Introduction to French:
Lesson 1

By Linas

We will be learning to have a conversation in French. The way French is pronounced is a bit different from the way it’s written but this whole thing is based on a few basic rules which are not very hard to learn. I will not attempt to teach you the perfect pronunciation but I will tell you some hints to help you pronounce. We will focus on written French in this course, though, because if you can write it, it’s easier to move onto speaking it while if you only know the spoken language, it’s kind of harder to go to the written one because you skip a lot of things which you write while you speak.

The French word for is is est.

This word is pronounced just as if it was written é (like in fiancé). The reason for that is that the French only pronounce words up to the last vowel!

The French word for this is ce.

This c is pronounced like s (central).

Try to guess how you would say:

This is.

Answer: Ce est.
Not correct. Please try again.

Yeah, well, it should be like that. Except you see a link between two vowels ce est so you connect them and replace the first one with an apostrophe to show that you have connected them so ce est actually becomes c’est. This is sort of like you do in English with it’s instead of it is.

French for well is bien.

You say bien-pensant in English as well and this is French. You pronounce it like biA and that A sounds kind of nasal because you always get nasal combinations with en, un and voweln combinations. Even if you didn’t, the fact is, you would only pronounce words up to the last vowel so it would still be bie.

If you want to say this is good you would say this is well which would be:

It’s good.

Answer: C’est bien.
Not correct. Please try again.

The French word for not is pas.

You use it just like you use it in English. How would you say:

It’s not good.

Answer: C’est pas bien.
Not correct. Please try again.

You say this a lot in practice but this is slightly informal, though.

In completely formal French, if you use pas, you have to use what I call a signal of negativity.

If the French use a negative word (such as not, never, nothing) in a sentence, they like to give off a signal ne which says that I’m going to use a negative word in this sentence. This signal always goes right before the verb.

So, if we want to say c’est pas bien in a formal way, thus, using the signal, we say ce ne est pas bien and then, of coures, ne est connects and you get ce n’est pas bien.

You are not obliged to use the signal of negativity unless you are talking to royalty or something but it’s a good habit to learn to use ne in case you need it so we’ll be using it in this course.

Again, how would you say:

It is not good.

Answer: Ce n’est pas bien.
Not correct. Please try again.

The French word for you is tu.

This is the informal you and thistu word is shared among a lot of languages including Italian, Portuguese and even Lithuanian. English also has thou which is pretty similar.

When you want to make a form for he (like he speaks) into the form for you (you speak), you usually just add s to the end of the he form.

The word est which we have learnt is one of the very rear exceptions. It does not become ests, which wouldn’t look nice but it loses its t instead and becomes es.

French for here is ici.

So, how would you say:

You are here.

Answer: Tu es ici.
Not correct. Please try again.

What about:

You are not here.

Answer: Tu n’es pas ici.
Not correct. Please try again.

Alright, we might just learn one thing more which is... the pronunciation.

Whenever you have a consonant (consonants are all non-vowels) at the end of one word meeting a vowel (letters like a, o, e, i, u) at the beginning of another word, you have a thing in French called liaison.

For example, how would you say (you don’t need the negative signal because there is no verb in this sentence):

Not here.

Answer: Pas ici.
Not correct. Please try again.

In reality, you know that French words are only pronounced up to their last vowel so you would normally pronounce pas as pa.

However, here you have pas ici and they sort of connect. The result is that the vowel i attracts the consonant to itself. So, the two words become pronounced pa sisi.

Moreover, you also pronounce this s in z. Do not panic: this only happens to s. You also pronounce s like z in English. For example, look at how you say the word things: you actually say fingz. The same way pas ici is pronounced pa zisi.

Finally (and this makes things a lot easier), you always stress French words on the last syllable. So, you kind of put the stress on i in ici and that i is kind of pronounced like y to city so you get the pronunciation of pas ici somewhat like pa zicy.

You just have to hear it and it will instantly make sense. It also sounds kinda nice.