French can be a tricky damn language, can’t it? And it’s quite hard to just read a list of tricky French words, isn’t it?
So with this in mind, here’s a podcast episode featuring Camille Chevalier-Karfis, the founder of the French Today website, which teaches both traditional and modern French. She walks me through how to pronounce the ten toughest French words.
Here are the words:
Brouilly (a wine, and a place in France)
Reims (a place in France)
Caen (a place in France)
Rouen (a place in France)
Buoux (a place in France)
Grenouille (a frog)
Serrurerie (a locksmiths)
Bouilloire (a kettle)
Ecureuil (a squirrel)
Vadrouille (a wander about)
As a bonus, here’s what I’ve since discovered to be a very tricky word too, quincaillerie. The video below is a tiny snippet from a Walk Show I did with April Pett.
As for the full podcast episode, that was the voice of Camille, and it was her first appearance on The Earful Tower, recorded in December 2017. To hear her more recent episode on how to improve your French, click here).
Want more Earful audio about the French language? Why not listen to our top episode ever – the 24 best French words.
Or the 19 worst French words… our second top episode ever.
Oh, and before I forget, if you’re looking for more from Camille, you can check out her downloadable audiobook “Secrets of French pronunciation“, which actually has a whole section on the “ill” sound we talked about in the show.
It includes explanations and repeat-after-me sentences such as “Ouille, aïe, j’ai de la paille dans l’œil”. (Ouch, ouch, I have some straw in my eye).
Here are two more of her articles on pronunciation while we’re at it: Nine steps to improving your French accent, and How to understand spoken French.
And if you like The Earful Tower, here’s how to support the programme.
10 thoughts on “How to pronounce the hardest French words”
This episode was both cute and enlightening! 😀 Camille is more than right in saying that we have another voice when speaking a foreign language, I notice it every time I utter English sentences! However, we still use the word you talk about; we can say “je pars en vadrouille” (I am going for a walk) or “je vais vadrouiller un peu” (which is the verb, meaning I am going to wander a bit). And above all, don’t despair. I have learn to speak English when I was 12, and there are still some words driving me mad because I cannot pronounce them properly!
Might have to do an episode on tough English words for the French…
That’s not how you pronounce Buoux! Camille is close but you have to pronounce the x at the end. It is a small town surrounded by magnificent gorges, and you should definitely go there.
Intriguing – I’ll add it to my list 🙂
You also have “gribouille” which more or less means “scribble”. It was my cat’s name and for fun I choose this word as project code name when I worked for Shell in international marketing. All my bosses and colleagues were having so much difficulties and results were so funny (for a french !!!)…
That’s so funny, I love it. It would make a good secret operation name for Bond or Jason Bourne. Operation Gribouille!
You missed chirurgien (surgeon). My street is named after one, I am haunted by this word every day 😂
Oh that sounds horrible. Will have to write a follow up list!
Another challenging word—especially for Americans—is “hurluberlu.”