Unlocking Spoken French Fluency: 2 Must-Know Tips (Intermediate French)

If you want to the fastest improvement in speaking and understanding French, you need to focus on learning spoken French. This includes your pronunciation!

If you don’t have much chance to practice your French, or if you don’t know any native French speakers, improving your pronunciation can be tricky. To help you out, let’s go over some of the trickiest sounds that even intermediate learners struggle with.

C’est parti!

1 – “An / On” sounds in French: Presentation
2 – “An / On” sounds in French: Practice with me
3 – “An / On” sounds in French: Longer practice

1 – “An / On” sounds in French: Presentation

With today’s video lesson, we’ll practice together, with two particularly difficult French vowel sounds:

They’re nasal sounds. They don’t exist in English, so you have to learn how to pronounce them!

Basically, the back of your tongue should shut the back of your mouth, so the air goes through your nose instead. Then you try saying “a” and “o”. Try it with me! Yes, right now, you behind your screen!
a → an
o → on

Did you do it? Congrats!

Now, can you hear the difference between them?
They sound pretty similar, but they make all the difference in a conversation.

And that’s the point of practicing French pronunciation: so you can get more confident for real conversations in French or when enjoying French culture.

And speaking of practicing real conversation:
Click here to take a look at my next 30-Day French Challenge !

That’s my fun program where we go over real French pronunciation and expressions. With a new challenge everyday, you get your daily dose of French culture, everyday French dialogue, pronunciation overviews, games, or quizzes to make sure you’re actually learning something.
It’s an in-depth look at a specific topic of French culture for 30 days. And a new one is opening very soon!

2 - “An / On” in French: Practice with examples

In the video lesson, listen to which word have a “an” sound or a “on” sound. Then repeat the word after me!

An” sound:

  • Un an (= a year)
  • La chambre (= the bedroom)
  • Le champagne (= champaign) (“m” is silent!)
  • Le temps (= time)
  • Un taon (= a horsefly)
  • Un banc (= a bench)
  • Un banc blanc en argent (= a white bench made in silver)

Words ending in “ant” (→ silent “t” !) :

  • Le croissant (= a croissant pastry)
  • Un enfant (= a child)
  • En avant ! (= Forward! / Onwards! / Let’s go!)
  • All gerund forms of verbs too: En marchant = “While walking”

→ Find the different spellings for “an” in the previous examples:

  • an” (un an)
  • am” before a “p” or a “b” (la chambre, le champagne)
  • en” (argent)
  • em” before a “p” or a “b” (le temps)
  • And even “aon” in a few select words (le taon)
  • And more exceptions like the city of Caen (“kan”) in Normandy.

“On” sound:

  • Un nom (= a name)
  • Un thon (= tuna)
  • Un bon (= a good one, or a coupon)
  • Une bombe (= a bomb)
  • Un avion (= a plane)
  • La maison (= a house)
  • Le blond (= the blond guy – silent “d”)

→ Spelled as “on”, except when it becomes “om” before a “p” or “b.”

If you’re not clear with your pronunciation (or if you’re not sure which sound you heard), then you might create a confusion between words such as:

  • Le son (= sound) and le sang (= blood)
  • Le thon (= tuna, or slang for “ugly woman”) and le temps (= time)
  • Le blanc and le blond
  • Le banc and le bon
  • La ville de Caen (= the city of Caen in Normandy, with “an” sound) and une ville de cons (= “a city of stupid people,” with a slang swear word!)
  • Similarly: C’est quand ? (= “When is it?” with a silent “d”) and C’est con. (= That’s stupid.)

You can also hear la liaison in many of these examples.

Click here to learn more: French liaisons – Comme une Française

And a final example:
On est contents. = We’re glad, we’re happy.

PracticeIn this last sentence, where do you hear the “on” and “an” sounds? And the liaison ?

3 - “An / On” sounds in French: Longer practice

In the video lesson, we practice together our hearing and our pronunciation of these nasal sounds, with a longer example. I break it down piece by piece, from hearing it, to reading it, to pronouncing it.

Here is the example in full:
En avant les enfants ! On est contents d’avoir campé dans les champs. Mais maintenant il est temps : c’est le moment où on prend l’avion pour la maison !
Let’s go, kids! We are happy to have camped in the fields. But now it’s time: it’s the moment when we take the plane back home!

Now, here are the “an” sounds, underlined :
En avant les enfants ! On est contents d’avoir campé dans les champs. Mais maintenant il est temps : c’est le moment où on prend l’avion pour la maison !

Here are the “on” sounds, in bold :
En avant les enfants ! On est contents d’avoir campé dans les champs. Mais maintenant il est temps : c’est le moment où on prend l’avion pour la maison !

And as an extra mile for this written lesson, here are the liaison (underline) !
En avant les enfants ! On est contents d’avoir campé dans les champs. Mais maintenant il est temps : c’est le moment où on prend l’avion pour la maison !

Practice pronouncing these sentences with me, in the video lesson. Take a deep breath!

You can try again as many times as you like.
With practice, you’ll be able to hear how French people use “an” or “on” in their conversations in real life or in movies!

And now, you can keep practicing with me, for instance with:
Our next 30-Day French Challenge

Or you can keep practicing with another free lesson of Intermediate French Pronunciation : Understand Fast Spoken French: How to order coffee like a local

Click on the link to keep learning!

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

That’s the kind of practice and exercise you’ll also find in my longer courses, with programs from intermediate to advanced, such as French Conversation with Confidence, French Vocabulary & Pronunciation – or the 30-Day French Challenges almost every month! They’re all enjoyable, with our lovely community of open francophiles, and they’re designed to help you find confidence whatever life in France throws at you.

Here are the links:


→ 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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