Learn the Alphabet in French

Learn the Vocabulary

  • Listen to the video several times and sing along. Keep practicing until you can sing it without the help of the video.

Learn the Accent Marks

Note: When spelling something out loud in French that includes an accent mark, simply say the letter then the name of the accent. Example: To spell très, you would say (phonetically): "tay, ah, uh accent grave, es."

The ´ mark: L'accent aigu

  • This accent only appears over the letter e

  • The accent changes the pronunciation of the letter e from an "uh" sound to an "ay" sound

The ` mark: L'accent grave

  • This accent can appear over some vowels: à, è, ù

  • The accent doesn't do anything to pronunciation. It just helps distinguish between two words that are pronounced the same and would otherwise be spelled the same, but that have different meanings. Example: ou (without an accent) means "or," (with an accent) means "where."

The ¨ mark: Le tréma

  • This accent can appear over some vowels: ë, ï, ü

  • The tréma indicates the two vowels placed together should be pronounced separately. With no accent mark, oe is pronounced "uh," like in the word oeuvre. With the tréma, it is pronounced "oh - eh," like in the word Noël.

The ç: La cedille

  • This accent only appears on the letter c

  • It indicates the letter should make a /s/ sound

More details:

  • Like in English, the c in French has two possible pronunciations: /k/ and /s/. Which one is determined by the vowel that comes after it.

  • C before e, i, and y makes an /s/ sound. Example: ce is pronunced "suh"

  • C before a, o, and u makes a /k/ sound

  • If a word is spelled with ca, co, or cu, but the c should be pronounced with an /s/ sound, the ç accent is added!

The ˆ mark: L'accent circomflexe

  • This accent is used to show you that a word used to have an s in the spelling

  • It's only there for historical purposes, and doesn't change pronunciation

  • There are a few cool examples that show how these words evolved from Latin. Here's one: In English, we say forest, but in French, the word is forêt. You can see the French word lost the s at some point, which was replaced with a circomflexe.

For more information, check out these links on the French accents, pronunciation, and vowels.

Practice the Vocabulary

  • Quiz yourself. Try spelling out different words in French.

  • Practice with a partner:

--Spell out a word in French to your partner. They write it down, then check with you to see if it's correct

--Play "Hangman" together in French

TIP: In order to learn how to speak a language, you have to speak it! Doing these partner kinds of activities as much as possible will help you learn faster and learn to speak the language faster.

Typing in French

Yes, you can type the accent marks and punctuation used in French on your computer or your phone. You can even easily change the language setting in programs like Microsoft Word, which will allow you to spell- and grammar-check your French.

  • For a PC, you can use the ctrl key for many accent marks. There are also four-digit codes you type with the alt key that types them. Alternatively, you can change the language setting on your computer, which gives you more typing options. Details here.

  • Things are somewhat simpler for a Mac, where you use the option key. Details here.

  • On most phones, you simply hold the letter that needs an accent mark, then select the accent you want from the menu that appears. Here's a demonstration.

  • In Microsoft Word, you can change the language setting by going to File --> Options --> Language. This enables spell check and grammar check for what you're typing. More info here. I've noticed Word has also gotten better at detecting the language you're using and changing itself.

  • Google Docs does quite well at detecting which language you're using and changing its spell check accordingly. If it doesn't, however, simply go to File --> Language.

My Favorite French-Language Alphabet Book

When teaching the alphabet in French, I like to use the picture book L'alphabet by Roger Paré. Its clear illustrations help students understand the French-only text.

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