Speaking French like a French native speaker is the dream of all French students/learners. But it doesn't come as naturally as some may think.
Maybe you have been learning French for quite some time, but something still doesn’t feel right when you speak? It's perfectly normal. Speaking French like a francophone requires many steps and quite a bit of work. But hopefully with these 10 tips, you will be able to reach your goal a little bit faster.
This subject has been requested so many times! And, you know that I love teaching all the tips and tricks to make your learning experience easier and faster. However, after teaching you perfect pronunciation for 2 months, it was hard to put myself to work to teach you to...undo it. Yes, you read it right, I am going to ask you to undo what I taught you. But don't worry, what you learned is fine and the correct pronunciation, I am just going to ask you to skip some vowels here and there ;)
I've already talked too much, it's time for you to learn all the secrets I give my students for them to reach the Holy Grail of sounding "a little bit more French".
A little note, keep in mind that French is spoken in 28 countries as an official language or not. Some of the points, especially contractions, slang and expressions, might differ depending on the area and country. So, when I say "sounding a little bit more French", France is only one of the many countries where people speak French, so let's rephrase this and say "sounding a little bit more like a francophone".
Here are my 10 tips so you can sound a little bit less like a textbook ;)
1. Master the Pronunciation Rules
This is probably what surprised me the most. French learners (and maybe you?) spend countless of hours trying to master French grammar and French conjugation, while spending very little time learning their pronunciation rules.
Many think that speaking with the correct use of Passé composé or grammar in general will give them a good level of French speaking skills.
I even get a lot of messages asking me where people should start, of course I answer pronunciation, and I bet that 9/10, people don't follow my advice.
So yes, the first thing you should work on is your pronunciation and nothing else. There is so much to work on, silent letters, liaisons, different sounds, exceptions. Trust me you are in for quite some work. But once you know the rules, you did 80% of the work already. The other 20% are these next 9 tips.
Don't forget to enjoy the process, every little rule you learn is a part of the wonderful journey to learning a language!
2. Work on Your Listening Skills
It has been proven many times that learning a language is easier when you are familiar with the sounds. How can you expect to pronounce a word correctly if your ear can't hear the word?
I always say "if you can't hear it you can't pronounce it". I myself spend a lot of time listening to words on repeat.
In many languages, sounds won't be the same as your first language. All you need to do is to open your ears and let your brain gets used to the sounds.
A few easy ways to practice are:
- Watch TV in French
- Listen to a few songs a day
- Listen to my podcast, etc.
The most efficient but also the one that requires the most concentration is to listen to an audiobook with the book (paperback, eBook) in front of you. The best option for this is Audible. They have a variety of audiobooks and of course books you can read.
I recommend you to try this book: "Le petit Nicolas"
Your brain will connect the way a word / a sentence is pronounced and how it's written. Soon enough you won't even have to think about pronunciation before speaking!
3. Use More Contractions
This is where I hurt my own feelings, after months teaching you the right pronunciation, I am going to teach what to skip, but only when you speak.
In French, we have regular contractions, that we are going to review quickly below. These contractions happen in both written and spoken French.
Let's have a look at the regular contractions, the ones that happens in written and spoken French:
La + orange = L'orange The orange
Je + ai = J'ai I have
Se + est = S'est Part of a reflexive verb
There are many more, if you need to learn more about them, check out this video-lesson.
And here are the contractions and shorten words to add only when you speak. They simply happen because we speak fast, so we skip some letters and parts of the word here and there:
Tu + as = T'as
Tu as le temps de prendre un café ? = T'as le temps de prendre un café ?
Do you have time to take a coffee?
Tu + es = T'es
Tu es en retard = T'es en retard You are late
Le = L' / De = d'
Tu as le temps de prendre un café ? = T'as l'temps d'prendre un café ?
Do you have time to take a coffee?
Me = m'
Tu peux me rappeler d'appeler Marie ? = Tu peux m'rappeler d'appeler Marie ?
Can you remind me to call Marie?
Je = J'
Je dois partir = J'dois partir
I have to leave
Est-ce que = Eske
Est-ce que tu veux un café ? = Eske tu veux un café ?
Do you want a coffee?
Parce que = Pasque
Non parce que je dois partir dans cinq minutes = Non pasque j'dois partir dans cinq minutes.
No because I have to leave in five minutes
Encore = Co
Tu as encore oublié ta veste ? = T'as co oublié ta veste ?
You forgot your jacket again?
Je suis = Chui
Je suis là = Chui là
I am here
Je sais = Chè
Je sais bien = Chè bien
I am well aware
Il y a = Y a
Il y a du café si tu veux = Y a du café si tu veux
There si coffee if you want
Plus = Pus
Tu n'as plus d'eau? = T'as pus d'eau?
