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The first step to take in your French learning journey is of course: the French alphabet and pronunciation. But why? First, knowing the basics of the French alphabet will help you have a strong foundation for your learning. And then, it’s very common that you do not pronounce words in French the exact same way you read them. For example, not all the letters will be pronounced (silent letters) while others, depending on where they are placed, will be pronounced in different ways.
In this article, let me show you the details of the French alphabet.
Table of Contents
How many letters are there in the French alphabet?
There are 26 letters + variants in the French alphabet, for a total of 39letters. Here they are, and how you should read them.
|E||uhh||é, è, ê, ë|
|R||er (little gargle)|
|U||uuh (lips pinched,|
|ù, û, ü|
Regarding the accents, this is how we call them:
- Acute accent (é) : Accent aigu
- Grave accent (à, è, ù): Accent grave
- Cedilla (ç): Cédille
- Circumflex (â, ô, û): Accent circonflexe
- Trema (ï, ü): Tréma.
Basic French accents and how to type them
Unfortunately, not all of us have a French “AZERTY” keyboard. We call them AZERTY keyboards, as they are the first letters that are displayed on a French keyboard, whereas “English” keyboards are called “QWERTY” keyboards
But I have good news for you, you can type the accents if you have a numeric keypad! For Windows users, simply hold the ALT key and type in the numbers that match the accent. For Mac users, please see below the ALT code table.
|Accent||ALT code UPPERCASE||ALT code lowercase|
If you are using a Mac:
For Mac users
- Acute accent (é): Press the “option” key + letter “e” at the same time. Release. Press on the letter “e” key.
- Grave accent (à, è, ù): Press the “option” key + “ ‘ ” (top left of your keyboard) at the same time. Then press on the key of the desired letter (a, e, or u).
- Cedilla (ç): Press the “option” key + letter “c” at the same time.
- Circumflex (â, ô, û): Press the “option” key + letter “i” at the same time. Press on the key of the letter of your choice (i, e, u).
- Trema (ï, ü): Press the “option” key + letter “u” at the same time. Press on the key of the desired letter (a, e, i, o, u).
What about æ and œ? And how do we type them?
In French, in addition to all the letters seen above, we have what we call “ligatures” and there are 2 of them: œ, æ.
– œ is a blend of the letters “o” and “e”. It can be found in the word “cœur” (heart). We will pronounce “œ” the same way as we pronounce “eu” in “heure”.
– æ is a blend of the letters “a” and “e”. It can be found in the word “curriculum vitæ” (CV). We will pronounce “æ” like “eh”.
Here are the keyboard shortcuts for those ligatures:
ALT + 0156
ALT + 0140
|“Option” key + letter “q”|
ALT + 145
ALT + 146
|“Option” key + “ ‘ ” (apostrophe)|
Why are French pronunciation and spelling so different?
This is why I insisted on the pronunciation and spelling tips above. In French, we do not always pronounce letters the same way. What makes French pronunciation so particular, is that firstly, we have so many silent letters. And then, we might also have different spellings for the same sound! Let’s take a look …
Basic pronunciation and spelling rules for French beginners
Here are when you should not pronounce some letters in French:
|Silent letter||When is it silent?|
|b||after -m at the end of a word: plomb, aplomb.|
|c||after -n at the end of a word: banc, blanc.|
|d||at the end of a word: pied.|
|g||at the end of a word after -n: sang.|
|h||always silent : hôpital, hilare.|
|m||in a nasal vowel: parfum.|
|n||in nasal vowels: important, chanter.|
|p||at the end of a word: loup, trop.|
|r||after -e at the end of a word: parler, chanter.|
|s||at the end of a word: des, fleurs.|
|t||at the end of a word: jouet, tout.|
|x||at the end of a word: deux, hiboux.|
|z||at the end of a word: chez, mangez.|
Nasal vowels in French are pronounced using the nose. This means that you need to partly expel the air out of your nose as well while you pronounce them. The “n” should not be heard.
