How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
nooj
Green Belt
Posts: 402
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:59 pm
Languages: english (n)
x 738

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby nooj » Sat Dec 23, 2017 5:17 pm

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to have a vast amount of contact with French as it is spoken. You'll pick up the intonation, hopefully, through osmosis.
2 x
زندگی را با عشق
نوش جان باید کرد

garyb
Brown Belt
Posts: 1070
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 12:35 pm
Location: Scotland
Languages: Native: English
Advanced: Italian, French
Intermediate: Spanish
Beginner: Greek
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1855
x 3050
Contact:

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby garyb » Sun Dec 24, 2017 3:06 pm

The FSI Phonology course is low-quality and a waste of time IMO. Some of FSI's material is great, like their Spanish course, but the name's not a guarantee of quality. It's still a step up from hoping to learn magically "by osmosis" though! A lucky minority of people do learn accent well just from lots of listening, but if you're having to ask then you're probably not one of them.

Some interesting discussion in "Proven ways to get a native-like accent" (don't let the title put you off, there's some good discussion of general accent improvement methods) and "Accent reduction techniques".

If you have a tutor who can help with accent, you've already gotten very lucky!
5 x

User avatar
tomgosse
Brown Belt
Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue Aug 25, 2015 11:29 am
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Languages: English (Native)
French (A1)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1185
x 2192
Contact:

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby tomgosse » Mon Dec 25, 2017 2:37 am

Here are a couple of good resources to start with:
Pronunciation
3 x
Rejoignez notre groupe français ! Les Voyageurs

s_allard
Blue Belt
Posts: 592
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2015 3:01 pm
Location: Canada
Languages: French (N), English (N), Spanish (C2 Cert.), Polish (beginner)
x 1247

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby s_allard » Mon Dec 25, 2017 1:41 pm

I think it was Dr Olle Kjellin who wrote that we shouldn't be talking about accent reduction as much as accent acquisition. The suggestion never really caught on because I see accent reduction everywhere except maybe with dialect coaches who work with actors aspiring to learn accents for professional purposes. But I think the point Dr Kjellin was trying to make was that instead of thinking of the influence of my L1 on L2, we should concentrate more on acquiring the features of L2.

That bit of philosophizing out of the way, on to some specifics. I think the best way to improve pronunciation is to work with a tutor. This person doesn't have to be an expensive dialect coach or accent reduction specialist. You want someone who can point out the problem areas and who can provide good models to imitate.

What I have observed is that everybody can spontaneously imitate a sound difference when it is brought to their attention and repeated many many times. For example, probably the most difficult vowel sound in French is that associated with the letter u or the IPA /y/ that we hear in words like bu, connu, and rue. With a bit of work on the positions of the lips, everybody can quickly learn to produce the sound.

The really big challenge of course is to produce all the isolated sounds in sequence. What happens is that the sounds are modified as they interact with each other. Plus there are the major considerations of pitch, accentuation and intonation.

All of this can probably be done alone with lots of listening and then practicing by recording one's voice. Here is an excellent article by Dr Kjellin on using software Audacity.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285234145_Quality_Practise_Pronunciation_With_Audacity_-_The_Best_Method

Edit. Typpos
Last edited by s_allard on Mon Dec 25, 2017 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
6 x

nooj
Green Belt
Posts: 402
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:59 pm
Languages: english (n)
x 738

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby nooj » Mon Dec 25, 2017 3:18 pm

garyb wrote:The FSI Phonology course is low-quality and a waste of time IMO. Some of FSI's material is great, like their Spanish course, but the name's not a guarantee of quality. It's still a step up from hoping to learn magically "by osmosis" though! A lucky minority of people do learn accent well just from lots of listening, but if you're having to ask then you're probably not one of them.

Please don't put words into my mouth. I didn't say you would speak French magically by osmosis, I said intonation, a specific part of a language, would be better acquired through access to real spoken French. There is a very technical annotation that linguists use for intonation in French, used by phoneticians and phonologists, but it is not like IPA.

You could learn IPA quickly and easily, whereas to learn to analyse this:

Image

Will take significantly more time for significantly lower benefits.

So yes, I stand by my claim that the best way to learn and assimilate a language's intonation is to listen and speak with native speakers of a language. A lot.

The thing with intonation is that it doesn't often lead to complete miscommunication, like messing up the basic phonemes of a language. Usually it just leads you to misinterpretation of intent and attitude. For example, the idea that Germans when they speak English are cold and stand offish as the intonation of standard German is reasonably different from standard English, but Germans carry their intonational patterns with them into English, even very advanced speakers.

