Who uses this dialect?
Well, the French, of course! This includes all classes, from servants to Royalty.
Rhythm and Music
This dialect has a very liquid feel to it. The resonance is located in the back of the mouth, and vowels that are near "m," "n," and "ng" become very nasal. It's almost like you are speaking through cough syrup.
Each of the links below is a ".mp3" file demonstrating a sound change. Listen to the example as many times as you need to, repeating it on your own afterwards. Take as much time as you need to with each sound. If you take the examples in order, you will sometimes run into sounds you haven't gotten to yet. Don't worry about it, just do the best you can until you've gone through all the sounds. Then go back and listen to the examples again, and make whatever corrections you need to.
I have included notes where appropriate.
These first four changes are all closely related to the resonance. Make sure you have them down solidly before you go on!
- The short "i" sound in words like "chicken" and "fish" becomes a long "e," as in "meet."
His interest in the chicken dinner was thin.
- The short "e" sound in "egg" becomes a long "a" sound, as in "say."
He left eggshells in every entrance.
- The "oo" sound in words like "hook" and "sugar" becomes a long "u," as in "fool."
The good hood was on the hook.
- This pair of changes is pretty subtle. It's a real test of whether or not you've got the hang of the resonance. The long "o" in words like "coat" and the "aw" sound in words like "caught" are changed very subtly by the resonance. Trust me, it makes more sense when you listen to it.
He was left alone on the boat in his coat.
He ought not to be walking, leading with his jaw.
- In English,we pronounce the "r" sound in the middle of the mouth. In French, it is all the way in the back, almost swallowed. This is the most distinctive sound in this dialect, and absolutely must be mastered. It can also be one of the most difficult to get the hang of, so practice, practice, practice!
His racing heart beat hard against his breast.
- We now come to a series of changes that can easily be taken too far. The more comedic your character, the farther you'll want to take them. Fist of all, the "ch" sound in words like "change" becomes an "sh" sound.
Chickens and children should not chase one another.
- The soft "g" sound in words like "budge" and "jaw" moves towards a "zh" sound. Be careful with this one, it is easy to lose intelligibility.
The judges enjoyed the fudge company's jingle.
- The soft "th" in words like "thin" becomes an "s." The hard "th" in words like "the" becomes "z." Again, this one can quickly become too strong, so you may want to merely 'clip' the sounds.
They played around with this, that, and the other thing.
- The "z" sound in words like "tries" and "finds" becomes an "s" sound.
He finds her in repose, and tries to wake her with his words.
- The French pronounciation of "-sion," "-tion," and "-able" are used, so long as intelligibility is not compromised.
'Twas his prediction that the frost would produce a pattern most adorable.
Finally, here's a line from Cyrano De Bergerac to practice with. I recommend using this line to get into dialect before rehearsal or performance.
My dear, the pride of a Gascon forbids my taking from your lilly hand the tiniest morsel.
And there you have it, all the changes that you need to speack like a Frenchman. I wish you joy of it!
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