One tip to help you know if you pronounced it right: pinch your nose and pronounce the nasal vowel. If you are not able to pronounce it, then you did it right!
The case of the letter “H”
The letter “H” in French, unlike in English, is always silent. At the beginning of a word, we have 2 types of letter “H”:
– le H muet (silent H): this one is considered as a vowel. It requires an elision after “le” or “la”. For example: l’hôpital, l’heure.
– le H aspiré (plugged H): still silent but considered as a consonant. It will not require an elision after “le” or “la”. For example le haricot, le héros.
Liaisons and contractions
Common mistakes and difficulties
One of the most common difficulties that you might encounter regarding the French alphabet is how to pronounce the sounds “r”, “u” and the reading rhythm.
The French R
The French R (international phonetic alphabet character [ʁ]) can be a hassle for speakers who do not have that sound in their native language (such as Spanish, German and even Hebrew).
Unlike most people believe, the French R is not really happening in the throat, but mostly at the back of your tongue going up and down against your soft palate.
Once you think you’ve got it, repeat phrases like la ravissante robe rouge / une orange rangée dans le tiroir.
This sound doesn’t exist in English either. To help you out with this sound, try to pronounce the letter “E” or the sound “ee” in English (like in “deer”). The tip of your tongue should touch your teeth. Once you have that sound, continue saying it, but while pursing your lips together, up to the point you look like you’re whistling.
If you listen to a French person read, you might notice that some areas of the sentences are more accentuated than others. In English, stress occurs within the syllables of words themselves. For example:
– a PREsent: a gift
– he preSENTs the verb “to present”.
In French, it is important not to maintain the same tone throughout the sentences. Mark pauses before punctuation marks, raise your tone at the end if you ask a question, lower it if you are reading a statement…
To practice more, visit LingoDeer’s free online courses for the French alphabet pronunciation.
How can I practice French pronunciation and spelling?
There are many ways that you can practice French pronunciation or spelling. The most effective ways, for me:
– Reading: I cannot say this enough, but reading is the best way to practice your French spelling skills. The more you read, the more your mind will memorize how to spell a specific word, and even expressions. LingoDeer’s Fluent section provides everyday conversation for you to do shadow reading. You can speed down the audio for each word and phrase. And playback to check how you did it. Moreover, the content updated regularly!
– Listening: Listening to audio files, the radio, podcasts, is an effective way to practice your French pronunciation. By listening to French speakers, you will be able to pick up (and mimic) the most common practices when it comes to pronunciation, expressions, and even sometimes, verbal tics in French.
– Dictation exercises: This is one of the best exercises that you can do to practice both your pronunciation AND your spelling skills. There are tons of dictation exercises available on the internet, listen, and then write what you hear (or what you think you hear)!
Learning French can seem intimidating at first, especially if you are not familiar with the French alphabet or pronunciation. There is one final tip I can give you to improve your skills: have more exposure to French. Do things that you love in French. Read, sing, play games, we have tons of resources nowadays (thank you Internet!) and it would be too bad to miss out on them.
Bon courage et à bientôt!
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What are the 26 letters of the alphabet in French? ›
The Alphabet in French
a, b, c, d, e f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o ,p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.
- Learn how to listen.
- Break down words.
- Master your vowels.
- Mix the vowels with consonants.
- Immersion and cultural stays.
- Don't forget to have fun.
- Measure your progress.
et. “Et” was the 27th letter of the alphabet. And actually, you can still find it on your keyboard! Now most people call this character an “ampersand” or simply “and”, but this character was actually considered a letter!How do you say k in French? ›
The letter K is pronounced similarly in French and English, and is identical to the hard French C. Phonetic symbol: [k]. K is quite rare in French – it's found mainly in words borrowed from other languages.How do you pronounce t in French? ›
Pronouncing the French Letter 'T'
The letter 'T' in French is fairly straightforward as it is pronounced more or less like the English 'T. ' The difference is that in French, it is pronounced with the tongue against the upper teeth, rather than behind them, as in the English T.
