How to Improve Your French Pronunciation (with Geri Metz!)

Bonjour !

French pronunciation can be tough. That’s why I’m very happy to welcome Geri Metz, “The French Phonetics Fanatic,” in today’s special interview episode!

Geri is a wonderful woman, and an amazing teacher. And her actual first name is Geraldine! We’ve had a really interesting conversation about your difficulties in learning French, her ideas and experience… and the tips that will help you get a “quick win”, to get you on the journey to a flawless French pronunciation.




Click here to visit Geri’s website: Pronouncing French with Geri Metz M.A

Et toi ?

Do you face the problems that we talked about today?
With which French pronunciation do you struggle the most?
What’s your favorite word in French?

Bonne journée,

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • Bonjour, do any of you know how I can contact the Geraldine who talked about phonetics today? I do not see her url address anywhere nor an email address. I feel I need to work with a phonetics teacher to improve my spoken French. I’ve tried to take phonetics for years. Even at Middlebury Language School, I was repeatedly not allowed to enroll in the phonetics class that was offered to some students, which upset me and held back my progress in spoken French terribly. Any help you could provide in reaching her would be greatly appreciated. Merci à l’avance de m’avoir aidé à contacter le professeur de phonétiques français. Bonne journée….

  • Bonjour Géraldine! Merci beaucoup pour cet super post!
    Geri’s explanation of the differences in rhythm (~27:00) was an eye-opener for me! Geri doesn’t mention this in the video, but in addition to the variances in syllable accents I believe I also hear a subtle difference in her breath as she says “organisation” in both languages, and the “da-da-da-DA-da” (English) vs “dah-dah-dah-dah-dah” (French). It makes the English syllables sound more staccato and the French more legato. Is it just me? Anyways, great video!

  • Thank you Geraldine, this was really nice video thanks to which I learned a lot!
    The sound with which I struggle most is french “r”, which in my native language is pronounced differently… The other problem I have is with pronouncing correctly U and OU – again from my native language, “u” is always pronounced the same way and I simply do not always remember that in French it works differently.

  • This is great…..I shall have to listen again and again ….
    I still do not understand when to use gross//grand……belle /beau etc …someone please tell me!!

  • Hello Adeline. Thank you so much for putting this out on Facebook. I live in Montreal Quebec and was raised in English speaking schools with very little French speaking classes. French is the first language here. I still cannot carry on a conversation in French. I have taken some French courses in my adult life and didn’t do well. The French I do speak was learned while on the job and through goole translate.This video with Geri really opened my eyes about a lot of words in which I use daily. A word as simple as plus no longer confuses me when my patients say it. When they leave off the (s ) sound I always thought they were saying a completely different word with a different meaning. No more confusion for me now. I am always big on trying to sound out every letter in each word. Which now I know is the biggest mistake I have ever made. This changes everything for me. It all makes sense now. So thank you, thank you, thank you to both you and Geri. No one in any of the courses I took ever tought our class this lesson. Extremely grateful.

  • Bonjour et merci pour cette vidéo passionnante, je suis française et enseignante en primaire avec des enfants de 6 et 7 ans (Ce1) et nous avons de plus en plus de mal à enseigner la différence entre les phonèmes [un] et [in], les enfants ne l’entendent même plus ! Dans certaines communautés de voyageurs, le [on] et [an] sont tellement proches qu’ils ont “perdu” le [on] et ils ne mangent plus des bonbons mais des “banbans”… Les choses évoluent et le langage se modifie, comme il a déjà évolué au fil des siècles…

    • Bonjour Adeline,
      Merci pour votre gentil message.
      En effet, certains sons disparaissent.
      A ce propos, je vous conseille “Français de nos régions” sur les prononciations par régions de la francophonie. 😉

  • Bien jouer “les deux Géraldines”! Merci beaucoup. Très informatif et intéressant. J’ai beaucoup beaucoup appris! Le mot “déverrouiller” est impossible pour moi. Je dis “ouvrir” 🙂

  • Le son avec lequel j’ai la plus grande problem c’ést le “o” – eaux’ in Bordeaux. Ápres avoir vue cet video je comprends que c’ést un question de comment je tiens ma bouche. Je l’ essaierai avec une bouche plus serre en futur

  • Excellent video, Merci beacoup a vous 2x Geraldine. I really learned a lot. I’m Danish and always on a learning path on other languages.
    My challenge is, that the little French I speak is pronounced quite well, so the reply from French people is in “zhakakzkakazhakaka speed” and I get totally lost! So my Q is -which phrase could I use, to let the other person know that they have to slow down and might repeat what they say – so I catch all words… without insulting anybody?

