The best place to start when you are learning French is to learn the French alphabet. The French alphabet is part of the foundation of the French language and can help you get to know the sounds and letters of the French language. Here is a complete French alphabet pronunciation guide to help you learn the French alphabet. We will go through each French letter found in the alphabet, how to pronounce each letter correctly using the French IPA and give you an audio example of a French native speaker to help you develop a more natural French accent.
The French Alphabet Overview
There are 26 letters in the French alphabet. You will be able to recognize the French letters in the alphabet as they are almost identical to the English alphabet. The main difference between the French alphabet and the English alphabet is the sounds and pronunciation of each of the French letters. This is why we created this French alphabet pronunciation guide, to help you recognize the differences in pronunciation and to hear how the letters are used to form French words.
It is important to keep in mind that although there are 26 letters in the French alphabet, there are more than 38 sounds that are produced in the French language. Why? The main reason is because the combination of letters used in different words of the French language produce other unique sounds. For instance, when you combine certain French vowels and consonants together, this can create unique French sounds. Consider the ‘an’ letters found in the word France. On their own, the letters ‘a’ and ‘n’ produce a certain sound, but when combined together in a word, they can form completely new sounds that are unique to the French language.
Apart from the 26 letters, there are also five diacritics that you will learn. Basically, a diacritic is a letter where a glyph (sign or accent mark) is added to a letter indicating a change in the sound of the letter from its original form.
In addition to the five diacritics, there are also two orthographic ligatures. A ligature simply means when two letters are joined together creating one single glyph and thus, creating a completely different sound again.
Here is the French alphabet including the diacritics and ligatures.
|Letter||Diacritics and ligatures|
|A||Àà, Ââ, Ææ|
|E||Éé, Èè, Êê, Ëë|
|U||Ùù, Ûû, Üü|
French Alphabet Pronunciation Guide
Now that we’ve taken a look at the letters of the French alphabet, we can begin to learn the correct pronunciation of them and look at how each letter sounds with a native French accent. For the purpose of the French alphabet pronunciation guide, we’ll go through each of the 26 letters in the French alphabet only, while the diacritics and ligatures will be disregarded.
At the core of this French alphabet pronunciation guide is the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) for each of the French letter names. The French IPA is the breakdown of the sound of the French letter phonetically. This shows you how to pronounce each of the French letters. We have also provided an audio of a French native speaker for each of the letters to help you with your pronunciation. Moreover, below you can see an example word in French that contains that letter at the front of it, and the English translation of that example French word.
|Letter||IPA||Example Word in French||English Translation|
How to Learn the French Alphabet Pronunciation
It can feel a little overwhelming when you are trying to learn the French alphabet for the first time. Listening to the French alphabet pronunciation and repeating it is one thing, but memorizing them is a completely different task.
Although they may look familiar to you in its written form, rewiring your brain to think and pronounce the French alphabet correctly can be difficult. You might find that you naturally see and pronounce the letters in English rather than French.
Here are 3 useful tips that thousands of French learners have used to memorize the French alphabet pronunciation.
1. Learn the French IPA
The French IPA and the French alphabet go hand-in-hand when it comes to learning the basics of the French language. The French IPA stands for French International Phonetic Alphabet and is a sound alphabet that outlines the sounds found in the French language. For every sound produced, the French IPA uses a symbol. The French IPA therefore gives you a foundation of understanding how to pronounce words in French.
By learning the French IPA, it will help you with your pronunciation of the French alphabet. Understanding how to read and use the French IPA means you can understand how to pronounce each letter correctly, as well as pronounce unique French letter combinations.
This is also handy when you start learning words in French and begin to speak in French. As you progress in the language, you’ll find that the French IPA can be useful in providing you with a guide to help you pronounce new French words that you’ve never encountered before. We recommend learning the French IPA along with the alphabet as part of the first stages of learning the French language.
2. Recording Yourself Pronouncing French Letters
If you are learning French on your own, practicing the French alphabet out loud can be useful to help test your French alphabet pronunciation. Some letters can be tricky to pronounce like ‘R’ and learning how to correctly pronounce the French letters can help you get the right foundation when you move on to French words and speaking in French.
A great way to do this is by recording yourself pronouncing each of the French letters of the alphabet and then listening to the recording. You will be able to compare your pronunciation to the audio samples found on this page and gauge whether you are pronouncing your French letters correctly.
Recording yourself is also useful if you would like to get feedback from a French tutor or a French native speaker.
3. Using French Alphabet Flashcards
Flashcards are a simple yet effective way to memorize the French alphabet. We recommend using a free software called Anki, which is a flashcards program that you can use on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Anki is designed to help you learn anything, including the French alphabet.
Anki works by showing you flashcards of each of the French alphabet letters. You will see the letter, the pronunciation audio of the letter from a native French speaker, a word starting with this letter and an image of a word to help you associate the French letter with something tangible.
The software uses spaced repetition to show you the same flashcard until it is in your long-term memory. This means that over time, you will only see letters of the French alphabet that you find difficult to remember until you know the French alphabet.
You can find Anki French Alphabet Flashcards here that can be installed in the Anki software. The benefits of using Anki as opposed to physical flashcards is the ability to:
- Memorize each of the letters of the French alphabet with the correct pronunciation from a native French speaker
- Test your pronunciation of the French alphabet
- Test whether you can hear the French alphabet from a French word
- Extend the same principles to learning the French IPA, French words and so forth!
Learning the French alphabet is definitely doable if you use this French alphabet pronunciation guide and the tips about how to memorize the French alphabet. With correct pronunciation and memorization of the French alphabet, you are well on your way to learning French!