10 English Pronunciation Errors by French Speakers

If your mother tongue is French, you may find certain sounds in English more difficult than others. Here we present to you some of the common errors made by French-speaking students at Pronunciation Studio:

1. /r/ & silent ‘r’

French ‘r’ is a voiced uvular fricative /ʁ/, made at the back of the mouth, English /r/ is an alveolar approximant made near the front of the mouth – not to be confused:

right red lorry great

French speakers tend to say every written ‘r’, but in British English you should not pronounce an ‘r’ if it is before a consonant:

Four thirty in the afternoon.

2. Vowel rounding

Many French centre and front vowels use rounded lips, whereas in English they would be made with neutral lips – the sound is very different:

The first thing I heard was a scream.

3. th

French does not contain dental fricatives θ or ð, speakers often replace these with /s/ and /z/:

We’ll see them on Thursday, I think.

4. h

The glottal fricative /h/ does not exist in French, it does in English:

house home holiday Harry

5. /ɪ/ vs. /i:/

French has just one close front vowel [i], English has two: /ɪ/ and /i:/ – /ɪ/ should be made with a slightly lower jaw, but French speakers often just use the one position for these vowels:

ship / sheep
fit / feet
rid / read

6. Word Stress

French tends to stress the last syllable of a long word, English does not:

father corruption absolutely computer

7. Intonation

French has a very unique melody – it is often flat and high with rising patterns. English is generally uses falling patterns more and has a greater difference in stress:

Where do you think we should go?
I don’t see how it is that important.

8. Open vowels /æ/ vs /ɑ:/

French contains one open vowel unrounded: [a], English contains 2: /æ/ (cat) /ɑ:/ (cart) so French often the French [a] instead:

hat heart
ham harm
had hard

9. Diphthong ‘o’

French does not use diphthong (double) vowel sounds, so they often come out a bit flat:

Don’t go to the show.

10. Affricate Consonant /dʒ/

French speakers often miss the beginning plosive sound in English affricates:

/dʒ/: James general job agent

This article uses IPA (phonetic) symbols – you can learn them in the free Pronunciation Studio Starter Pack containing pronunciation notes and diagrams for each sound with audio, and an English IPA chart. 

By | 2017-01-31T17:29:58+00:00 December 6th, 2013|Accents, International Accents, Pronunciation, Teaching|8 Comments


  1. peggy February 7, 2016 at 1:05 am - Reply

    This is very coooool, Joseph! Thanks. I enjoyed pretending I was French and then pretending I was British. (I’m American). My French friends definitely sound like this; there seems to be a wider range of ways to sound British.

  2. Sowmya Iyer June 20, 2016 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Very useful, Joseph. Thank you!

  3. Bea October 26, 2016 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Wonderful stuff! And beatifully presented!

  4. Abraham November 10, 2016 at 10:16 am - Reply

    Very helpfull

  5. Christian Peronne December 10, 2016 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Great.I need some more

  6. Sophie April 23, 2017 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    This is great! Even after living in France and teaching English for 5 years it’s often hard to pick out the exact pronunciation issues French people tend to have. You beautifully illustrate the mistakes and provide clear corrections. I will definitely be sending my students to your website!

  7. Bienvenue BAMA September 4, 2017 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks a lot. Unfortunately, English pronunciation is not taught to pupils in Burkina Faso.

  8. Dennelle May 25, 2018 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Very well done, thank you. I’m looking for examples of French speakers adding an H before English words that start with a vowel. I’m not sure why they tend to do it, especially when they don’t usually pronounce the H, but I hear it all the time. Example, Evy becomes ‘heavy.’

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