8 French Fluency Shortcuts: Being Understood


There’s nothing more frustrating than learning a language for a long time and not being understood when speaking it! If this has ever happened to you with French, don’t worry, it’s not your fault. The formal, written French taught in school differs a lot from spoken French.

To help you be better understood when speaking French, let’s revisit some of my most popular videos so you can learn a handful of go-to French fluency shortcuts. This way, you can improve your spoken French even faster. Ready?

C’est parti.

1 – Wrong Stresses

The first mistake is technical: words are stressed on their last syllable in French.
So, we say: une Parisienne (= a Parisian woman)
NOT: une Parisienne

Demain, on ira à la bibliothèque. (= Tomorrow we’ll go to the library.)
NOT: Demain, on ira à la bibliothèque.

Stressing the wrong syllables would sound jarring in everyday French. Worrying about the end of words instead is a first step you can take to be better understood and sound more French!

Le truc en plus: Today, we’re discussing the standard (“Parisian”) accent, which you’ll hear on French national radio and TV. Other regional or national accents can sometimes follow different rules. Southern French tends to pronounce more letters. The Eastern Alsatian French accent, influenced by German, will place its stresses differently.

2 – Pronouncing every letter

There are a ton of silent letters in French, and pronouncing them all would be a big mistake.

Vues (= seen in feminine plural, or the plural noun views), “-es” is silent.
Le printemps (= springtime), “in” is a nasal vowel, “em” is another nasal vowel and “-ps” is silent.
Les Champs-Élysées, “am” is a nasal vowel, and the final “-es” is silent.

Click here to learn more:
French People Never Go To The Champs-Élysées

Common silent letters:
“-s” at the end to mark the plural
Un ami = a male friend,
Des amis = friends.
-e at the end to mark the feminine:
Un ami = a male friend,
Une amie = a female friend,
Des amies = female friends.

It gets worse in everyday spoken French. We cut a lot more “e”, including in the middle of a word:
Je serai là à huit heures. = I’ll be there at 8.
Je s’rai là à huit heures. (informal spoken pronunciation)
Ch’rai là à huit heures. (= same, cutting the “e” in “Je” as well.)

Sometimes, we cut whole words, like “ne” in the negation “ne… pas.
Je ne serai pas là.Je serai pas là. = I won’t be there.
Je s’rais pas là.
Ch’rais pas là.

Le truc en plus: We also cut the end of some words to shorten them:
Le cinémaLe ciné (= cinema, movie theatre, movies)
Le petit-déjeunerLe petit-dej / Le p’tit-dej (= a breakfast)
L’ordinateurL’ordi (= a computer)

Click here to learn more:

In French, you’d often rather pronounce fewer letters than all of them.

3 – Obsessing over pronunciation before hearing the sounds

Some sounds are just too strange. Don’t stress over their pronunciation! At least, not yet. First, you should spend time simply trying to hear them and hear the difference between close sounds.

  • French “R”
    Le riz doré. = Golden rice, with a silent “z” !
  • U/Ou like
  • Le mur. = The wall,
  • L’amour. = The love.
  • Nasal sounds:
    A. “On”, “om”:
    Le thon. = The tuna,
    B. “An”, “en”, “am”, “em”
    Le temps. = The time, the weather.
    C. “in”, “im”, “yn”, “ym”, “ein”, “eim”, “ain”, “aim”
    Le printemps. = The spring.
  • Difference between è / é / eu:
    La reine du jeu d’échecs. = The queen of the chess game.

Watch the video lesson to listen to the difference, for example,

  • Le bon. = The good, “on” nasal sound.
  • Le bain. = The bath, “in” nasal sound.
  • Le banc. = The bench, “an” nasal sound.
  • Le but. = The goal, French “u” sound.
  • Le bout. = The end, the extremity, “ou” sound.
  • J’ai bu. = I drank, French “u” sound.
  • Je = I, French “eu” sound.
  • J’ai = I have, with “è” sound.
  • Le = The in the masculine singular form, with the “eu” sound.
  • Les = The in plural form, with “è” sound.
  • Un thé = A tea, with the “é” sound.
  • Une taie = A pillow case, with the “è” sound.

Or with all combined:
Je cours dès huit heures. = I start running at eight.
J’ai cours de français. = I have a French lesson.

Click here to learn more:

4 – Obsessing over your accent

You’ll probably always have your accent. And don’t worry. It’s cute! You only need to be clear enough so people can understand you. That’s the important thing – not having a perfect French accent!

And, just like everything we’ve seen, it comes with practice. With active practice, you’ll quickly realize which sounds and words make you struggle. You can French aloud and speak to your pet in French!

Or you can get to the next level with the French Conversation Club, my Comme une Française program focused on making you practice. You’ll get much help with everything we’ve mentioned today and much more!

Enjoy regular one-on-one sessions with our amazing native teachers to help you practice French and reconnect with the language in an engaging way.

Click here to learn more:
The French Conversation Club – Comme une Française

Practice with the French Conversation Club will also help with our final mistake: neglecting grammar and vocabulary.

5 – Thinking about accent before grammar and vocabulary.

