How to Do a French Accent

Learn how to do a French accent from voice and speech coach Andrea Caban in this Howcast video.

Here are some tips for a general French accent. The first thing we do is look at the oral posture. What is the oral posture of a French speaker? You bring your lip kind of forward and the lips are relaxed. So they are forward but they are relaxed and you can find this posture by making an ‘e’ sound, "e" and then you wrap your lips around it. "eu" and that is your French thinking sound as opposed to your general American thinking sound which is that schwa right in the middle of your mouth, "ah". The lips are forward but they are relaxed so when you say ‘p’ sounds, sometimes they have a little bit of a ‘b’ quality to them so it sounds a little like ‘"bout," "balace," "blace." You get a little bit of that ‘b’ sound to ‘p’ words.

Another sound change for the French accent is the ‘t-h’ sound, "th;" thin, thick, this and that become szin, szick, szis and szat so they switch to that ‘s-z’ sound. That very American ‘oo’ sound, ‘she looks good in that color.’ She looks good, ‘ugh, ugh’ becomes a very rounded, "She looks good in szis color. She looks good in szis color."

Okay, so color, we have gotten to the ‘r’, the French ‘r’. So your general American ‘r’ is in the front of the mouth, "ra, ra, ra" or really more in the middle, the middle of the tongue. But your French ‘r’ sound is all the way in the back. So the tongue root, the back of the tongue, comes up for ‘ra, ra, ra.’ So try this sentence, "Around the rough and rugged rock the ragged rascal ran." In your French accent would be "Around the rough and rugged rock the ragged rascal ran." So the combination d-g sound, "dg" is an affricate in American English for judge becomes "j". So the word judge becomes judge and the word Jill becomes Jill.

‘H’s are routinely dropped in your French accent so if you have a sentence like, "How do you get to the palace hotel?" In your French accent would be, "How do you get to the palace hotel?"

What is the musicality of the French accent? Well it is really fluid. There is not a lot of pitch variety. It moves like this. I mean, the word that comes to my mind is sexy. It is sexy. It is a sexy accent so give that a shot and listen to some native French speakers so you get their take on it as well.