With this lesson, we will start learning how to pronounce some of the French sounds and syllables, and learn our first French words!
Reference: The French alphabet
A syllable in French can be composed of 1 to 6 letters and always contains at least one vowel, and 0, 1 or more consonants.
Let’s make a quick test: look at the word “bonjour”. How many syllables do you see?
The tricky part in French is that some letters, when combined together, can create new sounds, and ‘bonjour’ is a perfect example.
One note before we go any further; There only exists 4 syllables in French with 1 letter: “a”, “à”, “ô” and “y”, with the “ô” being seldom used.
The sound ‘on’ and the syllable ‘bon’
This one is a tricky one. In many languages, the combination of the letters ‘o’ and ‘n’ leads to some kind of diphthong where both sounds for ‘o’ and ‘n’ are noticeable, like in ‘turn on the light’ in English or ‘音楽 (ongaku)’ in Japanese. But in French the combination of these two letters creates (sometimes) a new sound:on
Now, pronouncing the syllable ‘bon’ should be quite straightforward (do not hesitate to listen and repeat the pronunciations at will):bon
‘bon’ in itself is an adjective, in its masculine form (French language distinguishes two type of names, masculine and feminine,we will address this subject in a later lesson) which can be translated as /good/.
The sound ‘ou’
The combination of the letters ‘o’ and ‘u’ also creates a new sound, this one present in many languages such as Spanish or German, but not to be pronounced like the ‘ou’ combination in English. This sound is:
The sound ‘our’
The pronunciation of the French ‘r’ is one tricky part. The French ‘r’ is a slightly gravelly sound like the German ‘ch’. Pronouncing it may require quite some listening and practice. It is some kind of an expired h with the tongue stayings flat and vibrating slightly.
But don’t worry if you do not get it right, you will still be understood ^^.
Here is the pronunciation:r
All right. Now try adding ‘ou’ and ‘r’:our
The syllable ‘jour’
And now here is our (and not ‘our’ 😉 ) second syllable. Knowing that the French ‘j’ is pronounced somehow like the ‘s’ in treasure (and not like the English ‘j’), try to say: ‘jour’.jour
The word ‘jour’ translates into /day/ in English.
And finally the last step: you have seen how to pronounce ‘bon’, and how to pronounce ‘jour’, therefore now put that both syllables the one after the other and you get: ‘bonjour’.bonjour
And if you have carefully read the previous paragraphs you should now have gotten the meaning of this word… ‘bon’ /good/, ‘jour’ /day/ …
‘bonjour’ is a greeting which is the equivalent of the English / Good morning / or / Good afternoon /. It is a polite term which can be used in any situation (with friends, teachers, strangers…).
So, the next time you meet a friend, greet her/him with a ‘bonjour’!
Here we are with this lesson. Next time we will continue with some new syllables.