?
Well first, you need to understand how people make sounds in the first place. We make sounds by a combination of three things.
- Our tongue
- Our mouth
- Our larynx (inside the throat, almost looks like another set of lips)
For the French R, you don’t need your tongue, or your mouth shape. All you need to use is your larynx!
You only have to vibrate your larynx (as though you’re gargling) and that will produce the French R.
Classic Practice Technique:
A classic practice technique is to take a pencil, and bite down on it while it is horizontal over your mouth, and still try to produce the sound. If you do the R sound correctly, it should still come out nice, even though you are stopping your mouth from making a shape with the pencil.
Here, try saying this sentence (taken from the French tonguetwisters, available in the module store):
La roche roule le long de la rampe rustique
Notice how we’re practicing the R sound with a whole bunch of vowels? Fantastique!
Keep practicing and you’ll get it!
Need more practice? Click here for a module that helps you with the basic sounds of French!
And here is a comprehensive French speaking module!