Paul's Blog

Native Language Guide: French

This week's Native Language Guide will focus on French. Most native English speakers can agree that the French language is a beautiful, flowing one and many French speakers speak English very well, but with a very distinct French accent.

Listen to this video of French speakers trying to pronounce a list of words in English:

There are several sounds that are made in North American English that are very difficult for French speakers to get correct due to the nature of the way things are pronounced in their native tongue.

Here are some examples and tips on how to better speak with an American accent.


The letter H - French speakers almost always leave this sound off the front of words (think 'she as' instead of 'she has'). Be sure to clearly pronounce the h at the beginning of words to be clearly understood as the h is almost always pronounced in the front of words in English

Here are some practice words: his, her, hair, humble, history, Henry, hedgehog

In contrast, there are some words in English that are pronounced without the H at the beginning. For example: hour, honest, and honor.

Adding to the confusion for native English speakers, the French also have a tendency to add an h where there isn't one.

For example: "He's hat one" instead of "He's at home."

Practice sentences (from Mastering the American Accent)

Henry hardly ever has a headache.

Perhaps he hasn't heard of the hypothesis

Have you ever eaten homemade Hungarian food?

The horror movie had a horrible ending.

I hope his habit doesn't make him an alcoholic.


Another difficult sound for French speakers is the /r/ sound, especially if it appears at the end of a word. It is almost guaranteed that French speakers will leave it off, as /r/ sounds in their native tongue are usually softened or not spoken.

For example: 'more' is pronounced 'mo' and 'far' is  pronounce 'fa'.

If you find an /r/ at the end of a word, make certain that you are pronouncing it to be more clearly understood by native English listeners.

One of the most common problem French speakers face is the /eI/ sound (as in take). It just plain doesn't exist in the French language, so it is no wonder there is difficulty in pronouncing it. So our example word, take, is often pronounced as tech.

Mastering the American Accent gives these examples to help you practice:

These words should be pronounced differently, if you are pronouncing them the same way, you are not pronouncing the /eI/ sound correctly:

wet and wait

west and waste

test and taste

men and main

But don't worry... English speakers have a difficult time speaking French, too!

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