French Pronunciation Guide: Nasal vowels Tumu Learning

French Pronunciation Guide: Nasal Vowels

How do you pronounce French letters and words? In this article, I cover three main nasal vowels, along with rules and and tips on how to recognize and pronounce them, along with audio pronunciation. 

Table of contents

  • How to make nasal vowels in French?
  • How to recognize French nasal vowels?
  • Pronunciation exercises
  • French pronunciation audio

How to make nasal vowels in French?

Did you know that more than 30% of the French vocabulary includes nasal vowels? If you want to speak clearly or understand people better, you need to master nasal vowels. 

Nasal vowels are usually followed by the letter "-m" or the letter "-n", and we produce them by pushing the air through the mouth and nose.

Let’s see some examples: 

Français 

Parfum

Maison

Let me explain the lips and tongue position for each sound. 

The sound /ã/

Your mouth needs to have the same shape as you make the sound /a/. 

Keep your mouth open and tongue flat in the bottom of the mouth.

An [ã]

Lent [lã]

Enfant [ɑ̃.fɑ̃]

The sound /ē/

Your mouth needs to have the same shape as you make the sound /i/ with your lips on the side like when you smile. Your tongue should be flat.

Pain [pɛ̃]

Vin [vɛ̃]

Parfum [paʁ.fœ̃]

The sound /ō/

Your mouth needs to have the same shape as you make the sound /o/. You need to push your lips in front like you’re kissing someone, and your tongue needs to be flat again.

Bon [bɔ̃]

Ton [tɔ̃]

Oncle [ɔ̃kl]


How to recognize French nasal vowels?

Nasal vowels can occur as a single word, or at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a word, with various combinations. 

The sound /ɑ̃/

You can find this nasal vowel with the following spellings: -an, -am, -en, and -em

Examples:

An

Français

Lent

Enfant

Enchan


The sound /ē/

The spellings include -en, -ein, -ein, -in, -im, -ain, -aim, -um, and -um.

Examples:

Pain

Vin

Parfum

Examen

Lundi


The sound /ō/

This one is represented by the spellings -on and -om

Examples:

Bon

Ton

Garçon

Blond

Oncle

Important rule! 

*I’d like to share an important rule: if the letter -m, or -n is followed by a vowel sound, the preceding sound is not nasal.

Examples:

Ami

Amour

Image

Nasal vowels need be followed by a consonant.

Lent

Lundi

Oncle

Pronunciation exercise

Now that you know all three nasal sounds, let’s practice! Look at the following words and read them, paying attention to the nasal sounds. 

Blond

Dans

Faim

Entre

Maison

Impatient

Avan

French pronunciation audio 

I've also created a tutorial for nasal vowels on my Youtube channel for you to hear and practice nasal sounds. 

 

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