Speaking with the intonation of the person who made this thread in her recordings in no way disadvantages her when it comes to speaking with French people, or very little. It is literally the least of her problems as of this point. She would more fruitfully spend that time on other parts that she wishes to focus on.
1 x
زندگی را با عشق
نوش جان باید کرد

Arnaud
Blue Belt
Posts: 821
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:57 am
Location: France
Languages: French (N), Russian (int)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?t=1524
x 1742

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby Arnaud » Mon Dec 25, 2017 5:56 pm

nooj wrote:Hey, you sound a lot better than a lot of people I've met! You pronounce the /r/ in the French way, so that's already a huge difference between a lot of English speakers.
I agree with you that the accent is not a disaster, as the audio track is easy to understand but the /r/ is absolutly not a french r. It's a mix of english r and of german hard /ch/. The é sound is a classic problem for italian or spanish speakers, but less common for english speakers...perhaps an interference with Japanese that I see in your profile...

I don't remember exactly who suggested that, but someone learning french said that "phonétique progressive du français" had helped her and was better than FSI french phonology. You could give it a try (easy to find, hmm, hmm...)
4 x

User avatar
Ani
Brown Belt
Posts: 1304
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2016 8:58 am
Location: Alaska
Languages: English (N), speaks French, Russian & Icelandic (beginner)
x 3231
Contact:

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby Ani » Mon Dec 25, 2017 11:24 pm

Arnaud wrote:I don't remember exactly who suggested that, but someone learning french said that "phonétique progressive du français" had helped her and was better than FSI french phonology. You could give it a try (easy to find, hmm, hmm...)


That was me. At least I've said it, perhaps others as well. I studied FSI French Phonology extremely thoroughly at the beginning of my French study. Even though I felt I learned some things and understood what they were teaching, it didn't cover everything I would have liked to know, did dwell on several things that I thought we silly-obvious, and didn't translate into overwhelming success with accent.
CLE's phonétique progressive books are super direct, super explicit, teach IPA along with all the other aspects of intonation and rhythm.
Last edited by Ani on Tue Dec 26, 2017 1:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
7 x
But there's no sense crying over every mistake. You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.

User avatar
PeterMollenburg
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1948
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:54 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), French (B2-certified), Dutch (High A2?), Spanish (~A1), German (long-forgotten 99%)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=784
x 3845

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby PeterMollenburg » Mon Dec 25, 2017 11:43 pm

nooj wrote:The most important thing, in my opinion, is to have a vast amount of contact with French as it is spoken.

So yes, I stand by my claim that the best way to learn and assimilate a language's intonation is to listen and speak with native speakers of a language. A lot.


I do agree. Imitate, imitate, imitate! And to be specific, for me personally, early on what helped me a lot was to be very analytical of the individual sounds of French. Not every sound at once - choose a problematic sound and work on it. Slow everything down, break everything down, learn to know how a sound is represented by various orthographical representations (do not trust nor rely on your native language!!), isolate the chosen sounds, analyze them with regards to how native speakers produce them with their mouths (tongue position, teeth, lips, in which part of the mouth is the sound produced), read descriptions in courses. When courses perhaps like these suggested bt Tom (and many others out there- French in Action is great for this)...

tomgosse wrote:Here are a couple of good resources to start with:
Pronunciation


...focus on pronunciation, pay a LOT of attention! Apply everything you can to your French accent, and never revert back to old non-native habits. Pretend you are French, but you have forgotten your own language. Don’t treat such portions of courses as content you can quickly flick through, pay a LOT of attention! If it’s boring, bookmark it and look at such pronunciation sections for a few minutes a day before doing other types of learning and aim to constantly self analyze.

Every French word that comes out of your mouth ought to sound French, and if it doesn’t, why not? What are you doing wrong? Go back to your pronunciation sections of quality resources (be careful! some resources ate sloppy with their pronunciation descriptions), get advice.

Also, some resources describe the sounds of a foreign language in comparison to the base language (eg English), but where was the book published and what was the author’s background? No good learning French pronunciation providing explanations comparing with the sounds of British English, while you are American, for example. Unwittingly following such descriptions will have you butcher the language. Not to mention they can be sloppy, such descriptions, and very approximate. Such things must be considered! This is another reason IPA is useful, because it’s international and standardized, eliminating much of the guesswork out of such pronunciation descriptions.

After you get much of the sounds closer to those of natives, then later you can analyze multiple sounds in succession, sentence intonation and tone. Imitating naturally spoken French at full speed will then be relevant, and very useful.

s_allard wrote:I think it was Dr Olle Kjellin who wrote that we shouldn't be talking about accent reduction as much as accent acquisition. The suggestion never really caught on because I see accent reduction everywhere except maybe with dialect coaches who work with actors aspiring to learn accents for professional purposes. But I think the point Dr Kjellin was trying to make was that instead of thinking of the influence of my L1 on L2, we should concentrate more on acquiring the features of L2.

That bit of philosophizing out of the way, on to some specifics. I think the best way to improve pronunciation is to work with a tutor. This person doesn't have to be an expensive dialect coach or accent reduction specialist. You want someone who can point out the problem areas and who can provide good models to imitate.

What I have observed is that everybody can spontaneously imitate a sound difference when it is brought to their attention and repeated many many times. For example, probably the most difficult vowel sound in French is that associated with the letter u or the IPA /y/ that we hear in words like bu, connu, and rue. With a bit of work on the positions of the lips, everybody can quickly learn to produce the sound.

