Understanding Fast Spoken French: Unpronounced letters

Understanding real everyday spoken French is really hard. French people speak fast!
Let’s try to practice together today, by focusing on how French people cut letters when speaking – while talking about one of France’s most beloved regions: La Bourgogne (= Burgundy)

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1. Understanding Spoken French: Burgundy presentation

Here is a short presentation of the Burgundy region, with its translation. You can watch the video to hear me read it aloud, twice (slowly, and a little bit faster.)

La Bourgogne est une région au centre de la France. Elle a ce nom depuis plus de mille ans ! Les habitants sont les Bourguignons.
Burgundy is an area in the center of France. It’s been having this name for more than a thousand years! The inhabitants are called “les Bourguignons.”

Vous connaissez peut-être la plus grande ville de Bourgogne : Dijon. Je suis sûre que vous avez déjà entendu parler d’un de ses produits : la moutarde de Dijon.
You may know the biggest city in Burgundy: Dijon. I’m sure that you heard of one of its products: Dijon mustard.

Et je ne peux pas non plus oublier le bœuf bourguignon et surtout les escargots de Bourgogne !
And I can’t forget about beef Burgundy either, or about the “escargots de Bourgogne” especially.

Mais ce que je préfère en Bourgogne, ce sont les vins. Parce qu’il y a beaucoup de vins très célèbres, comme le Pinot Noir ou le Chardonnay.
But what I like most in Burgundy are the wines. Because there are a lot of very famous wines, such as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

Toujours agréables au dîner, après une petite balade entre amis, entre les vignes et les jolis villages !
Always delightful at dinner, after a nice walk with friends, among the vineyards and pretty villages!

This simple text is all in “correct” French. The one you’d write on a school essay. Except we don’t actually talk like that in real life!

2. Understanding Spoken French: Cutting letters

In fast spoken French, letters often disappear. It’s what happens when French people speak informally: they cut letters to make it flow better, and faster. That’s one more difficulty for you to understand!

Luckily, you can practice understanding the most common cut words. You don’t have to remember them all now, but that will come with practice!
For instance:

– “e” disappears at the end of one-syllable words (even before a consonant):
De → D’ : plus de mille ans → “plus d’mille ans” (= more than 1000 years.)
Ce → C’ : ce nom → “c’nom” (= that name)
Je → J’ : je peux → j’peux (= I can).

In everyday spoken French, “Je” before a “s” often morph into “ch”.
Je suis → J’suis / Chuis (= I am)
Je ne sais pas (= I don’t know) → Je sais pas (dropping the “ne”) → J’sais pas / “Chépa”

– “e” disappears in the middle of common words:
Petit → P’tit (= small)
Depuis → D’puis (= since)

– Other letters disappear in common words / expressions
Déjà → D’jà (= already)
Plus (= more / not anymore)P’us (only when the “s” is silent !)
Peut-être (= maybe) → P’tet’
Parce que (= because) → “Paske”
Il y a (= there is) → Ya

Finally, when talking, we also make simple grammar mistakes. Before a plural, for instance, we should say “ce sont (= these are) in correct French – but we often still use “c’est” (= this is, for a singular) instead.

Cutting letters is for spoken French. We would never write these abbreviations in a written document! It’s allowed in an SMS text message or on the Internet, but even then, it’s usually faster and cleaner to write in correct French.

3. Understanding Spoken French: “Spoken French” reading

Listen to the “spoken French” reading of the Burgundy presentation. Where do you hear informal French?

Here is a written version:

La Bourgogne est une région au cent’ de la France. Elle a c’nom depuis plus d’ mille ans ! Les habitants sont les Bourguignons.

Vous connaissez p’t-êt’ la plus grande ville de Bourgogne : Dijon. Chuis sûre que vous avez d’jà entendu parler d’un d’ses produits : la moutarde de Dijon.

Et j’peux pas non plus oublier le bœuf bourguignon et surtout les escargots d’Bourgogne !

Mais c’que j’préfère en Bourgogne, c’est les vins. Pa’ce qu’y a beaucoup d’vins très célèbres, comme le Pinot Noir ou le Chardonnay. Toujours agréables au dîner, après une p’tite balade entre amis, entre les vignes et les jolis villages !

Honestly, did you still understand the text?
Which rules did you recognize by ear? What other cuttings of letters happened here?
Watch again if you didn’t understand everything!

But for now: Congrats! 🎉🎉🎉

You’re one step further into understanding real everyday spoken French!

Get more practice with my other Understanding Spoken French lessons with real scenes from famous TV shows.

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

→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Join the conversation!

  • “Et je ne peux pas non plus oublier” – phew! That’s quite a mouthful to get your head around. Isn’t it ignoring some of your earlier tips on dropping the ‘ne’? I can’t remember if you have ever covered the use of double negation in French.

  • I seemed to understand most of the fast spoken version with subtitles hidden (although hearing it slow first helped I guess).
    I am probably more worried I thought I heard “déjà” and “parce que” (as well as understood) in your fast version than d’ja and paske!
    Watching with subtitles it all made total sense but I would struggle with a dictée of it.

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