how to sound french

10 Tricks to Sound So French That Natives Think You’re One of ‘Em

Confident when it comes to speaking French?

Great!

Now, how can you avoid the classic language switch?

You know, when your French conversation partner can sense your foreignness from a mile off and patronizes you by changing to English halfway through your conversation.

Some people are just trying to be nice and make you feel comfortable, or perhaps they just want to take their English skills for a spin.

Others simply assume that their English is better than your French.

Whatever the reason, you’re dying to sound so perfectly French that natives will never guess—not in a million years—that you’re foreign.

As of right now, they break your French stride to ask (in English): “so, you’re English?”

And you’re just like, “well…yes…but…I thought I gave you my best sounding ‘Bonjour! Ça va?’!”)

If you want to sound so French that you pass for a native, then you need to include the following tricks in your French repertoire!
 


 

10 Tricks to Sound So French That Natives Think You’re One of ‘Em

When it comes to trying to sound authentically French, you need to ditch your textbooks and really indulge yourself in the culture.

The following tricks don’t come from formal study. They come from down-to-Earth, real-world French learning.

Take pleasure in absorbing the culture itself. This is arguably a lot more enjoyable than slaving away at those tiresome verb conjugation exercises anyway.

So, how can you learn these kinds of things on your own? And how can you see your new French tricks brought to life and used in action?

You have ton of options open to you as a learner!

Watch French television programs, track down some classic French films, look up interviews with French celebrities and really pay attention to the way they talk and phrase things. Try to read French books with modern language and magazines.

And don’t forget—all of these engaging materials and modern methods come together to create the ultimate online French immersion experience at FluentU.

With a collection ranging from grammar lessons to singalongs, Barbie commercials, trailers for “The Hunger Games,” cooking shows and wildlife documentary clips, you’re guaranteed to find something that fits your French skill level, preferred learning style and personal interests.

Not to mention, all the videos on FluentU are things that real French natives actually watch on the regular. That means you’ll get to see all of these French mannerisms, sayings and habits used in context. It’s the perfect blend of formal study, immersion and fun.

One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:

2014 10 09 20.42.25 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube

Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions will guide you along the way, so you’ll never miss a word.

2014 10 09 20.44.00 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube

Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:

2014 10 09 20.44.51 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube

Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU’s learn mode to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video with vocabulary lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”

2014 10 09 20.45.27 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube

As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience. Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.

Below are some quintessentially French phrases and behaviors that you should look out for while watching authentic French content!

You’ll need to adopt these if you want to sound like a French native.

Learn a foreign language with videos

Having the Right French Attitude

1. Act as confident as possible

When said with confidence, even mispronunciations and mistakes can be perfectly understood or overlooked. Speaking sheepishly will do you no favors. Allez-y! (Go for it!)

2. Find French equivalents to expressions you use in English

Think of some fun phrases you always use in English that foreign people wouldn’t think to use or necessarily understand.

For example, in English we say things like “give it a go!” instead of just saying “try.” You might say “are you up for doing…” rather than “do you want to do…”

It seems like a minor detail, but using and understanding these phrases is your key to coming across as a native, or even just as a capable bilingual.

These are essentially just different versions—perhaps slightly more complex ways—of saying simple things. This adds color and natural flavor to our daily language.

Beginners in English might not know how to use all of these, but they certainly aren’t beyond anyone’s capability. They’re easy to learn—it’s just about the level of familiarity with the language that natives have, and having the ability to play around with word usage and phrasing.

Get yourself ahead of the game. Learn the equivalents of these sorts of things in French and you’ll no longer sound like an amateur.

3. Twist your English mouth to make French pronunciations

Make yourself aware of those certain tricky sounds and pronunciations that your darned English-trained mouth just can’t get the hang of.

There are definitely going to be one or two trouble areas when it comes to learning French as an English speaker, as your mouth physically isn’t used to pronouncing certain things.

You probably already know exactly which sounds I’m referring to, because you’ve stumbled over them in the past. Am I right or am I right?

You literally need to train and stretch the muscles to correctly enunciate as a native Frenchie would. Once you have identified which specific sounds you’re struggling with—the ones that make you sound less like the suave Parisian you aspire to be—you can start to fix the problems and stop sounding like a hopeless foreigner.