The really big challenge of course is to produce all the isolated sounds in sequence. What happens is that the sounds are modified as they interact with each other. Plus there are the major considerations of pitch, accentuation and intonation.

All of this can probably be done alone with lots of listening and then practicing by recording one's voice. Here is an excellent article by Dr Kjellin on using software Audacity.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285234145_Quality_Practise_Pronunciation_With_Audacity_-_The_Best_Method

Edit. Typpos


Excellent advice! Do NOT learn French as if you are approximating/associating French sounds to those of your native language. Be like a French baby/child - always acutely aware of whether you are imitating fellow French speakers accurately. Constantly do this, so that you are always comparing your spoken French to that of native French speakers and be flexible. Learn the French accent because you want to sound French, not because you want to sound less American/Australian/Czech/Norwegian etc. See yourself with regards to your French accent as pliable/flexible - always willing to self correct what you thought was previously correct.

Arnaud wrote:
nooj wrote:Hey, you sound a lot better than a lot of people I've met! You pronounce the /r/ in the French way, so that's already a huge difference between a lot of English speakers.
I agree with you that the accent is not a disaster, as the audio track is easy to understand but the /r/ is absolutly not a french r. It's a mix of english r and of german hard /ch/. The é sound is a classic problem for italian or spanish speakers, but less common for english speakers...perhaps an interference with Japanese that I see in your profile...

I don't remember exactly who suggested that, but someone learning french said that "phonétique progressive du français" had helped her and was better than FSI french phonology. You could give it a try (easy to find, hmm, hmm...)


Arnaud’s tips are very useful, particularly since he’s a native French speaker. He’s helped me at times, and again demonstrated to me that there’s always room for improvement. That series of course books suggested by Ani would certainly be a worthwhile investment (I have not used them, but I have used other books by the same publisher in similar series, and I trust Ani’s recommendation).

Final tip- Pronunciation cannot be compartmentalized with regards to speech. The two are inseparable, so much so that every single time you speak French you ought to be noticing your accent. You don’t learn pronunciation in a two week block of French then move on and forget about it fir the most part, it’s always there, every time you utter a French word, so you ought to be aware of it to a certain extent every time you speak French. Good luck!
7 x

User avatar
reineke
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
Posts: 3030
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:34 pm
Languages: Fox
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 902#p20145
x 5400

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby reineke » Tue Dec 26, 2017 12:46 am

garyb wrote:The FSI Phonology course is low-quality and a waste of time IMO. Some of FSI's material is great, like their Spanish course, but the name's not a guarantee of quality. It's still a step up from hoping to learn magically "by osmosis" though! A lucky minority of people do learn accent well just from lots of listening, but if you're having to ask then you're probably not one of them.


"When Daniel Jones, the greatest phonetician of the first part of the twentieth century, was setting out on a fieldwork trip, a reporter asked him, 'Professor Jones, what instruments are you taking with you?' He pointed to his ears and said 'Only these.'" (Ladefoged 2003:27.) He continues "There is no doubt that the ultimate authority in all phonetic questions is the human ear..."

Jones and Ladefoged – together surely the two most influential phoneticians of the last hundred years – were both firm believers in promoting practical phonetics training. Jones emphasized the need to cement theoretical knowledge through practice on a number of
occasions. For example, in The Pronunciation of English (1909, 1956) he wrote "Students of speech cannot [...] become proficient in phonetics merely by reading [...] descriptions. They must also perform practical exercises..." (Jones 1956:164). The point
is echoed by Ladefoged who wrote that "... most students can produce nearly all the sounds of the IPA chart [...] provided they have an instructor leading them through a set of practical exercises..." (Ladefoged 2003:10). Traditionally, then, theory and practice have been understood to go hand in hand."

http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/ptlc/proceedi ... er_08e.pdf

In Memoriam: Max Mangold (1922–2015)

" ...in 1940 the 18-year-old had bought a short-wave radio with which to access them, as indeed he could do quite legally in neutral Switzerland. In this way he learned to speak fifteen Germanic, Romance and Slavonic languages and a number of Asian languages as well as Hungarian and Arabic. He continued, single-mindedly, to listen every day until shortly before his death and considered it so important that he lent his radio to young colleagues he considered talented and interested enough...

Max Mangold's phonetics teaching followed the tradition of the ‘British School’. He provided rigorous ear-training as the foundation for all analysis."

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals ... E93D1BFA24


Re: "the t at the end of couramment". The influence of reading in a FL?
2 x

User avatar
rdearman
Site Admin
Posts: 3998
Joined: Thu May 14, 2015 4:18 pm
Location: United Kingdom
Languages: English (N)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1836
x 8937
Contact:

Re: How can I reduce my accent when speaking French

Postby rdearman » Tue Dec 26, 2017 12:20 pm

You might want to watch this video by Tim Keeley at the PG in Berlin.

3 x
: 4 / 100 100 Italian paperbacks:

Lollygagging Podcast available on iTunes


Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: iguanamon, 白田龍 and 1 guest