Ready to tackle some of the most notoriously difficult French words to pronounce?
It’s time to flex those linguistic muscles and push your pronunciation skills to the limit. We’re talking about words that twist your tongue and make your brain work overtime.
Fear not, brave French learner, because we have some tips and tricks to help you with your French pronunciation.
So, let’s dive in and take on the challenge of mastering some of the most challenging French words to pronounce!
Why is French so Hard to Pronounce?
Even fluent speakers can struggle with its complex system of vowel and consonant sounds. There is a big reason for this: French has vowel sounds that English does not have.
But that’s not all. French also has silent letters and irregular spellings, adding to the challenge of knowing how to pronounce certain words.
Enchaînement involves carrying over a consonant sound from the end of one word to the beginning of the next, while liaison involves linking words together by pronouncing usually silent consonants at the end of one word before the next word beginning with a vowel or a silent “h”.
All in all, French pronunciation can be complex due to its nuances and subtleties.
To learn more about French letters you do not pronounce, read our article Silent Letters.
Top 12 Most Difficult French Words to Pronounce in French
Once upon a time, there was a young American named Jack who decided to learn French. When he started to study French, he discovered that the pronunciation wasn’t as straightforward as he believed. One day, he came across a list of the 12 most difficult French words to pronounce. As he tried to say them, he stumbled over the tricky silent letters, nasal vowels, and h muet.
It was as if his tongue was tied in knots! But he didn’t give up.
He practiced every day, listening to French speakers and repeating the words over and over until he could say them with ease.
We were lucky to find Jack’s list of 12 Most Challenging French Words to Pronounce and here’s a breakdown of their pronunciation rules:
Mille-feuille /mil fœj/
a type of pastry made with layers of puff pastry and cream
- ill is always pronounced as “il” like in ville
- Pronounce “euille” with a closed “œu” sound, similar to the “eu” sound in the word “heureux”.
To produce this sound, round your lips and push them forward while pronouncing a long “e” sound, and then move towards a “u” sound, ending with a soft “y”. The result should be a sound similar to “öy”.
You can practice with other French words containing “euille” like “feuille” (leaf), “abeille” (bee), and “bouteille” (bottle).
locksmithing or metalworking
- Pronounce the first syllable “ser” with a short “e” sound and a rolled “r” sound.
- The second syllable “ru” contains a closed “u” sound.
- The third syllable “re” also has a rolled “r” sound, but with a silent “e” at the end.
- The last syllable “rie” is pronounced with a short “i” sound.
- Pronounce the first syllable “four” with a closed “u” sound and a rolled “r” sound.
- The second syllable “rure” also contains a rolled “r” sound, but with a silent “e” at the end.
- Pronounce “é” with a long “e” sound, which sounds similar to the English word “hey”.
- The second syllable “cu” is pronounced with a soft “k” sound, followed by a closed “u” sound.
- The third syllable “reuil” is pronounced with a rolled “r” sound, followed by a closed “œj” sound and a silent “l” at the end.
- Pronounce “gren” with a soft “g” sound and a closed “e” sound.
- The second syllable “ou” contains an “oo” sound, as in the English word “moon”.
- Pronounce “ille” with a silent “e” at the end. In this case, it makes the “u” sound like a French “u” sound, which is produced by rounding the lips while pronouncing a “ee” sound.
- The last letter “e” is silent.
- The first syllable “quin” is pronounced with a nasal vowel “ɛ̃” sound and a hard “k” sound.
- The second syllable “caill” contains “k” sound and a soft “aj” sound.
- in “erie”, the first and the last e are silent, and “ri” is the only pronounced
- The first syllable “p” is pronounced with a voiceless “p” sound, similar to the English word “pet”.
- The second syllable “neu” contains a closed “eu” sound.
unshakably or firmly
- The first syllable “in” is pronounced with a nasalized “e” sound.
- The second syllable “é” is pronounced with a closed “e” sound.
- The third syllable “bra” is pronounced with a closed “a” sound and a rolled “r” sound.
- The fourth syllable “nla” is pronounced with a nasalized “a” sound.
- The fifth syllable “ble” contains a closed “e” sound and a silent “e” at the end.
- The last syllable “ment” is pronounced with a nasalized “a” sound.
- The first letter “oe” is pronounced with a closed “œ” sound, which is a combination of an “e” and “u” sound.
- il is pronounced “j”
Se débrouiller /sə debʁuje/
to manage or to get by
- “se” is pronounced with a short “e” sound.
- the second syllable “dé” contains an open “e” sound.
- “ouill” is pronounced with a closed “uj” sound
- pronounce only “e” in the fourth syllable “er”
- “i” after e is pronounced like “j”
- “eille” is pronounced like “ɛj”
welcome or reception
- The “accu” is pronounced “ak”
- “eil” is pronounced “œj”
Final Thoughts on Difficult French Words
Let’s first glance at some French pronunciation rules before we delve into the most challenging French words, which often pose difficulties for many English speakers.
The complexity of the French language is due to its many nuances and subtleties, such as its distinct pronunciation rules, silent letters, and irregular spellings.
The 12 French words we explored in this topic are some of the most challenging to pronounce.
As with any language, practice, and patience are essential for improving your pronunciation skills.
If you want to take a step further, learn more about French nasal vowels.