Forum Rocket French Conversation in French Help pronouncing French nasal sounds

Help pronouncing French nasal sounds




I am really struggling with pronouncing French nasal sounds. Here are some things I have already tried/already know:

1. In English we make nasal sounds when the letters "m" or "n" are at the end of a word. 
2. Nasal sounds are made by letting air out through the nose instead of the mouth.  
3. I have listened to videos comparing nasal to non-nasal sounds (ex: une vs. un, certaine vs. certain, and sonne vs. son) and tried to repeat.
4. Had people listen to me in person and tell me when I am doing it wrong, had them say the words and tried to repeat. 
5. Have tried the whole touching the side of the nose thing (but this only tells me if I am doing the thing, not how I should do it).
6. Have tried to look up videos explaining mouth shape, tongue placement etc (couldn't find much).

I sat down with someone who gave me feedback for "un", and said her tongue was big in the back of her mouth and that she stretched her mouth out as if she were saying the "a" sound in the American pronunciation of "bath". This seems to have been the most helpful so far.

Other English speakers who have learned the nasal sounds- what worked for you? Any advice on tips or tricks, or thoughts on how to shape mouth/nose/tongue for the nasal sounds in French?

Thanks in advance!


Salut Sarah-lT !

Thanks for your question - it can indeed be quite a struggle when we try to nail a sound that doesn't exist or isn't used the same way in our native language! Sounds are also, unfortunately, quite difficult to describe. 

One thing to note is that nasal sounds are pronounced by expelling air from both your nose and your mouth, at the same time. The best way I can think of to describe it is like this: if you close your lips together but not your teeth and hum, you'll feel a vibration above the roof of your mouth, just below your nose, and you will feel air escaping from through your nose. That's very similar to how nasal sounds work in French. I would recommend that you try humming like this, and then gently reduce the volume of your humming until you're barely making any noise - then, you should feel the air moving through the same area it will move when you're making a nasal sound in French.

Another thing you might try, if the humming theory isn't working, is saying the word "sing" in English, but instead of finishing the word, lean on the "n" sound. This should also result in your making a nasal sound, and if you hold it, you can experiment with how that feels with your tongue placement and with air flow.

Once you think you have pinned a nasal sound down, try adding in a vowel sound to say the French word on "one." Practice it until you're familiar with how that nasal sound feels in your mouth and in your nose. Then you can move on to other words with nasal sounds.

I hope that this is helpful! 

Often, an explanation that makes perfect sense and is helpful for one person just doesn't work for someone else. Maybe another forum user has another way of describing how they create a French nasal sound?

Keep trying, in any case, Sarah-lT - once you do get it, you'll have it for life!

Bon courage !


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