26 January 2011

Comment prononce-t-on ce mot-là ?

A few days ago, after I posted my long explanation about the pronunciation of the word « grenouille » — “frog” in French — a friend named Carolyn sent me a link to a site where you can hear the pronunciation of words and expressions in many different languages. Carolyn leaves comments on this blog and on others I read, and she and her husband have visited us here in Saint-Aignan a couple of times.

Here's a link to www.forvo.com that takes you to the pronunciation of the term « la grenouille » in French. In the search box, you can type in any word or expression you want and see if somebody has contributed a pronunciation. Click on the little blue arrow to hear the recording.

I've listened to quite a few of them and the pronunciations sound good to my ear. Some recordings are better than others, with less hum or buzz or static. I especially like the recordings of French words done by the contributor called spl0uf, who seems also to be an editor on the Forvo site.

Here's a link to the Forvo pronunciations for the term
« bouilloire », which means “kettle” and for which English speakers might need pronunciation help. It's just an example. The contributor I like, and who is a native speaker from France, pronounces it as I know it, and a contributor from the United Kingdom gives a passable pronunciation too.

Here's another example, for the pronunciation of the town named Loches, which I have blogged about before. Loches is a nice town about 20 miles southeast of Saint-Aignan — we go there regularly on shopping expeditions.

Another friend, Cheryl, asked me why I didn't just post an audio pronunciation of words like grenouille, nouille, douille, fouille, mouille, houille, ouille, and so forth, on my blog. There are two reasons: first, Blogger doesn't host audio files. It will take video files, but the process of preparing them for posting is pretty time-consuming, in my experience. Maybe I don't have the right software or understand the process entirely.

The second reason is the fact that I'm not a native speaker. My pronunciation is good, but it's better to base your pronunciation on samples recorded by native speakers of French. In my experience, there's nothing like having an intuitive understanding of a language, having grown up with it and learned it from your mother and father.

Also, pay attention to the country the speaker comes from. I just listened to a pronunciation of the adjective « grenobloise » — “of Grenoble” (the French city) — and it doesn't sound like the pronunciation I hear in France. The E vowel is wrong, to my ear, but the pronunciation is certainly understandable.

Take a look, or a listen, on www.forvo.com (this one takes you to the town named Reims) when you want to be sure how a word is pronounced, in French or other languages.


  1. Just had a look at the site it looks really helpful. Thanks for passing it on.

  2. ooh ooh! gotta go there... especially to hear "Loches" :))


  3. I'm always looking for sites like this, thanks!


  4. Thanks, Ken. Spl0uf is so far my favorite too, so I'm glad to get your endorsement.

  5. I just created an account on Forvo and I see that the instructions ask users to post pronunciations only in their native language. Good.

    Judy, Loches has the same vowel as bonne, tonne, bosse, botte, lotte, etc., and of course moche, poche, and roche. It's the open O vowel, as opposed to the closed, rounded O of beau, tôt, mot, faux, etc.

  6. Ken, I remember the long and funny set of posts we had about the pronunciation of Loches on here a year or so ago :))

  7. Thank you so much for including the link to Forvo. I will certainly be used a lot by me.

  8. Maybe you just don't have the face for a video clip. ;-)

  9. What a wonderful site! I was hoping it would settle the issue once and for all for me about how to pronounce the town of Cassis. My memory of pronunciation rules would say no s sound at the end, but I believe the locals there pronounce the s. There's one pronunciation on Forvo from a French male that drops the s, but that's the only one provided. The debate continues.

  10. Hello mmm, often Paris or other regions have one pronunciation of a place name, while the people who actually live in the place pronounce the name differently.

    That's the case with Cassis, I think, and you can't really go wrong. Pronounce the final S if you want to, or don't pronounce it. Neither pronunciation is wrong.

    The same is true of the name of the town of Salers in Auvergne, and with Tournus in the Rhône Valley. I'm sure there are other towns names with an optional final S in their pronunciations too.

    Other names change over time, for various reasons. If you look up Nyons, a town in the Drôme (northern Provence) that's famous for its olives, in a recent Petit Larousse dictionary, you'll see the pronunciation with the final S. If you look it up in the same dictionary but an edition that's 20 or 30 years old, you'll find the pronunciation without the final S.

    Friends of mine who visited Nyons a few years ago told me that local people said the town had decided to start pronouncing the final S of the name to differentiate it by pronunciation from a town in Switzerland that is named Nyon.


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