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Hello in French

For the time being, we can forget about the rules and regulations we read about in the first few lessons. It is important to set some ground rules, and they will become more and more important as we move along, but now, we want to just start talking.

The most important thing in any language is pronouncing the language correctly, or as close to correctly as you can manage. Don't forget what we said in the very beginning. If you don't make any mistakes, you will never learn. Forget about being embarrassed about mispronouncing, and JUST TRY.

Let's talk about pronunciation before we start to put some greetings together. We have all heard a French accent, and there is a reason it sounds so unique to us. The French round their mouths more than English speakers do and the sounds are not as pronounced; of course, there is the definitive French "rolling" r; finally, the French have more nasality (pronouncing words through the nose) to their language than English speakers have. One of the best ways to pronounce French well is simply to pretend to be speaking French. We have all heard exaggerated French accents such as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther. Try to imitate a French accent as you try to speak, and you will be surprised at how easily the proper pronunciation will come to you.

You will feel very successful once you have simply learned to say hello to many people in many ways. Here is the vocabulary we need for this first exercise: (Try to put a nasal sound on each "n" and a roll on each "r")

Hello: Bonjour (try pronouncing "bone" with a soft "b", then make the "n" very nasal; the "j" in jour is pronounced as "zh", then "ooo" with a nice rolled " r" at the end.
Mr.: Monsieur (this is such a commonly used word, that the first syllable is not entirely pronounced, and it becomes "M'sieur". The second syllable does not have a rolled "r" at the end and so it sounds like "syuh".
Mrs.: Madame (this is one of the easier ones-"mah-dahm" works fine)
Miss: Mademoiselle ( Mah-dahm, then add the kissy sound "moi" or as everyone knows so well, Miss Piggy's "moi" and then "zell".
Hi: Salut (The man's name "Sahl" and then "ooo")
Goodbye: Au revoir ("Oh, ruh voire"; don't forget to roll the "r"s)
See you soon: A bientot (This is really easy if you just say "Ah", the letters "b", "n", and the word "toe".)

From this point on, you can say hello and goodbye to anyone. For strangers, or other people you don't know, you say Bonjour, Madame, Monsieur or Mademoiselle_________. For friends or relations, you say Salut Marie, or Martin.

(Bonjour is fine, too, salut is just closer to "Hi".) Goodbye is used to mean truly goodbye. A bientot is used for someone you see frequently, or you are going to see again soon.

If you want to be specific, you can say "Good afternoon!", Bon Apres -midi, but Bonjour works anytime during the day. For this greeting, say your soft "bon", then "ah" and the English word "pray". Midi is "meedee". For the later hours, you greet or say goodbye to people with Good Evening, Bonsoir or Good Night, Bonne nuit. (Bonne nuit is used at the very end of the evening, late at night, or even when people are heading off to bed.) Here is why it was important to learn a little about grammar in the beginning. Notice that "good" in bonsoir is spelled "bon". That is because "soir" is a masculine noun, and so it gets the masculine spelling for the adjective "good". In this case, you pronounce it like the bon in bonjour (you guessed it, "jour" is a masculine noun!) and then pronounce "swat" without the "t". For the "t", substitute your rolled "r". Now, see what happens if the adjective is feminine. Since there are two "n"s in bonne, the second "n" makes the sound more pronounced. Where in "bon", you only touched upon the "n" with a nasal sound, in "bonne", you pronounce the "n", just as in English. So the English word "bone" works just fine. For "nuit", try rhyming it with "phooey". It's a good way to remember it. You're having such a good time, you don't want the evening to end. Phooey, time to go home.

What Did We Learn?

  1. To pronounce a language, you have to just ___.
  2. The French speak with more ________, speaking through the nose, than English speakers do.
  3. Hello in French is _______.
  4. Mr. in French is ________.
  5. The French ____ their "r"s.
  6. A bientot is used for someone you see _______.
  7. For the later hours, you greet or say goodbye to people with _______.
  8. Bonsoir (Good Evening) is masculine, Bonne nuit (Good Night) is ________.
  9. See you soon is _______.
  10. Nuit rhymes with ______.


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