The French have always had difficulty in pronouncing a few sounds in the English language – the soft “th”, the “h”, the soft “r”, and the short “i”. As you’ll see below, words such as “thousands” and “hedgehog” feature letters that are mistakenly omitted by native English and French speakers, which highlights an important rule with regards to English accent training: try to slow your speaking rate during your initial attempts at pronouncing an unfamiliar word so you can gain an understanding of how he word in question sounds when pronounced correctly, ensuring you don’t leave out any important syllables.
The words from this list, while primarily beneficial to native French speakers, can be viewed by all those in English accent training as an opportunity to reflect upon which words they struggle to pronounce correctly and then pledge to make any necessary changes with the help of their accent coach.
Thousandths · / thou-zuh nths/
If you were to ask one of your native English speaking friends to try to pronounce “thousandths”, there’s a good chance that the majority of them would mispronounce the word when trying to say it independently of other words, or at the very least, become slightly tongue tied. This is due to the combination of the “th sound in the first syllable and the “ths” ending. The ending is especially problematic, as many simply drop the “s” at the end of the word, which has the potential to change the context of the surrounding sentence entirely.
Again, the trick here is to divide the word into its individual syllables and pronounce them one by one until you get a general understanding of how each sounds before saying the full word. Focusing on the “th” sound, say “thou” first, pause briefly , say “zunth” next (again using a soft “th”), before adding a short “s” afterwards. As you continue to modify your speech with English accent training you should be cognizant of the final “s” sound here and with other words. It can be very easy to get in the habit of dropping the letter s from words and names in order to speak more quickly.
Hedgehog · /hej-hog/
Native French speakers have always found it difficult to pronounce the English “h”, so you can imagine why a word such as “hedgehog” would pose a problem, and why they frequently ending up saying ” ‘edgeog instead, omitting the “h” completely.
When pronouncing this word, concentrate on making the “h” sound first. Let out a long breath of air and transition from this sound into the short e and g sounds respectively, the “g” in the word being represented by a j in the pronunciation key above. Some French speakers refer to this word as an example of a “double barrel h” word due to there being h’s in this word. Nevertheless, the h sound can be pronounced correctly with plenty of breath support and a light touch of the tongue on the roof of the mouth.
Rarely · /rair-lee/
With two r’s put together in one word, this is another so called “double barrel” letter word for native French speakers, made all the more difficult because the correct pronunciation goes against the natural tendency of native French speakers to roll their r’s. As you progress through English accent training, talk to your accent coach about vocal techniques and exercises which will help loosen up your tongue. Thereby allowing you to put far less pressure on the roof of the mouth with the tongue, producing a softer “r” sound that is required in standard American English. Once you have become accustomed to the softer “r” sound at the beginning of this word, make sure to emphasize the long “a” before segueing into the final r and the end of the word.
Focus · /foh-kuh s/
Sadly, many misunderstand what the French are saying when they say “focus.” They end up thinking that they are being downright rude, considering that when mispronounced, this word has the potential to sound like an obscenity, which could lead to some extremely uncomfortable conversations should the misstep occur during a formal speaking situation. Fortunately this can be avoided if you remember that the first syllable “focus” is pronounced similarly to the French word “faux”
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