French oral gymnastics: Getting “vous” right


Limber up your tongue and lips! And send me a comment if there are any sounds you cannot pronounce.
Today’s exercise: repeat after the speaker 8 times. The idea here is to improve a reflex you need to have: knowing (without thinking about it) when to pronounce the S in VOUS.

I hope you enjoyed this one!
Another “French Oral Gymnastics” exercise

Echoing tips for the above exercise:

  • First line:
    • You see two examples of vous. Listen to hear the Z sound at the end of both vous. Without this vowel sound, a fast speaker could run the ou of vous and the ê of êtes together. Then, your ear might think it is hearing one syllable instead of two separate syllables.
  • Second line:
    • Again, you see two vous in this line; but here, only the second one has the Z sound. The first vous is followed by a consonant: no chance of getting confused and thinking that you hear one syllable instead of two. The second vous is followed by a vowel. So that the ou and the following a don’t run together and trick the ear into thinking it is hearing a single syllable, we need a liason to break them apart so that you hear both distinctly.
    • When you pronounce dépité, makes sure that you pronounce that i as eee. (As an English speaker, you are going to tend to pronounce that i like the i in the English word ‘hit.’ But don’t worry: this is not one of those pronunciation mistakes that will cause a French person to misunderstand you.)
  • Third line:
    • Here, you have On twice; but they are pronounced differently. Do you hear the difference? The first On ends with a nasal sound; but the second On has that nasal sound and then a noticeable N sound. Notice that, to the ear, it’s actually O+nasal sound……. n’était. So, it almost sounds as if the N is at the beginning of était, right? This pronounced N helps separate the vowel sound of On from the vowel sound of était. So, again, a liaison to avoid having vowel sounds from separate words running together and tricking you into thinking that you are hearing one syllable instead of two.
  • Fourth line:
    • Notice that the ts at the ends of contents and clients are silent. All you hear is that nasal n sound but no T or S sound.
    • The eu should not sound like the ou in vous. Instead, it should be that tight, front-of-the mouth U sound.

Ok! Now that you know all of that stuff intellectually, now that you hear those sounds, practice echoing them correctly after the native speakers so that all of that becomes automatic and you don’t have to think about it next time.

For members: the slow echoing recordings can be downloaded so that you can practice echoing them in the car. (Not dangerous because it does not require reading while driving!)

If you don’t know what I mean by ‘echoing,’ here you are: I mean repeating just after the speaker. Instead of saying the words at the same time, you allow a slight delay. You may need to turn the sound up a bit in order to hear the speaker’s voice above your own. Look out for words that are hard to pronounce. When you find one, experiment with moving your tongue and lips in new ways until you find a movement that makes that word easier to pronounce. I find this to be challenging but fun. I hope you enjoy it!

Best regards,

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