- Watch films. Watching films in French with French subtitles is one of the best ways to learn. ...
- Learn with songs. ...
- Read. ...
- Find a partner. ...
- Don't be scared to try and make mistakes. ...
- Listen! ...
- Practice. ...
- Sign up for an intensive course.
With the right amount of motivation and commitment, a healthy learning habit, plus the right tools and method to guide you, yes you can teach yourself French. As a French teacher for many years, I've come across a lot of people who would rather spend time learning a new language by themselves.What is the easiest way to learn French pronunciation? ›
- Step 1: Start Small: Practise the Pronunciation of Individual Sounds. ...
- Step 2: Imitate the Facial Expressions and Body Language of Native French Speakers. ...
- Step 3: Learn to Sing a French Song. ...
- Step 4: Have a Conversation with a Native French Speaker.
- Get to the Roots. Memorize words that share the same root at the same time. ...
- Know Your Cognates. ...
- Practice With Your Textbook. ...
- Three Is a Magic Number. ...
- Listen and Repeat. ...
- Use It in a Sentence. ...
- Make Associations. ...
- Word of the Day.
Not only do you get to see the language used naturally, but you also get to hear native pronunciations of every word. Anywhere that you see a word, you're able to check its definition, hear an audio pronunciation and see the word used in other videos.
Is Z no longer A letter? ›
Clearly there's good news for all the zebras and zither lovers out there, though. Z made its way back to the alphabet so kids could learn an alphabet that stretched all the way from A to Z. Two hundred years after Appius Claudius Caecus was giving the letter the boot, Z was reintroduced to the Latin alphabet.Is there A letter after Z? ›
The letter z (Z uppercase) is the last letter, thus nothing comes after z.Is letter A to Z? ›
The English Alphabet consists of 26 letters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.What sounds does a make? ›
Å is pronounced like the English O in “or,” the Swedish Ä sounds almost like the word “air” in English, and Ö has a similar pronunciation to the [er] sound in the word “her.”What is c called in French? ›
A cedilla is a symbol that is written under the letter 'c' in French, Portuguese, and some other languages to show that you pronounce it like a letter 's' rather than like a letter 'k'. It is written ç.Is French R silent? ›
The French r is nothing like the English r (pronounced in the middle of the mouth) or the Spanish r (pronounced in the front of the mouth). The French r is pronounced in the throat. The French r sounds a lot like the ch sound in "Loch Ness" and the kh in Arabic transcription, as in Khalid.What does c mean in French? ›
The little hook ¸ added under the letter c in French is a diacritical mark known as a cedilla, une cédille. The letter c with the hook ç is called c cédille. The sole purpose of the cedilla is to change a hard c, pronounced [k], to a soft c, pronounced [s].
The French alphabet is based on the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, uppercase and lowercase, with five diacritics and two orthographic ligatures. The letters ⟨w⟩ and ⟨k⟩ are rarely used except in loanwords and regional words.How is ç pronounced in French? ›
Ç always sounds like [“sss”] !
So it's a way to have a “c” letter that sounds like “sss” even in front of a / o / u. For instance: A : Ça = [sah] = “this” ; Français = [fransay] = French!
Ë with diaeresis is the easiest case to deal with. The diaeresis (the two dots) signifies that the underlying “e” is pronounced as /ɛ/ (as “e” in “bet”, i.e. the open e), no matter what comes around it, and is used in groups of vowels that would otherwise be pronounced differently.
Why do French not say r? ›
French R Vs Spanish R
The French R sound is produced at the back of the mouth, where you'll pronounce the G of “get” in English. In France, the French R is never the Spanish rolled R, nor is it the very guttural Spanish J as in Jesus.
Why is the final “s” in Paris silent? The final “s” in Paris is typically silent because it's part of a group of words called “liaison words.” Liaison words are French words that end in a consonant but are followed by a word that begins with a vowel.How can I practice French speaking by myself? ›
- Don't Study French in a stretch. ...