For example, the importance of correctly pronouncing the difference between dessus and dessous (above and below) is a common one. Go over the sounds and words that you find difficult, repeat them to yourself and mouth the shape of the word’s sound.

Do this as much as you can, whenever you can: washing up, on the loo, in the shower, in the car, on a bus. They’ll eventually fall out of your mouth more naturally just due to the habitual practice.

Mastering French Mannerisms

The following points are 5 classic French conversational techniques and mannerisms to help you sound just a bit more truly français:

4. The tactical use of bah

Fairly difficult to translate, the French bah is used rather regularly and can make your speech pattern sound very authentic.

In answer to an obvious question perhaps:

“Tu aimes bien la pizza?” (Do you like pizza?)

“Bah oui, bien sur!” (Well, yes, of course!)

Or something like the following:

“Tu adores le brocoli?” (Do you love broccoli?)

“Bah non! Je déteste!” (No, I hate it!)

Or as a deep, elongated syllable to fill gaps while you think:

“Qu’est-ce que tu fais le weekend?” (What are you doing on the weekend?)

“Baaaaaahh, en fait je ne sais pas encore.” (Well…actually I don’t know yet)

5. Adding quoi to the ends of sentences

This one is also not easy to translate, but it would be the French equivalent of “whatever” or “innit.” So, you might imagine that it shouldn’t be used when talking formally, but it’s used often in casual conversation and can perfectly round off a sentence.

“C’est quoi, ça?” (What is that?)

“Euuh, je ne sais pas exactement mais je pense que c’est une sorte de nourriture, quoi.” (Um, I’m not really sure but I think it’s a type of food or whatever.)

6. Using eh, ah and hein like there’s no tomorrow

Whether it’s to fill space while you think or to provoke a response, these elongated vowels are very useful when speaking French. They can be heard very often in conversation.

For example, in English we add “don’t you?”/ “aren’t you?”/ “isn’t it?” to the end of statements to toss the conversational ball back into the other person’s court. The French will simply say “hein?”

“Il fait beau aujourd’hui hein?” (It’s nice weather today isn’t it?)

Try it with raised eyebrows for added French effect.

7. Sufficient use of voilà here, there and everywhere

The slangy English phrases “so, yeah” or “so, there you go” would probably be best translated into French as “voilà.”

When you can’t think of anything else to say at the end of a sentence, you can’t go wrong with a voilà. Sometimes even two. Voilà voilà.

8. Not forgetting the classic French shrug

In response to a question to which you don’t know the answer, respond the French way with an exaggerated shrug, raised eyebrows and add a “baaah, je sais pas, moi!” for good measure.

Knowing French Culture

Seeming completely at ease whilst in a French-speaking environment is about more than just talking well enough to impress the natives. In order to blend in, it’s helpful to know the basics of French culture—what’s generally acceptable, what’s not acceptable and what’s going to make you look like the unacquainted outsider.

9. Cuisine

Food and drink is a sacred part of French culture.

Three proper meals a day is the norm. Morning, afternoon and evening. None of this eating whenever you feel like it. No being a bit peckish at 11 a.m. and grabbing a sandwich to eat on the go.

Meals play a major role in French social life, and a dinner party or evening out is to be a long, enjoyable event, not to be rushed or half-hearted. Similarly, don’t be the person who’s mainly interested in staying at the bar all night after wolfing down their dinner at the beginning. The two parts of the evening, food and drink, come hand in hand.

10. Presentation

The way you present yourself is a very important aspect of the culture. Presentation refers to the way you dress, act and speak.

In general, the dressing habits are seen to be very understated. You’re meant to be well-dressed but not in anything fussy or fancy. That’s how it’s done for the most part. In the way you converse, never raise your voice or speak over people, it’s polite to stay composed and respectful.

 

Your combined knowledge of French language, habits and culture will not only give you the resources, but what’s more the confidence, to engross yourself in France and everything French! Before you know it, you’ll be talking to someone French who feels so comfortable conversing with you that the question “where are you from, then?” won’t even come up.

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