French Speakers


Pronunciation Practice

Word Stress

In French, in words with many syllables, the stress typically falls on the last syllable.

But in English, there are many different rules for word stress (To learn these, check out my Beginner and Intermediate lessons).

Therefore, to improve their pronunciation, a French speaker has to learn to hear the stress in English words or check a dictionary.


Practice: Which syllable do you think is stressed? Guess the answers by saying the words aloud. Then move the slider to see the stress pattern on the picture behind. After, review the answers and listen to and repeat my pronunciation.

  1. STOM-ach-ache
  2. CHEESE-cake
  3. YES-terday
  4. con-TRI-bu-ted
  5. un-NEC-e-ssar-il-y


Vowel Reduction

French is a syllable-timed language, which means each syllable takes about the same amount of time to say in a sentence.

But English is stress-timed language, which means some syllables or words are stressed more in a sentence and the others are reduced. The stressed words are said louder, longer and with more dramatic pitch, and the reduced words are said quietly, quickly and with a mild tone.

Also, in the reduced words or syllables, the vowels are often replaced with the schwa or /ə/, which sounds like “a” or “uh” like in gonna.

So French speakers have to practice the rhythm of English to make sure that, normally, the unstressed syllables in words and the function words are said faster and with the schwa.

Content WordsFunction Words
Nouns: house, doctor, idea Articles: a, an, the
Main verbs: sleep, drink, run, go Helper verbs: am, is, does, did, has, had, can
Adjectives: small, ugly, wonderful, funny Personal pronouns: I, me, you, he, her, him
Adverbs: rarely, happily, sometimes Possessive adjectives: my, his, her, your, its, their
Demonstrative pronouns: this, that, these, those
Demonstrative adjectives: this, that, these, those
Possessive pronouns: mine, yours, his, hers, theirs Relative pronouns: whose, that, which, who, whom
Question words: who, what, where, when, why, how
(but often not in common phrases)
Conjunctions: and, but, so, or, before, because, while
Negative: not, isn’t, don’t, hasn’t, can’t Prepositions: to, in, on, with, for, under, over



Practice: Listen carefully to each sentence from the story, and pay attention to the unstressed syllable or function words that are underlined. Repeat after me, also to practice saying the schwa.

1. I did not wanna cook any dinner.

I did NOT wannə COOK any DINNər.


2. I was at my place, feeling quite lazy.

I wəz ət my PLACE, FEELing QUITE LAzy.


3. I was having my salad, which was not very satisfying.

I wəz HAving my SALəd, which wəz NOT VERy SATisfying.


4. That’s my punishment for eating junk food.

Thətz my PUNishmənt fər EATing JUNK FOOD.


5. While I was eating, a huge drop of ketchup hit my shirt.

While I wəz EATing, ə HUGE DROP əv KETCHup HIT my SHIRT.

Vowels & Consonants

Watch the videos on the Resources page, especially from the playlist “Sounds for Language Groups” to practice these sounds below that Spanish speakers typically have trouble with.

  • /ʧ/ as in “cheese” and /ʤ/ as in “joke”
  • /h/ and no /h/
  • /r/

Practice: Practice the consonant sounds by repeating these words into your microphone. Click on the button to speak, but remember to wait until your microphone is fully on.

More Practice: Repeat these lines from the story focusing on the vowel and consonant sounds just learned.

1. These huge chunks of cheesecake are just so good.

2. Jeez, I felt so ridiculous yesterday.

3. But I ended up getting some junk food.

4. I was kind of hating myself.

5. I bought eight pieces of cheesecake.

6. The cheesecake shop has this like grand design.

7. Now, as I was heading over there…

8. And I didn’t realize it.

9. I kept shivering.

10. I ended up feeling really terrible.



Note that French speakers also have trouble with the following sounds. You can learn more about them in the Beginner and Intermediate lessons; use the search bar to find the activities.

  • Tense vs lax vowels /iy/ vs. /ɪ/, /uw/ vs. /ʊ/, /ɛ/ vs. /ey/
  • Vowels /ɛ/ vs. /æ/
  • Voiceless stop consonants /p/, /t/, and /k/




Listen one more time. Can you understand the speaker better?

End of Episode Survey

Please fill out this survey about what you learned below. The questions can help you reflect on your own learning, and your answers also help improve the podcast. This survey is completely anonymous and the results will not be permanently stored.

  • False Friends
  • Present Continuous
  • Word Stress for Longer Words
  • Rhythm: Vowel Reduction
  • Vowels & Consonants: /ʧ, ʤ/ and /h/ and /r/