Is French pronunciation hard to master?

Fie   Sun Jul 15, 2007 9:21 pm GMT
Harder than Spanish and Enlgish, would you say?
OïL   Mon Jul 16, 2007 12:03 am GMT
As a native French speaker I'm aware that French pronuncation is just as complicated and illogical than English, with a huge number of vowels (whereas Spanish and Italian rarely use more than five) and a poor consistency between the written and the spoken forms, and lots of subtle non-written rules in phonetics.
Furthermore French features lots of unique features like the (extremely frequent) "ui" diphtong.

(On the other hand stress placement is free, so you can focus on the intonation of the whole sentence without bothering about stressing individual syllabes.)

Spanish is definitely a lot simpler.

But Italian is even easier: it's written just the way it's spoken, the language uses a reduced set of clearly defined basic consonants and vowels, and doesn't feature any tricky sound (no 'jota', no intermediate approximants like the blurred Spanish 'v' or 'b', no 'th' sound etc.)
furrykef   Mon Jul 16, 2007 12:32 am GMT
<< (whereas Spanish and Italian rarely use more than five) >>

Actually, Italian has seven vowels. The letter "o" can be pronounced in two ways, as can the letter "e", and the difference is phonemic.

Italian also has phonemic consonant length, which may be tricky for speakers of a language that doesn't have phonemic length distinctions.

- Kef
Guest   Mon Jul 16, 2007 5:43 pm GMT
I think French should be very hard for English speakers, since almost all the sounds are very different in both languages.

inversely English is a very hard language to pronounce for a french speaker.
Adolfo   Mon Jul 16, 2007 5:55 pm GMT
In Spanish ,/x/ sound is only used in certain dialects, while many others use instead a sound similar to h in "hear"
Guest   Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:50 pm GMT
It depends on what your native language is. For a German, it's probably easier than those two; for an Italian, harder.

In fact it is the exaxt opposite
Jérémy   Mon Jul 16, 2007 7:56 pm GMT
German is very easy to pronounce without making mistakes in my opinion because not only are all the vowels full but also all the vowels are generally pronounced as they are pronounced separately (except sequences likes "eu" but theyr are perfectly regular). Phonetics is a real problem for a lot of non-native speakers of English whereas I don't even think - I may be wrong - that phonetics lessons are needed to learn German. I'm not saying it's easy to get an authentic German accent, but it's easy not to make pronounciation mistakes in German. As far as I know, German phonetics is perfectly regular.

Apart from the sounds themselves, I think French is much easier to pronounce properly that English because English is a tonic language; the syllables that are not accentuated are generally reduced to schwa. And it's often difficult to know where to place the stress, though there are rules. The quality of the vowels all depend on the placement of the stress. Whereas in French, all vowels are full. I'd say French is half way. Perfectly regular because there are no vowel reductions like in English and no tonic accents. But probably a bit difficult to foreign learners because of the different possible qualities for the same vowels.
K. T.   Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:29 pm GMT
Interesting- I disagreed with Brennus and Mario Pei about the difficulty of French and my post was removed!
Adolfo   Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:47 pm GMT
I don't understand why some people denigrate a reputed scholar like Mario Pei without givin reasons at least. Are here on Antimoon brighter experts on romance languages than him. I doubt it.
K. T.   Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:00 pm GMT
I don't think French pronunciation is that difficult for English speakers. It does take a little effort, uh, a slight effort, to move the lips, work the new sounds. Why discourage people with saying "difficult sounds"? That's all some people need to give up! The real problem is probably getting over the fear of making sounds that sound foreign and feeling silly when making the new sounds.

Just hear the sound and repeat it. Don't try to Americanize the sound. I'm American, so I'm not insulting anyone when I write that. If you are from GB or Canada, don't try to fit the sound to the sounds of your brand of English. If you are dealing with a real person or a video, then WATCH how the sound is formed with the lips, tongue, etc. Of course you can't pester the native speaker repeatedly, but you can use the pause and slow buttons for video recordings.

Repeat the word at least three times. Five would be better. If it's a "tough" word do something while saying the word for a couple of minutes (while you check the mail, for example)...

If remembering the pronunciation of a phrase is the problem, try to think if there is a similar rhythm in some language that could help you. "Just kidding" in Russian reminds me of a show I used to see in Reruns called
"Hogan's Heroes"...I don't know if it is on Nick at Night or TV land now, but anyway, I think of the Sgt. Schultz character saying "VEE SHOOT at ya" in a comic way and the rhythm comes out right for the Russian.
K. T.   Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:15 pm GMT
Yes, yes...I know Schultz was the "German" guard. Do what works to make the language your own!
Travis   Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:50 pm GMT
>>Yes, yes...I know Schultz was the "German" guard. Do what works to make the language your own!<<

Considering that all the German's I've known haven't spoken like that...
K. T.   Mon Jul 16, 2007 10:06 pm GMT
I don't know much about John Banner. I know that he could sing in German. I saw him sing in a YouTube video. His character was, well, a character. The point is using something one knows to make the language stick instead of complaining about how difficult a language is.

I have heard Germans speak in German and in English, of course. I know that you have some sort of connection to German, but I'm not sure what the connection is (family, school, friends or other)... I am going to guess and hope that you have heard different kinds of German accents in English. I've heard Alsatian, Berliner and other accents. Some sound like singing to me because of the intonation, at least one accent sounded like buzzing to me in English. That's not my area. Of course, some Germans sound like native speakers of English.

Then there is the German coast guard video for Berlitz on YouTube...
K. T.   Mon Jul 16, 2007 10:10 pm GMT
I thought he was Jewish and a speaker of German, so I just looked it up
wikipedia (not always a great source) says that he was Austrian.

He sang "Silent Night" on the German with Werner Klemperer (also Jewish and German, I believe...)
K. T.   Mon Jul 16, 2007 10:16 pm GMT
BTW, Travis, what does "German's" with the apostrophe mean? Are you really Travis?