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Phonetics Difficulties for French Students

Phonetics Difficulties for French Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

One of the most important problems encountered while learning a foreign language is undoubtedly pronunciation. Knowing a language fluently may not always be enough. Fluency level may be open to discussion if an accurate pronunciation is not used. Therefore as teachers, we must teach our students how to use the correct pronunciation. However, pronunciation can be a nightmare for some students, especially for young learners.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Selin K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Common Errors in Pronunciation

There are some languages, in particular, no matter what language they speak, we understand where they come from by hearing their accents. French is one of them. French people have a strong accent and learning English phonetics can be difficult for them. To fix those mistakes and teach them the correct phonetics, the first thing we should do is an investigation. In this article, we will examine some common pronunciation errors. So, what are the common mistakes made by the French while learning English and how can we correct them?

efel tower

Also Read: How do I apply for a student visa to legally teach English in France?

/h/ Sound

One of the pronunciation errors made by French students is the letter H. In French, one of the first things taught when teaching children to read and write in school is that the letter H should not be pronounced. It means in French the letter of H sound does not exist. Now, imagine a child who has not pronounced letter H every time he/she sees it for all his/her life. They have no idea how should they pronounce it. As a result of that, they end up putting H sound where they should not put or the very opposite. Let’s give an example:

Here is Peter.

French students tend to pronounce it like “Ere his Peter.” They remove the H in “here” and they put H in front of “is”. All the words starting with an H, for example; have, hear, how, his, her, here, hungry will become ave, ear, ow, is, er, ere, hungry for them. The problem here is, in addition to incorrect pronunciation, it may also lead to misunderstandings. For example, when they want to say “I am hungry.” We may understand this as “I am angry.” The same misunderstanding can happen while using the words of hair and air.

Also Read: How much can I earn teaching English in France?

Ways to Fix Errors

So, as teachers how can we help them to fix this mistake? The answer is not that complicated. We can simply ask them to take a mirror, hold it in front of their face and try to make the H sound by a fast exhale. If they see the steam on the mirror, it means they are doing it right. In this way, they can study by themselves and especially for children it can also be a fun activity to make the class more interesting. Moreover, because it is interesting, it is unlikely for them to forget this small activity.

school objects and a miniature of an efel tower

Also Read: What is the TAPIF Program for teaching English in France?

Articulation

Another problem that can be the reason for the French language is spoken with a closed mouth. However, English is the opposite. That is why some words for French students are hard to pronounce.

Let’s look at the short a sound; “cat, hat, rat, bat, that”. French students tend to pronounce those words like “cet, het, ret, bet, that.” We should show them to open their mouth more and try to find that sound.

For instance, when we are teaching them the short I word, we may come up with some ideas to show them the phonetics. If the student can not pronounce the word “big”, we can write the French version of the sound like “bég”. This way is more effective than repeating the sound all the time because it gives them logic.

Simple Way to Overcome the Problem

Most of the students are not sure about how to pronounce a word while they are studying by themselves. In these situations, we can always suggest them to use google translate by writing the words and clicking the “listen” option. This could be very helpful when they don’t have someone who can show them how to pronounce that certain word.

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As teachers, we have to show our students that pronunciation has nothing to do with spelling. For example, if we look at the letter “a” in the example, we can see that the phonetics are completely different for each word. Cat, all, any, was. Our job should be showing them the logic behind it. For more productive lessons I can suggest 3 simple techniques; let them talk/read first, take some fast notes while they mispronounce a word and go over and fix them.

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