how to lose your english anglophone accent

8 Unique Tips to Make Your Accent in French Sound Less English

When you're learning French and hanging out in France, that UK or North American (let's call it anglophone) accent of yours can really bug you.

You don't want people to instantly peg you as an English speaker. You don't mind being foreign, but you'd rather not shout it out loud with your accent.

You hear advice about toning down those dipthongs and softening up on those consonants. Maybe you tried mimicking French people speaking English, hoping to pick up their mouth moves.

But still, when you talk, you feel like you're wearing a neon sign saying "I'm from across the pond!"

You'd love to sound more French, be understood, and feel like you belong. You want to blend into the French scenery, not stick out like a sore thumb.

You hope that one day, when you speak French, people will hear you and NOT think, "s/he must be British/American/Canadian..."

Below are 7 of the most obvious signs you're an anglophone when speaking French, based on my own experience as a bilingual person.

If you manage to get rid of these at least partially, while you may not quite sound like a native speaker (yet), you can make it a LOT harder for French speakers to pinpoint where you're from!

1. Stress syllables less

One of the clearest indicators that you're an Anglophone when speaking French is how you emphasize specific syllables.

Take the word "restaurant" as an example. In English, the stress falls on the first syllable: "RES-tuh-raunt." In French, there's less emphasis on any particular syllable, with a more even distribution of stress: "res-tau-rant" (the last syllables can be stressed slightly).

Here's how an American learning French might pronouce this sentence:

"Je vais à la boulangerie acheter des croissants pour le petit-déjeuner."

Here's the native French version:

As you can hear, version 1 puts a clear emphasis on certain syllables, like "(je) vais", "(bou)lan(gerie)", "a(cheter)", "croi(ssants)", pe(tit)", "(jeuner)".

Version 2 is a lot more even. For many French words, it's sometimes quite hard to detect which syllables are being emphasized.

2. Master the big "R"

Another telltale sign in your accent that gives away you're an English speaker is the way you pronounce the R.

Take "Le restaurant" again:

English speaker version:

Native French version:

Hear the difference?

Personal tip: the French R is pronounced similarly to the sound a roaring cougar makes when you imitate it: "Rrrrrrr!"

Here's another example of anglphone vs native pronunciation of the R:

"Bonjour Marie!"

Besides the R pronunciation, as we discussed in the last section, notice the emphasis on the second syllable "(Ma)rie" for the English version. The native version puts about equal stress on the "Ma" and the "rie".

3. Improve your "P"

English speakers tend to pronounce the P like it's followed by an "H": "p-H-ardon".

Example: "Tu peux payer par carte ou en espèces". Here's the English speaker version:

It sounds a bit like "p-h-ayer p-h-ar carte ou en esp-h-èces".

The native speaker version:

No ghost "H" after the Ps.

Here's another example: "Le papier"

English version:

Note that only the first P ("pa") has the ghost H after it. The "pier" syllable, however, is pronounced more correctly due to the "ier" that follows (not sure why). So be careful with your "pa", "po", or "pe".

The French version:

4. Work on the "é" sound ("ai", "et", "er")

English speakers tend to pronounce the "é" sound like an "ey". This is another big instant clue for a French speaker that your an anglophone.

Example: "Je vais au café"

English speaker version:

This kind of sounds like "je veyy au cafeyy"

Native French version:

Here's another example: "Et toi, qui es-tu?"

English speaker:

Sounds like: eyy toi, qui eyy tu?

French speaker version:

5. Sort out "u" vs. "ou"

As an English speaker, you may often invert the French "U" and the French "Ou" (which sounds similar to "you"). Many anglophones say "la rue" like it's "la roue" and vice versa:

In the phrase "Cette chemise coûte très cher", pay attention to the word "coûte":

Anglophone version:

It sounds like "kute" (I don't mean the English word "cute"). Here's the native French version:

6. Soften the "L"

English speakers often pronounce the French "L" like they do in English, which is slightly different. In English, the L involves rolling back your tongue in the middle of the mouth. Say "Lalalalala".

In French, on the other hand, the L is pronounced with the tongue touching the teeth.

Here are the two versions side by side:

Another example of the L pronunciation: "c'est la vie!"

English speaker + French native:

Here's another one: "Parlez-vous français?" English speaker version:

Native French version:

7. Replace the "Uhs" & "Ums"

When you're looking for a word or idea, you likely use the English Uh or Um. These easily give away that you're an anglophone!

Try to consciously replace them with the French "Euh..." and "ben..."

Anglophone version:

French version:

8. Drop the vocal fry

English speakers often have so called "vocal fry" - a low, creaky, or vibrating sound produced when speaking, particularly at the end of phrases or sentences. For native French speakers, this sounds a bit odd - and it identifies you as an English speaker.

That being said, younger French natives speakers have in recent years started to have vocal fry in their French speech as well, probably due to the influence of social media.

Unless you're a teenager though, to blend in, try to speak at a comfortable volume and pitch so your voice remains clear when speaking French.

Signing out

I hope you've found the above helpful. If so, I'll be stoked if you will share your remarks or questions you have in the comments below!

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