French Pronunciation Practice for Road Trips: The Most Beautiful Words in French


French has a reputation for being quite a romantic language, and we indeed have some beautiful words.

In today’s lesson, we might try something different. I’m going to not only introduce you to some beautiful French vocabulary, but I’m also going to teach you how to pronounce those words.

Picture yourself in the French countryside, on a peaceful hill in sunny Provence. You can close your eyes, even. Sitting under an old olive tree, you’re surrounded by lavender fields. The chorus of cicadas creates a warm rhythm all around you. Sometimes, a songbird joins in for a delightful duet. The sun is warm on your skin. The air smells of summer and sweet flowers. You feel calm and peaceful. This spot is your classroom for today.

Let’s explore together the sounds and rhythms of ten beautiful French words, from “un oiseau” to “l’émerveillement.”

Are you ready to give it a try?

C’est parti.

1) Short story (transcript and translation)

Le soleil se couche dans les collines provençales. Flânant dans les champs, nous entendons au loin les trilles d’un oiseau solitaire, qui nous remplit d’émerveillement. Nous imaginons l’apprivoiser, dans une tendresse partagée. Son chant doux comme un murmure dissipe l’amertume de ce dernier soir d’été.
The sun sets over the hills of Provence. Wandering in the fields, we hear the trills of a solitary bird in the distance, filling us with wonder. We imagine taming it in shared tenderness. Its song, gentle as a whisper, dispels the bitterness of this final summer evening.

2) Most Beautiful French Words (vocabulary and examples)

a) Un oiseau

Un oiseau = a bird (pronunciation: wah-zoh / “eau” like l’eau = water)
And with la liaison, it makes: “un oiseau”.

L’oiseau chante. = The bird sings.

With its soaring wings and aerial freedom, “l’oiseau”, the bird, is almost inherently poetic. The French word looks difficult, with all these vowels next to each other, but actually, it’s quite easy to pronounce

b) Flâner

Flâner = to walk around, to stroll (pronunciation: flah-ner / the mark on the a is un accent circonflexe)

Elle flâne dans le village. = She’s strolling in the village.

This verb by itself sets a scene of wandering and observing life, without thinking about goals or schedule. It’s the simple enjoyment of being alive and active, finding joy by exploring your part of the world.

c) Apprivoiser

Apprivoiser = to tame / to befriend (an animal) (pronunciation: a-pri-vwa-zé)

Il apprivoise le renard. = He befriends the fox.
Le renard dit : “Apprivoise-moi.” = The fox says: “Befriend me.”

In a famous scene from the Le Petit Prince, the boy meets a fox, who tells him about the word “apprivoiser.” It’s about gently nurturing connections with something wild.

Click here to learn more:
Le Petit Prince – Comme une Française lesson

d) Un murmure

Un murmure = a soft whisper, a murmure, a rustle.
Pronunciation: with a French u sound, like “le mur” (the wall), and not a “ou” sound like l’amour (love)

Murmurer, to whisper.
Ils murmurent. = They’re whispering.
Le murmure de la rivière = The soft rustle of the river
Chuchoter = another verb for “to whisper.”

Click here to learn more:
French “u” sound vs “ou” sound – Comme une Française lesson

e) L’amertume

L’amertume = bitterness. With a French “u” sound, again.

Elle ressent de l’amertume. = She feels bitterness.

L’amertume is the taste of dark beer, and the emotion that lingers on the tongue and in the heart. It’s a blend of sadness, acceptance and resilience. It’s not spite – it’s very close to bitter-sweet, or doux-amer.

Extra mile:
Les autres saveurs = the other tastes :

  • Salé = salty
  • Sucré = sweet
  • Acide = sour, acidic
  • Umami (or “sapidité”) = umami (or savoriness)

f) La tendresse

La tendresse = tenderness (with a French [ɛ̃], “en” nasal sound)

A simple word, unassuming, but essential.

Tendre = tender (adjective)
Tendrement = tenderly
La tendresse est un doux murmure. = Tenderness is a soft whisper, a rustle in the heart.

The extra mile:
Donc confuse the adjective “tendre” (tender) with the verb “tendre” (= to stretch), tondre = mowing (grass), shearing (sheep), or attendre (= to wait).

Click here for the beautiful song:
La tendresse (cover by Marie Lafôret)Lyrics

g) Ensemble

Ensemble = together. (with two [ɛ̃], “en” nasal sounds!)

One of the very few words with an elegant ending in “emble,” like Il tremble (= He shivers) or Il semble (= It seems.)

Ils vont très bien ensemble. = They fit very well together.

Click here for the beautiful song:
Ensemble (Jean-Jacques Goldman)Lyrics

h) L’émerveillement

L’émerveillement = feeling a sense of wonder.

It’s based off the word Une merveille = a wonder, a marvel.
Also a pastry like a donut: une merveille (pâtisserie)

Émerveillé = amazed, enchanted, awestruck.
Merveilleux / Merveilleuse = wonderful.
L’émerveillement est une étincelle. = Wonder is a spark.

“L’émerveillement” is a sense of wonder, your feeling when witnessing something truly beautiful. It’s a joyful surprise, it’s awe and delight – a new hope for life and the world.

The extra mile:

Click here to learn more:
Le mont Saint-Michel – Comme une Française lesson

3) Extra Resources (blog only): More Beautiful Words, and Poetry

Une voyelle = a vowel, la synesthésie = synesthesia, when senses blur into one another
Voyelles, by Arthur Rimbaud – a poem about vowels and synesthesia

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité = Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
→ Three beautiful words that make up la devise de la République, the French motto

Some more beautiful French poets and poetry:

Click here to get your next lesson:

À tout de suite !
See you in the next lesson!

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Join the conversation!

  • Quelle belle leçon, Géraldine, merci ! Je me demande si le mot ‘amertume’ dans votre petite histoire peut être traduit par ‘bitter-sweet’ en anglais ?

  • Merci Geraldine!! Je croi que j’ai compri presque toutes les mots; très interesante lecture.
    Ancore une fois, Merci Geraldine!

  • Il y a plusieurs mots dans cette leçon que j’aime. Commençant par le mot émerveillement, et puis apprivoiser, un murmure et la dernière, enfin et surtout (last but not least?) la tendresse. Merci Géraldine pour cette leçon “poétique”, comme dit Diana.

  • L’ èmerveillement describes what I felt in June when I visited sites in Provence and l’ Ile de France.
    Especially Carrières des Lumières near Baux-de-Provence, featuring The Dutch Masters, from Veneer to Van Gogh and Mondrian, the Architect of Colour. J’ ètais émerveillée!

  • Thank you! Great lesson! I look forward to listening to all the links to the songs and reading the books of poetry.

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