French is such an iconic language and many people really wish to get it right. To speak the language of Molière well is difficult and there are so many unique phrases and complex points of grammar that it becomes very quickly difficult to speak like a native with that laid back nonchalance.

Here are a few points to recognize to get your French on the right track.

The number one difference between any romance language and English is the fact that they have noun genders. This is a concept that many people are likely to find slightly bizarre but you can conquer it using a few general rules and best practices.

Firstly, when you learn a word it's best to learn it with an article as well. For example learn une réservation rather that just the noun so that you remember that the noun is feminine. Words ending in the letter E are generally feminine with a few exceptions such as the AGE ending. All consonant endings are generally masculine except any words ending ion; there are very few exceptions.

The French don't generally pronounce any syllables strongly unless there is an accent. To this effect, it is a must to learn how different accents sound and how to pronounce a word containing one. Also concerning pronunciation, French words are liaised and linked together. A consonant is dropped from the end of the word and the next begins with another consonant and it is added to the front of the next word if this word begins with a vowel. You must also be very careful with this as some letters change sounds: S and X take a Z sound and Z becomes an S sound when linked with another word.

Other small pronunciation points include the aspiration of the letter H and contractions. The letter H is sometimes silent and it is important to listen carefully and ensure you learn the correct pronunciation of each word you come across. The French also don't like to have two vowel sounds adjacent to each other and small words ending in a vowel such as je, tu and si, are all contracted in order to improve the flow. Letters are also sometimes added in to avoid two vowel sounds, known as hiatus. The letter T can be added in, usually following an inversion, in expressions such as a-t-elle dit, she said. On a similar note, add the letter L between que and on in order to avoid saying con – a vulgar word meaning idiot.

In all bluntness, French is a brilliant language and a very elegant one but only once you have mastered its many finer points. Only after this can it really live up to its hype and become the language of Molière. It requires a large amount of concentration but as long as you enrich your language with idioms and pay close attention to the more precise points of grammar then you should have a much easier time.

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2011/03/14
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So... What are the Faux-Pas to avoid?
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