I always say to keep an open mind when it comes to French spoken contractions. They don't happen all the time, if we speak slowly for some reason, we won't contract words too much. Other times we will pronounce every single syllable of the word. It's all in the context.
4. Forget (some of) the negation
After having to teach you to undo some part of the pronunciation, now it's time to teach you bad grammar! Oh boy, what am I doing?!
Joke asides, it is easier this way for French learners, so I don't mind teaching you this at all.
Keep only the second part of the negation:
Non je n'ai pas le temps = Non, j'ai pas le temps / J'ai pas l'temps
No I don't have time
Je n'en ai plus = J'en ai plus / J'en ai pus
I don't have any left
Il n'a pas envie = Il a pas envie
He doesn't want to
Elle n'a jamais vu ce film = Elle a jamais vu ce film / Elle a jamais vu s'film
She never saw this movie
Forget about "N'est-ce pas" and replace it by NON:
Il avait raison n'est-ce pas ?
=> Use simply non
Il avait raison, non ?
He was right, wasn't he?
For some sentences, we will remove completely the negation:
Ne t'inquiète pas ! Don't worry!
T'inquiète ! Worry!
5. Make Sure to Link Words and to Know When to Link Them
In order to speak faster, we link words. It also allows us to have a smoother pronunciation. If we didn't link words, we would have to stop between 2 words and the pronunciation would be kind of broken.
We follow very specific rules when we link words together. We have 3 types of links : Required - Optional - Forbidden.
Let's have a look at a few for each category:
Between an article and a noun
Les amis = Les Zamis Friends
Between numbers and a noun
Trois ans = Trois Zans Three years
Pronouns and verbs
Nous étions - Nous Zétions We were
After plural nouns
Les enfants iront = Les Zenfants Ziront The children will go
Between 2 verbs
Ils sont allés = Ils sont Tallés They went
Before H aspiré
Un haricot A bean
Et aussi And also
If you want to know more about Links / Liaisons, watch this video-lesson.
6. Add Fillers Words Here and There
Fillers don't need to much explanation; they simply fill the sentence. Think how many times you use "Actually", "I mean", "Well", and more. I bet you use them quite a bit! This is the same for French, and lucky for you, we use them in a very similar way.
Some common filler words:
Quoi You know / You see
Eh bien Well
Tu vois ? You know?
Voyons Let’s see
Hein ? A bit like the Canadian Eh
Bah / Bein
Oups ! Oops!
Youpi ! Yay!
Chut ! Shush!
Ho ! Wow!
Hé ! Hey!
Beurk ! Yuck!
Ouf ! Ouch!
Pfff ! Piouf!
7. Use a bit of Slang
Bouffer = Manger To eat
Ça me saoûle / Ça me gonfle It bothers me / It annoys me
Je m'en fous I don't care
8. Expressions and Idioms
Avoir une peur bleue = To have a blue fear
To be terrified
Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles = To have the bottom surrounded by noodles
To be lucky
Voir la vie en rose = To see life in pink
To be happy
Avoir les yeux plus gros que le ventre = To have eyes bigger than the stomach
Usually used when people eat too much, over-served themselves, are greedy
Ne pas y aller avec le dos de la cuillère = To not go with the back of the spoon
To go all in
9. Try to Avoid Nous
Nous is a very formal way to speak in French. And even tho we do use it in spoken French, most of the time, it's better to use ON instead of NOUS. And let's be honest, it's so much easier for conjugation since it's conjugated like Il and Elle.
It will also help with the very confusing reflexive verbs conjugated with Nous:
Nous nous sommes habillés We got dressed
Or even worst, a reflexive verb conjugated with Nous in a negative sentence:
Nous ne nous sommes pas habillés We didn't get dressed
If we use ON :
On s'est habillés We got dressed
And you add only the last part of the negation :
On s'est pas habillés We didn't get dressed
So much easier!
Nous serons là à 15 heures We weill be there at 3 p.m.
On sera là à 15 heures
Nous nous sommes rencontrés au parc We met at the parc
On s'est rencontrés au parc
10. Speak a Little Bit Faster
I feel like the person you talk to when your internet is not working, and they ask you if you tried unplugging the modem first.
Unfortunately, sometimes things have to be asked and said. So yes, speaking a bit faster will make you sound a little bit more French. But this is going to be the last step of all, don't try to speak faster if you don't master everything else from this list first.
I would also recommend you try at home first, maybe it's better ;) You don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of your French speaking friends.
Try practicing with a few tongue twisters, watch this video to practice them:
And there you have it, 10 tips to improve your French speaking skills. Let me know if these tips helped you and how you are planning to practice them
Check out the video below if you prefer to watch instead of reading,