Using everyday informal vocabulary with friends can go a long way toward making you sound like more than a simple tourist.

  • Using words such as:
    Chouette = nice, cool.
    Un pote = friends.
    Une fringue / Les fringues = un vêtement, les vêtements = clothes (slang).
    J’ai la dalle. = “J’ai faim.” = I’m hungry.
    Je suis crevée. = Je suis très fatiguée. = I’m exhausted. (informal).

Click here to learn more:

Use informal grammar:

  • Cutting the “ne” in negative sentences (“ne… pas” → “pas” only)
  • Changing “Vous” to “Tu

Everyday expressions:

  • Quoi de neuf ? = What’s up?,
  • Dans le coin = Around here, literally “in this corner.

Ask questions in an informal manner.
The formal, correct way to ask questions can be complicated in French, such as

  • Est-ce que tu es là ? = Are you there?
  • Es-tu là ? = Are you there?, alternative way.
  • Où es-tu ? = Where are you?

Well, you’ll sound more French with more informal grammar around questions. And it’s also easier for you! You just need to add an inflexion to an affirmation.
Affirmation: Tu es là. = You’re here.
Informal question (without inversion): Tu es là ? = Are you here?
Informal question with informal pronunciation: T’es là ?
In everyday French, we often cut the “u” of “Tu” before a vowel.

You can do the same with interrogative pronouns and add them to the end.

Qui ? = Who?
Quand ? = When?
Quoi ? = What?
Où ? = Where?
Où es-tu ?Tu es où ?T’es où ?
Quand venez-vous ?Tu viens quand ?

Click here to learn more:

It’s a simple way to sound more authentic – and more effective than trying to get a perfect French accent before everything else.

La rue (= a street) → La roue (= a wheel).
Un bonbon (= a sweet, a candy) with a nasal vowel.

1 – How to pronounce the French “R”

La girafe (= a giraffe)
Un ours (= a bear).

It’s not important to pronounce the French “R” perfectly. Daniel Redcliff pronounced the French “R” in a more English way, but we understood him. Rejoignez-moi sur le nouveau site de Premiere.fr. = Meet me on the new website of Premiere.fr.

Knowing about politeness, customs, culture, and expressions French people use daily is much more important and useful than pronouncing the “R” perfectly.

Here are tips to improve your French “R”:

  1. Lift up the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth between the hard and the soft palates. Remember, stick up the back, under la luette (= the uvula), not the front of your tongue.

2. Practice it with the sound “G” first because the tongue placement is very similar.
Pagui : Paris
Le grand ours dorlote sa girafe préférée. = The big bear is cuddling its favorite giraffe.

2 – French pronunciation practice

Les amis = friends.
Alain Souchon
Les amis français d’Alain Souchon. = Alain Souchon’s French friends.

  • Les nasales / les voyelles nasales (= nasal sounds) are French nasal vowels pronounced through the nose.
    AN – ON – UN – IN
    While in English, vowels come from the mouth, in French, in the case of the nasal vowels, they come from the nose.
    O → ON:
    Bobo (= a booboo, an owie) → Bonbon (= a candy)

È (“ey”) → IN:
Mai (= May) → Main (= Hand, sounds like “M + nasal sound ‘in’”)

Ça (= This, sounds like “Sah”) → Sans (= without, sounds like “S + nasal sound ‘an’”)

Le truc en plus: For me, there are only three nasal sounds:

  1. “on”,
  2. “an” = “en”,
  3. “in” = “ain” = “un”.

However, some people hear a difference between “in” and “un”, but it’s very subtle anyway.
Nasal sounds can have different spellings too. Mainly, “on” (or any nasal vowel) before a “p” or a “b” becomes “om” (or “n” → “m”): une ombre = a shadow, with “om” = nasal sound “on.”
But sometimes it’s just weird. In Caen, “aen” sounds like a simple nasal “an”. There are always exceptions in French.

Click here for more:

The French “u

There are two main problems with pronouncing the French “u.”
The first one is: hearing the difference between the sounds “u” and “ou”. They’re not the same!
La rue (= the street) / La roue (= the wheel),
Dessus (= over) / Dessous (= under).

Ou” sounds like English “oo” (or Spanish “u”), so it’s easy.
But French “U” can be harder to pronounce. We’ll start by saying the sound “i” (“ee”). Your lips are opening like you’re smiling. Try saying “i” while pushing your lips in a very small circle. It starts to make the sound… “u”!

Another way to pronounce it is by starting with the sound “ou”. Now, shove your tongue forward, at the top of your mouth, just behind your teeth. And you should start to make the sound “u” again!

Don’t worry. It will come with practice. The most important thing to start is to hear the difference between ”u” and “ou”. Otherwise, you’ll make embarrassing mistakes such as
Beaucoup (“bohk + ou”) = a lot.
Beau cul (“bohk + u”) = nice butt!
Merci beaucoup ! = Thanks a lot!

Click here to learn more:
French Pronunciation Practice (with a REAL French speaker)

Lesson in French: Transcript & Translation

En France, on adore le café.
In France, we love coffee.

