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french words that sound alike


Patf

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Can someone help with pronunciation please?

The one I've been caught out on recently is "la queue" when buying fish.

How is that pronounced differently from  "coeur"?

Another one is "mer", "mère" and "maire". Is there any difference?

Also "cou" and "cul" as in cou or cul nu of chickens.

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What also comes into this is local accent, and it will be very interesting to hear what people living in very different areas have to say. I also tend to find that a northern English or some Scottish accents can help.

However, I would suggest trying 'coeur' like pronouncing cur (a snappy dog) with a slightly rolled 'r' at the end, maybe Scottish or French.

Where we live, queue is pronounced like 'que', with a little longer ending, a bit like a short cough.

As Zarathustra has said, context is very important with mer, mère and maire. These are tricky. But I would say  'mère' sounds as though it almost might have 'air' in the middle, with a rolled 'r' at the end, with 'maire' the same. 'Mer' is feminine, 'mère' is feminine and 'maire' is masculine; so it would be  'la mer', with 'la mère' and 'le maire'.

I would pronounce 'cou' like a dove's 'coo', but shorter, as though in a rush - with the 'oo' slightly cut off. With 'cul', I'd say to have the lips very pursed and say the 'u' as a very short sound. I've heard it said with the 'l' at the end pronounced in that context.

You do get us all thinking, Patf!  [:)]

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Ah, I see the difference now for cou and cul - one is oo and the other is eew (or something like.) I can make that sound. Watch the mouths of the french rugby team when they sing "MUgir ces féroces soldats".

And I think queue is short, coeur more rounded.

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[quote user="Patf"]Ah, I see the difference now for cou and cul - one is oo and the other is eew (or something like.) I can make that sound. Watch the mouths of the french rugby team when they sing "MUgir ces féroces soldats".
And I think queue is short, coeur more rounded.
[/quote]

Click on link then click little green arrow; listen to the chorus line; can be telecharged.[:)]

http://mp3.kamaz.fr/tu-pues-du-cul-s31.html

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This is quite funny Patf....queue and coeur do not come across as being difficult to pronounce when you are French but trying to differentiate :

Sheep and ship or paper and pepper.....is another story !......I could also add sheet and sh*t..........and that is after 26 years in the country....

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[quote user="ericd"]

This is quite funny Patf....queue and coeur do not come across as being difficult to pronounce when you are French but trying to differentiate :

Sheep and ship or paper and pepper.....is another story !......I could also add sheet and sh*t..........and that is after 26 years in the country....

[/quote]

 

And in the north-east those sound very alike, Eric!  [:)]

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Audio dictionnaries, they are great if you have a half decent ear,(I don't) then when 'my' ear adjusts and I start to get the sound, I often still cannot hear words properly in the middle of a normal conversation.

For me the example is dessus and dessous, I hear the difference if someone says one of these words alone, but in the middle of a conversation I usually have to ask en haut or en bas, well more or less.

I now know my bottom from my neck, but that took me years.

The thing that drives me mad and is the best example of why too many english speakers usually get it all wrong and that is 'already you', which ofcourse means absolutely nothing at all. AND it drives me bonkers when I hear anyone say that. I don't even mind hearing anyone say san fairy ann, but deja vous, instead of deja vu and I HATE IT!!

I think that the scots should manage the 'u' sound OK, as they do have similar sounds in their accents.
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Idun, many of my French friends tell me that Brits tend to have trouble with pronouncing the letter u.  I think that much as th is so tough for them - simply because it's not a form learnt in childhood - which is where most language learning truly sinks in.  After a certain age it becomes harder and harder to tackle these nuances of speech.

I was at a roadside cafe on the way home one day and there was an English chap in front of me ordering coffee.  He asked in schoolboy French but got stuck at one point and said, half to himself|: "I can't remember the word for milk."  "Lait," responded the woman who was serving him.  His response : "Oh, yes, thanks.  Late."

Now he was trying so one could hardly get annoyed with him but I did find this odd.  He heard her pronounce the word correctly and yet, just seconds later, repeated it back to her incorrectly.  How does this happen?

Thousands of Brits descend every year to our deparment in June.  All around them they hear French commentators and drivers pronouncing it correctly and yet still say "La Saarth", much as an Essex man might pronounce the word South! 

I get that certain things are hard to pronounce (desous/dessus - a right b*gger, for instance!) but what I don't understand is how people hear one thing and then repeat something different back in very short order.

 

Well done Pads for having a good go at this because I really believe that it's the key to much misunderstanding.  I also meet Brits who genuinely think that all French people actually pretend to misunderstand when it's actually quite genuine - as in the deja vu example which Idun cites.

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I remember you posting the Late example before Cooperlola.

In this case its because the lad was seeing the spelling of the word in his mind and using the English pronunciation, I have sort of the opposite problem (well to me its not a problem at all) i hear words, can make a good fist of mimiccing them (spelling?) and use them correctly in conversation yet can make some howling errors when writing the same words, usually the penny drops if I get to read them first.

My ex French teacher is now a good friend from an early age she was happy for me to be around her children so that they would absorb some of the language by osmosis, at the start the older boy had already had some English lessons and critically could red and write French, his younger sister was in maternelle.

Very early on I found that the younger siste was much better at English pronunciation than her brother who tendes to see the words, they are aged about 7 and 10 now and the difference between them is really dramatic.

I guess it explains why young children can easily pick up a foreign language and speak with such good pronunciation.