  • Tous les mots qui ont -euil à la fin me donnent une mal de langue : acceuil, deuil, l’écureuil, etc. Ce n’est pas un bruit naturel en anglais !

  • My mom and I just returned from a three-week trip to France. We went to Paris, Normandie, and Bretagne. The one word with which we had BY FAR the most difficulty was “Rouen.” It began at La Gare St. Lazare, when I told the ticket agent, “Je voudrais acheter deux billets a Rouen, s.v.p.,” and he asked “To Where?” The pronunciation difficulties continued in Rouen and elsewhere (when we tried to say we’d visited Rouen). When we finally met up with our ex-pat Danish friend who’s lived in France for ten years, she said she can’t say it right either. We had no idea that this word would be so difficult. We’d spend time in the car practicing it over and over. I don’t think we ever got it right, but hopefully we improved.

    • Bonjour Cindy,

      YES! “Rouen” is tricky. If you struggle with a very important word in the future, feel free to write it down and show it to the ticket sellers. 😉

      • Je pensais que c’était Reims qui est très difficile pour les anglais
        Rouen est “Rue wh on” n’est-ce pas?

        • You’d think that Rouen was as you say, but there’s a bit more too it than that. My Danish friend says “Rue” like a native, as the French and Danish do the “u” sound pretty much the same. But after living in France for ten years, she is still told that she doesn’t say it right. As far as I can tell, it has one of those nuances of pronunciation that I just can’t hear. But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying. 🙂

          • It’s like Caen, depends on which part of France you come from, no different to accents in different parts of UK or USA…

          • Brian, je ne te comprends pas. Tu dit que c’est comme Caen. Mais, qu’est-ce qui est comme Caen? Et qu’est-ce que tu veux dire que « ça dépend de quelle région en France dont tu viens »? Et UK? Et USA? Il n’existe qu’une seule façon de prononcer CAEN. C’est comme un « K » avant le son « en » de enfant; c’est-à-dire comme le mot « QUAND ». CAEN et QUAND se prononce le même. J’espère que c’est plus clair pour toi et les autres.
            Bon courage…

        • Concernant la ville de ROUEN:
          Brian, ton explication n’est pas exactement correcte, parce que Rouen a deux syllabes ROU- EN.
          le ROU est prononcé comme le mot “roue” ou les « oo » en anglais de “ROO” comme dans « ROO-STER’, mais le « R » est le « R » français;
          le « en » est prononcé comme le “en” dans enfant, et pas comme “on” comme tu a dit. ON se prononce comme le “ons” dans “parlons” et ce c’est pas le bon son dans le mot ROUEN.
          En plus, qu’est-ce que c’est ce « wh » pour prononcer Rouen? « WH » n’a rien à voir avec la prononciation de Rouen. Il faut oublier ce troisième syllabe incorrect.
          J’espère que tu m’as bien compris et que je t’ai un peu aidé avec cette ville ROUEN (ROU-EN)

    • Bonjour. Lorsque j’étais un étudiant universitaire en France de 1974-1975, j’ai passé une année à la fac à Rouen. Grâce à cette année là-bas, j’ai bien appris prononcer ce mot difficile. J’apprecie et comprends précisément ce que tu expliques. Bon courage. Tu y arriveras.

  • ‘Enregistrement’ (recording). Comme un mot seul je peux le prononcer lentement, mais en conversation, dans une phrase, toutes les lettresse mélangent fans ma bouche.

  • J’aime beaucoup ce vidéo – comme touts de tes vidéos! Je viens d’apprendre plus du français et je suis heureuse pour ça.

  • Salut Géraldine !
    J’aime beaucoup tes vidéos! Pour moi, c’est difficil, le mot « dehors »—je ne sais pas pourquoi. Ton cours a m’aidé beaucoup, merci ! ( Désolée si ma grammaire est mal, je suis en ma deuxième an d’apprendre la langue )

  • This was a great video! I could not help but smile while Geri was talking – she seems to truly love her work and the two of you were a great hit together! Vive les deux Geraldines!

  • Si seulement on avait une prof comme Geri à la fac… Nous, en cours de phonétique, on n’a rien écouté, rien prononcé. On n’apprenait que des règles pour faire la transcription en alphabet phonétique international… C’est regrettable… 🙁

  • My favourite french word is quite unforgettable = inoubliable. I love the way it bubbles in the mouth!!

  • Thank you so much for introducing Geri Metz and thank you for your lessons and blog! I always look forward to your Tuesday emails!

  • I was wondering if you know the professors she mentions in your discussion? I had an amazing prof and he was truly amazing. Je pensais que c’était peut-être le même??