- Lock yourself in the room and talk to yourself in French in front of a mirror. ...
- Go on to listen to French audio anytime and anywhere. ...
- Switch on your TV to watch French game shows. ...
- Repeat or revise as much as possible. ...
- Read French out loud.
While you certainly won't master it in three months, especially if you can only put a few hours a week into it, you can make sure to be more efficient by following an initial plan of action. Let's take a look at what you should do in the first hour, first day, first week and first month of learning French.Is French difficult study? ›
The FSI scale ranks French as a “category I language”, considered “more similar to English” compared to categories III and IV “hard” or “super-hard languages”. According to the FSI, French is one of the easiest languages to learn for a native English speaker.Can I learn French in 1.5 years? ›
It will take approximately 580 hours or 23 weeks of study to reach complete French fluency. Which we could break down as the following: If you study for 1 hour every day, you can learn French in 1.5 years. If you spend 6 hours every day learning French, you can learn it in less than 100 days.Can we learn French in 1 month? ›
The reality is that there's a lot of material you'll need to cover to learn French in 30 days. However, don't be overwhelmed. Take it day-by-day, and re-adjust your learning plan every so often if you have to.How can I practice French everyday? ›
- Try a listening comprehension exercise.
- Do a dictée.
- Listen to music.
- Listen to the news.
- Listen to the radio.
- Watch a movie.
- Watch TV.
- Check out Lawless French Immersion.
Brace yourself: The hardest French word to pronounce is the word for locksmith – “serrurerie“. It was the most commonly repeated response.
Compared with Parisians, Southern French people speak French at a slower rate, which can make it seem easy to understand.
What is the hardest French accent to understand? ›
#1 Parisian French
Of the accents of France, the Paris accent is perhaps the hardest to nail down. And that's because Parisian French is considered “standard French” – or French without an accent.
Latin alphabet, also called Roman alphabet, the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world, the standard script of the English language and the languages of most of Europe and those areas settled by Europeans.What is a French 26? ›
|French gauge||Circumference (mm)||Outer diameter|
The letter A is derived from the Phoenician letter aleph—a western Semitic word referring to the aforementioned beast of burden. Aleph can be traced back to the Middle Bronze Age and the Proto-Sinaitic script found in parts of Egypt and Canaan from around 1850 BCE (Before the Common Era).How old is the letter J? ›
It wasn't until 1524 when Gian Giorgio Trissino, an Italian Renaissance grammarian known as the father of the letter J, made a clear distinction between the two sounds.Why is there no 70 in French? ›
In French, soixante (60) is the last iteration of ten to have its own word. Going higher, such as seventy is soixant dix (60-10), eighty is quatre vingt (4-20), 90 is quatre vingt dix (4-20-10). What's with this?How do you say 13 45 in French? ›
Il est treize heures quarante-cinq = it's 13:45. Il est vingt heures = it's 20:00.Is 5 French bigger than 8 French? ›
|French Gauge||Diameter (mm)||Diameter (inches)|
Although French is derived mainly from Latin (which accounts for about 60% of English vocabulary either directly or via a Romance language), it also includes words from Gaulish and Germanic languages (especially Old Frankish).
How is 13 pronounced? ›
Thirteen. Thirteen beings with the unvoiced TH sound, so the tongue must come through the teeth, th, thir-. It then has the 'ur' as in 'her' vowel sound, thir-, so the tongue pulls back, fattens up, and raises some, thir-.How do you say 1.5 in French? ›
Hence the decimil 1.5 is written 1,5 and read as 'un vigrule cinq'.Do you say 12 o'clock in French? ›
|It's twelve o'clock (PM)||Il est midi||Eel eh mee-dee|
|It's one o'clock (PM)||Il est treize heures||Eel eh trayz euhr|
|It's two o'clock (PM)||Il est quatorze heures||Eel eh dooz euhr|
|It's three o'clock (PM)||Il est quinze heures||Eel eh kanz euhr|