Why this is more important than having a great French accent: if you speak with a strong accent but produce the right vowel sounds, the French will understand every word and think you have a cute accent. But if you mix up the sounds of OU and U, é and è, your French listener will have to decode and try to figure out what word you just tried to say. In that case, they will not compliment you on your charming accent. Instead, they will think that understanding you takes a lot of extra work on their part.
So, getting the vowel sounds right is much more important that having a great accent. This is the part of high school French class that made no sense for most of us. I’ve found that it takes about 3 months to learn these sounds. You’ll need to work one-on-one with a private tutor or with a native French speaker. So, here are the lists…
You can use these lists…
- With a French tutor – it’s what I recommend. Download the PDF sheets and ask your tutor something like this: “I have this list of words. Can you listen to me pronounce them and point out where I make mistakes?”
- With a native French speaker. Any native speaker will be able to tell you if you are making any mistakes in these lists.
- By yourself. You’ll find listen and repeat recordings for most of the lists. The only problem is that most people can’t tell when they are doing it wrong, even while listening to the example. So practice on your own; but know that you are going to need a native speaker to confirm that you have it right.
You can use these exercises as a warm-up or as a quiz:
1) as a warm-up exercises : listen to the correct pronunciation and repeat it
2) as a quiz : say the word BEFORE you hear the correct pronunciation. Did you say it correctly?
8-4 in sound practice-sentence
If you are able to pronounce ‘indice’ and ‘lutin’ correctly while working with your teacher but then forget how to pronounce the sound as soon as you work on your own, then repeating these sentences right after the native speaker may help you make the ‘in’ sound automatic. Until the ‘in’ sound becomes automatic, if you want a crutch, just remember that it rhymes with the French word for bread : pain. I included a download link so you can put the recording into your phone or USB key and listen and repeat while you walk or drive to work.