When I learnt Spanish in L'Equateur I was taught as a child with visual aids like picture cards but very little emphathis on the written word, I think its great as a jump start before learning grammar and the tenses.

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Oh I get that people who live or are on holiday in France can get it wrong. It is that 'already you', as used in current english, now that enrages me.

I say I haven't got a good ear for language, and I haven't.

My ear for music is actually quite good, can I translate it into singing even a couple of notes in tune, I cannot. I am in another key on another note, and any computations of that you can imagine, or so my husband tells me. AND yet, when I listen to music, I hear quite well. I obviously have a missing link between ear and my voice box.

I remember my neighbours son spending about ten minutes trying to get me to pronounce laitue properly, I got it in the end, but it was hard.

I did learn one thing early on, if I really thought I had got the pronunciation as good as I could do it, I would stick with it. I never used to and I had mulitple pronunciations of just about every single french word. So I got to Genty, a supermarket chain that used to exist and was looking for tinned tomatoes and couldn't find any. I found a young girl stocking shelves and asked for 'une boite de tomates', with the correct forms of politesse, and it was like the little britain sketch with the indian woman at the slimming class. I stuck by my guns and kept repeating the same thing and the girl could not get it. In the end she went and got a colleague and I once again asked for my 'boite de tomates' and he understood. He repeated it and she looked genuinely shocked and said 'une boite de tomates', then said 'plus'. Which in itself used to confuse me as in english, 'plus' means to add on/more, which I never imagined would mean 'none' in french.

My husband is a musician and also due to working in heavy industry has damaged hearing, but he always spoke french sans accent, or more precisely, sounded like a native speaker, but people were never sure where he was from.

Some people even as adults can do it. Some of us cannot and if we live there, we have IMO to try our very best and be good humoured when we get it wrong.
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[quote user="ericd"]

...Sheep and ship or paper and pepper.....is another story

[/quote]

At least Brittany Ferries have got rid of the woman who announced that "The Mont St Michel is a non-smoking sheep".

I agree with Idun about dessus and dessous, very confusing.

The ones that a ridiculous number of English speakers (and writers) have real trouble with are maire/mairie/marie/mari/marais of course

[:D]

 

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I had a Polish student once who kept trying to talk about a pederast crossing...........

And I have repeated this many times before, possibly even on here, so either indulge me or switch off, as you prefer...

At a Large French Company where I used to be responsible for training, my language training provider came into my office one day, closed the door and collapsed in a hysterical heap. HE had been running a lunchtime class for out French stagiaires, most of whom spoke excellent English, but with accents that we'd all come to understand and accept. They'd asked me if I could arrange some help for them, though, as out in the wider world they were't finding people quite so helpful and understanding. So, some lunchtime classes were arranged.

Apparently, a student had said:

"I am 'aving problems weez my colleagues. Every time I ask for a piss of paper, zey laugh."

My language trainer had begun to explain about the use of the long vowel in English, and was about to offer some helful solutions and practise, when a girl at the other side of the table put her hand up..

"I 'ave solved zees problem" She announced, proudly. "I no longair ask for a piss of paper, I ask for a s**t of paper"

Fill in your own asterisks.....

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Douilles and Couilles, I pronounce them both the same with the exception of the consanant but I am never understood, always a long explanation before I can make myself understood.

I think it is as much a problem for the French listener, some just cant seem to make the mental leap that a word may just be pronounced slightly differently by a foreigner or perhaps using the wrong gender, this despite the fact that they are all capable of a passable imitation of an Englishman speaking French.

Its the failure to understand a word with the wrong prefix (whats the gramatical term, article? pronoun?) le instead of la or recto verso, OK a few words have both forms but given that I probably get it wrong on at least 15% of the nouns I use is it really beyond someones capability to understand?

I think its a bloke thing, sometimes I feel like a sullen Kevin type teenager when people (always men) ask their partner, "qu'est ce qu'il a dit"? the partner usually female who has the ability to listen always knows what I have said.

I find that I have to lip read more and more especially when there is backround noise or music, the people I find hardest to understand in French are usually the timid ones of both sexes, they whisper, often hiding their lips and expression behind their hands or will look away when talking and not make eye contact, and then there are the marmonneurs who make an art form out of not enunciating their words, some of them would make great ventriloquists.

In my diving club I know probably 40 people, there are about 4 that I either really cant understand or have real problems with, one has no teeth, one has a speech impediment, one finds it impossible to look at me directly and prefers to talk to me when he is walking away and one sounds like that halfwit character in the wacky races. [:-))]

The rest of them in general are so softly spoken in public that when we adjourn to our bureau, the only bar in town that if we are lucky may still be open at 9.30 pm, I cannot hear them due to the television being on despite no-one watching it, I reckon I do well to follow the subject and hear about 15% of what is being said.

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If you're having a problem with the difference between "ou" (as in vous, tout, etc) and "u" (as in vu, tu, etc) try this.  Get your lips into position as though you were about to whistle, then say "ou - u - ou - u" and so on without moving your lips.  The only thing that moves should be your tongue; for "ou" it should be as far back as possible, and for "u" it should be as far forward as possible.

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I have to remember to be careful too with dessous and dessus, it's because of the "ou" and the "u", as you say Alan.

 But I also find myself using gestures and facial expressions more than I would when speaking english. I suppose that helps take the attention away from the grammatical errors too.

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