French Pronunciation: Stop Consonants

Among the first pronunciation difficulties that the student encounters while studying French is the fact that various written consonants are really “quiet”, particularly around the finishes of words. So for instance, the language love and chaud really rhyme in French, despite the fact that the 2nd of those finishes inside a written “d” as the first finishes in no written consonant whatsoever.

But there’s yet another difficulty to learning the pronunciation of French consonants. Even when they’re really pronounced, various consonant sounds that you simply initially expect is the “same seem” his or her British counterpart are actually subtly different in French. You would be pardoned for believing that, say, a “d” seem is really a “d” seem regardless of the language, to ensure that as long as it’s pronounced to begin with, a “d” seem in French is equivalent to a “d” seem in British. Regrettably, this works out to not be and even presuming it to be can result in communication difficulties.

Both British and French (as well as other languages) share various consonants, called stops, which come in pairs: “p”/”b”, “t”/”d” and “k”/”g”. These consonants are known to as stops because in pronouncing them you… stop… the environment flowing with the mouth (using the lips within the situation from the first pair, with area of the tongue from the roof from the mouth within the second and third). The 2 stops creating each pair (e.g. “p” versus “b”) differ when it comes to vocal cord vibration: loosely speaking, the very first of every pair is “voiceless” (missing vocal cord vibration) whereas the second reason is “voiced” (getting vocal cord vibration). Like a side note, we ought to point out that their are potentially other pairs of stops across languages in general, however these ones are typical to French and British.

To date, so great: the loose explanations we have just given of those six consonants affect both British and French. However the demon is incorporated in the detail. For that reasons we’ll see in a moment, an British speaker’s voiceless stops are a bit “more voiceless” than individuals of the French speaker, as the French speaker’s voiced stops are a bit “more voiced”.

Whenever a French speaker claims their form of these consonants, their behavior follows the outline above pretty much as you may expect. Just like they convey their lips together to create a “p” seem, pretty much concurrently their vocal cords stop vibrating. As well as, because they open their lips again, the vocal cords start vibrating pretty much simultaneously (provided, obviously, there’s followers seem like a vowel that needs these to vibrate!). On the other hand, whenever a French person claims a “b” seem (the “voiced” counterpart from the “p” seem, remember) they goal to help keep the vocal cords vibrating right the way in which through. Then when put on a French speaker’s stops, “voiced” and “voiceless” do describe whether their is vocal cord vibration as the seem or air flow is really stopped.

However, the behavior of the native British speaker is slightly different. Once they pronounce a “p” seem, furthermore their vocal cords stop vibrating as the lips are together, however when the lips are opened up again and also the air “launched”, the native British speaker generally “forces” a little extra breath of air out. This “breath of air” is frequently called aspiration and it has the result of stalling the start of vocal cord vibration due to the elevated air pressure flowing with the larynx. However, when an British speaker claims a so-known as “voiced” stop like a “b”, the truth is they still permit the vocal cords to prevent vibrating as the lips are closed, but rather differentiate in the voiceless visit staying away from the aspiration.

(The bald eagle-eyed will observe that the explanations we give here apply particularly to stops at the outset of a syllable. We focus here on voicing at the outset of a syllable, but you will find obviously other variations within the pronunciation of those stops between French and British.)

Now take a look at these explanations again carefully: we stated that inside a French “p” seem, the vocal cords stop vibrating as the lips are closed. As well as in an British “b” seem, the vocal cords also stop vibrating. This means that the British “b” seem is really much like a French “p” seem! An identical process is applicable to another pairs “t”/”d” and “k”/”g”, to ensure that oftentimes, an British “d” is really much like a French “t” as well as an British “g” much like a French “k”. Obviously, this really is one pronunciation detail that may potentially result in confusion!

What exactly are you able to do used to pronounce these stops in ways which will avoid confusion to some French speaker? Fortunately, we all do get one beginning reason for British. It works out that whenever a “s” seem at the outset of an British word (as with sport, steak, skate/school etc), “p”, “t” and “k” tend to be more comparable to their French alternatives. To the French word porte, imagine saying the British word sport, but “chop off” the “s” seem at the start. (Also listen carefully to the way you say British sport then port, and see the aspiration or “sharp breath of air” that comes with the “p” of port although not of sport.)

Pronouncing French “b”, “d” and “g” is a touch harder for British loudspeakers and may take getting accustomed to. Recall that the French speaker deliberately attempts to keep your vocal cords vibrating right the way in which with these sounds. Practice making these sounds and seeking to “pressure” additional air on to your teeth while “preventing” the seem simultaneously. Another strategy is to assume pronouncing them as if these were “megabytes”, “nd” and “ng”, after which “cutting up off” the “m” or “n”.

It requires some practice, but having to pay focus on particulars like the above can produce a huge improvement for your French pronunciation and can help make your speech more readily understandable to some French speaker and being conscious of these variations will probably enhance your knowledge of spoken French.
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