    • Bonjour Jennifer,

      No, I don’t know. But I highly recommend you ask Geri! She’s super kind and will happily answer your question. You’ll find the link to her site below the video.

  • I always thought “quincaillerie” was a bit challenging. Especially coming from the “eye” sound to the French “r”. And I learned now from Geri that there is a muted “e” there as well. Formidable! Merci!

  • Geraldine~J’ai beaucoup aimé cette leçon avec Geri, et aussi la discussion entre vous deux. Demain à la Table Ronde chez notre Alliance Française, nous allons discuter “une chose très française.’ Puisque nous y allons avec notre propre présentation, après la leçon de Geri, je vais parler de “la bouche française!” Ça va être très amusant! Je vais ‘faire la bouche’ en prononçant des sons uniques de la langue.
    Pour ajouter, j’ai eu un très bon prof de phonétique qui m’a beaucoup aidée dans la prononciation. Pour faire le “u” français, il nous a dit de faire le son “uuuuu” (comme dans le mot bOUche) avec la bouche, et puis de faire le son “eeee” dedans la bouche. Le résultat…un “u” français parfait! Il nous a aussi dit que, pour isoler les quatre sons nasals en français, on n’a qu’à dire la phrase, “Un bon vin blanc!” Très facile à rappeler!
    Merci pour une leçon formidable!

  • This was wonderful! Thank you! In a recent trip to France to visit WW1 sites, I found pronouncing Aisne-Marne, and Reims so difficult. Until I mastered them, my French friends looked at me in total incomprehension when I spoke of these places.

    • Great job Claire! You are right, mastering key words can make a HUGE difference. 🙂
      What did you like the most during your trip?

  • One of the hardest words for me to pronounce is ‘reservation’ due to the ‘r’s. My favorite word is ‘grenouille’- it clears one’s throat!!

    • Bonjour Julie,

      Lovely! Ahahah, yes, “réservation” is a challenge!
      Glad you like “grenouille”, it is cute. Maybe you’ll like “batracien” too, then!

  • I loved this video so much! It has come at the perfect time for me as I’m and trying to focus more on my listening and pronunciation. Really insightful and the perfect length of time to learn so much Xx

    • Wonderful, Taiesha! Glad to help! What would you like to improve in your listening and pronunciation, specifically?

      • So my problem is when I’m listening I will catch a few words and focus on them, and then miss whatever else has been said. So I want to be able to just hear what is being said and understand full sentences. I’m watching french films and tv shows with french dubs, listening to the news everyday. I’m understanding more and more each day but it’s just a slow process for me.

        I can speak some french but then I don’t understand responses so it’s difficult and frustrating for me when I visit France.

  • Salut Géraldine et Geri,
    I’m so glad to see you both together. I have been following you both since the beginning of your programs. Geri, I’m a former student of yours and André Malécot (prix de phonétique à Middlebury en ’72). In all my studies up to the doctorate I truthfully say that your course is the single one that has had the most practical impact on my personal development in French and in my teaching. Students are amazed to find they can really sound French by the way they position their tongue, lips, etc. into the “points d’articulation” and thinking “forward.” (BTW, I still have and refer to your red mimeo manual and the charts!) Géraldine, I look forward to your weekly posts to keep me anchored in the lively language as it is spoken. I bring many of your suggestions to class. Thanks to both of you.

      • Bonjour Leonard, I have been meaning to contact you since I saw your kind words after Géraldine’s video interview with me. I was so pleased to hear that the phonetics course so long ago has been so useful to you in your career. I would like to contact you personally. Would you send me your email address? Merci!

  • The best way to remember the difference between the accent on the end in French: in English we say record for disque and record (accent on the re) a verb. In French it is oxytonique. All on the end of the word, intonation going to the end of the sentence. Also I think the hardest word for Americans to pronounce is “rue” the 4 from the back of the mouth and u from the front. Hard to get from back to front!

    • Absolutely, Jacqueline, fantastic comment. I have to admit that I gave up on accents in English… 🙁 Too hard for me.

  • Bonjour Géraldine(s)
    A few thoughts.

    “The French mouth is tight and tense…”Ça ressemble
    à la bise ; typiquement français,non?

    é, è, ê, ai, ais, ait…Dans le sud de la France, pas
    de problème, c’est toujours ‘é’ fermé à la fin des mots (seulement à la fin des
    mots).

    ‘in, un’ En français moderne, Paris, télévision… il
    n’y a plus qu’une seule prononciation ‘in’. Sauf dans le sud et dan

  • Fascinating listening! For me the hardest words to pronounce are those words that are the same in English, adorable, communication, etc, because I have to break a habit of a lifetime!
    I would not like to lose my accent, just enough to be understood. I live in France and most of the time if people do not understand me when I talk, it’s not because I am using the wrong words, but because of my accent.
    I love the French word époustouflant…it’s fun to say and a nice complement.