Plus des deux tiers des Français en boivent tous les jours !
More than two-thirds of French people drink it every day!

La plupart du temps, on le boit à la maison.
Most of the time, we drink it at home.

Mais on en prend aussi au travail, à la machine à café,
But we also have it at work, from the coffee machine,

et on en commande souvent aussi au restaurant,
and we often order it at restaurants,

ou pour se détendre sur la terrasse d’un… café !
or to relax on the terrace of a… café!

Si tu veux commander un café en France, il suffit de demander :
If you want to order a coffee in France, just ask:

“Un café, s’il vous plaît.”
“One coffee, please.”

Tu auras un expresso noir, fort et réconfortant.
You’ll get a black, strong, and comforting espresso.

Évidemment, n’oublie pas d’être polie avec le serveur !
Of course, don’t forget to be polite to the waiter!

Le plus important, ce sont ces quatre mots magiques :
The most important things are these four magic words:

“Bonjour,” “Au revoir,” “S’il vous plaît” et “Merci.”
“Hello,” “Goodbye” “Please” and “Thank you.”

Si tu veux commander un café avec un peu de lait,
If you want to order a coffee with a little milk,

demande “un café noisette” ou “un noisette.”
ask for “un hazelnut coffee” (“un café noisette / un noisette”.)

Ou pour un peu plus de lait : “un café crème,” “un crème.”
Or for a bit more milk: “a cream coffee” (“un café crème / un crème”)

On dit aussi “le café au lait”,
We also say “café au lait”,

mais uniquement pour le petit-déjeuner à la maison, avec le bol et les tartines.
but only for breakfast at home, in a bowl with slices of bread.

Dans les cafés français, tu pourras aussi te laisser tenter par “un café gourmand,” un petit café accompagné de petites pâtisseries délicieuses.
In French cafés, you can also be tempted by “un café gourmand,” a small coffee accompanied by delicious mini pastries.

Et bien sûr, tu n’es pas obligée de prendre du café :
And of course, you don’t have to have coffee:

tu peux aussi apprécier un thé, une tisane ou un chocolat chaud.
you can also enjoy a tea, a herbal tea, or a hot chocolate.

Pour résumer, voilà quatre phrases pour commander dans un café. Répète après moi !
To sum up, here are four phrases to order in a café. Repeat after me!

Un café, s’il vous plaît !
One coffee, please!

Bonjour, un café noisette s’il vous plaît !
Hello, a coffee with a dash of milk, please!

Je vais prendre un thé vert à la menthe s’il vous plaît. Merci !
I’ll have a mint green tea, please. Thank you!

Bonjour, je voudrais un chocolat chaud, s’il vous plaît. Merci !
Hello, I would like a hot chocolate, please. Thank you!

Et maintenant, tu es prête à commander un café en France !
And now, you’re ready to order a coffee in France!


Un café = a (cup of) coffee ; a café (the physical place where you can buy coffee)

Le truc en plus: Coffee consumption in France (statistics)

Boire du café = to drink coffee (an irregular verb)

Conjugation of “boire” in the present:
Je bois       Nous buvons
Tu bois       Vous buvez
Elle boit     Elles boivent

Je bois un café sur la terrasse d’un café. = I’m having a coffee on the terrace of a café.
La terrasse = the outdoor area of a restaurant, café or bar.

Several types of coffee and related drinks :

  • Un café noisette (= un noisette) = a coffee with a dash of milk, like a macchiato.
  • Un café crème (= un crème) = a coffee with a bit more milk or liquid cream, like a latte of a “flat white.”
  • Le café gourmand = a small coffee with small pastries.
  • Un café décaféiné (= un déca) = a decaf.
  • Le thé = tea, la tisane = herbal tea,
  • Le chocolat chaud = hot chocolate.

Le truc en plus: Pierre Dudan – On prend l’ café au lait au lit

Not the difference between these types of coffee, and:
Une noisette = a hazelnut.
Une crème = a cream.
Un gourmand (person) = someone who loves food, maybe a bit too much, especially rich food. A gourmand doesn’t need to have a particularly sophisticated palate. Gourmand also means “rich food, hearty and savory.”
Un gourmet is a lover of fine food.

Le truc en plus : Trois Cafés Gourmands is a French band created in 2013, that became famous in 2018 with their hit “À nos souvenirs” and later “On t’emmène.” They’re known for their optimistic point of view and anthem to life.

Ready-to-use sentences to order coffee (or anything else!) in France:

  • Je vais prendre un déca. = I’ll have a decaf.
  • Je vais vous prendre un thé vert à la menthe. = I’ll have a green mint tea.
  • Je voudrais un chocolat chaud. = I’d like a hot chocolate.

Je vais prendre [X] / Je vais vous prendre [X] / Je voudrais [X]” are very common structure that French people use to order almost anything at the French restaurant, at the boulangerie or elsewhere.

Click here to learn more:
Basic French: French Restaurant Vocabulary

4) Extra Resources (blog only):


Keep learning more everyday scripts to prepare for your trip to France or reconnect with the language!

Click here to get your next lesson:

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!

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