    • Bonjour Jacqueline,

      Awesome, keep up the great work. 🙂
      Yes, “époustouflant” is a wonderful word. Where did you learn it?

  • This was very informative, thank you. My french wife has the problem of hearing my wrong pronunciation but unable to describe how to get it right (I don’t have a good ear}; puce and pouce I still find difficult. The stress on syllables explains the difference between rock and chanson and the tension in the mouth was a revelation.

  • Bonjour Géraldine.
    Before I saw the video, I thought about what is my favorite french word, and crépuscule came up instantly. C´est fou, quoi?

  • Merci Géraldine. Très impressionnant et informative. Pour moi, le meilleur difficulté c’est avec les prononciation de ail, ailles et oeil. Bisous, Michael.

  • Fascinating ~
    An inspired choice of guest, with SO much helpful information regarding our various pronunciations and how they happen. Yes, it’s very difficult to leave your own accent behind when you’re battling away in another language; I’ve suspected for years that it’s actually equally difficult for the French to get around Enlish words as it is for the English speakers to try to pronounce French words correctly. And I agree with you Géraldine .. we can spot almost instantly when the person we’re speaking to isn’t a native speaker of our own language. Tiny little things give them away, but you notice it immediately. Interestingly, I’ve been aware for years that I tend to make more mistakes in French when I’m tired !
    However, I remember meeting by chance a middle aged married couple years ago in a pub in Oxfordshire one lunchtime. I was with my own parents, and we all got into a conversation which rolled along for quite a while. Then it transpired that the woman we were speaking to was originally from Belgium, and her first language was actually either French or Flemish or perhaps both (I can’t remember). The thing was though that her English was absolutely flawless and we all complimented her on this. I think it’s because it’s so unusual that it sticks in my memory.
    And here’s an observation from someone we all “know”, and her pointer re correct pronunciation. I watched an interview once with the great tennis player Martina Navratilova during which she mentioned that English speakers never pronounce her name properly. She’s originally from the old Czechoslovakia of course, and her surname should be pronounced in the East European way thus :
    Navra-TEE-lova, ie the emphasis being in the middle of the word. English speakers do something lazy with it, and so it comes out sounding sloppy. What a shame 🙂
    But in my own case I come from the London area of UK where the local “accent” just has to be the finest English to be heard anywhere ! … ‘nuf said !!
    OK, I’m laughing, and I hope you are too 😀
    Merci Géraldine ~ a brilliant lesson. Really enjoyed 🙂

  • Salut Géraldine, Je trouve ces mots difficiles Ail, et Accueil, ils ont un son on n’utilise pas en Anglais !
    Et aussi les mots comme pression, instabilité qui sont proches d’anglais mais le son est très différent
    Bises Brian

      • Bonjour Geraldine
        J’ai de la chance, j’ai’ un bon prof qui s’assure que je prononce correctement les mots 🙂 Il y a beaucoup des anglais qui prononce “pression” comme “preshun” pas press”ee”on :). Bizzz

  • Bonjour Géraldine(s)
    A few thoughts.

    “The French mouth is tight and tense…”Ça ressemble
    à la bise ; typiquement français,non?

    é, è, ê, ai, ais, ait…Dans le sud de la France, pas
    de problème, c’est toujours ‘é’ fermé à la fin des mots (seulement à la fin des
    mots).

    ‘in, un’ En français moderne, Paris, télévision… il
    n’y a plus qu’une seule prononciation ‘in’. Sauf dans le sud et dan

  • Bonjour Géraldine(s)

    A few thoughts.

    “The French mouth is tight and tense…”Ça ressemble
    à la bise ; typiquement français,non?

    é, è, ê, ai, ais, ait…Dans le sud de la France, pas
    de problème, c’est toujours ‘é’ fermé à la fin des mots (seulement à la fin des
    mots).

    ‘in, un’ En français moderne, Paris, télévision… il
    n’y a plus qu’une seule prononciation ‘in’. Sauf dans le sud et dans l’ouest ;
    il y a toujours les deux, comme dans ‘brin et brun’

  • I have always found that spéléologie is a lovely and very musical word to say – and much nicer than potholing!

  • Double Your Frenchness

    Crash Course

    Enroll in in my free 10-lesson course that has helped thousands like you 2x their Everyday French in 10 days!

    Share this post!

    >

    Download this lesson as a PDF!

    Please enter your name and email address to get the lesson as a free PDF!