Candidature, Applying for a job in France & Jackie's cover letter in French
Stylo: Is Handwriting still necessary? French cover letters & How he stole my heart

Ecureuil, Pronunciation Fears, and most difficult French words to pronounce (read aloud by Jean-Marc!)

Artichoke and golden retriever
Using the keyword "squirrel," I searched my google photo archives for an image to illustrate today's word...and this is what came back. Do you see un écureuil in there somewhere?

We begin this edition with a quote from a reader:

When I studied French decades ago, I was told by one prof that during the war, écureuil was a test word used to ascertain whether the speaker was, indeed, French or perhaps a spy. This word remains difficult for me to this day. - Mary

TODAY'S WORD: un écureuil

        : squirrel

Improve your spoken French with Exercises in French Phonetics


    by Kristi Espinasse

One of the things we language learners have in common is the fear of speaking in a foreign tongue. The first time I can remember being afraid to pronounce French was just moments before meeting my host family, in 1989.....

My Dad had accompanied me to Lille, France, and we were now arriving in some parking lot. Had he driven me? I can't remember, for my brain can only recall a car window, beyond which the gray unknown awaited.

The gray was no more than the clouds, so typical of the industrial town of Lille, and as for the unknown it was about to reveal itself via two sunny faces: Mr. and Mrs. B. 

Thump, thump, thump, went my heart. How would they ever understand me? Had two years of college French, learned back home in the wild west, made me a fluent speaker? On a more practical note, what to say now?! What if it all came out garbled?

To this day I can't remember what my first words were to Robert and Christiane B. But I can still see the kindest faces, looking back at me, as if to say, Do not worry. Go ahead and speak.

Dad and me walking in cassis
Almost 30 years later, my dear Dad & me - in sunny Cassis :-)

A year ago I asked you to share the hardest words to say en français. Here, now, are your "Most Difficult French Words To Pronounce," followed by a recording for you, by Jean-Marc:

la rue - street

le yaourt -yogurt

- squirrel

- three

dessus and dessous
- above and below

- (the French town)

- happy

la cucurbitacée
- cucurbit

le pouilly-fuissé
- type of white wine

la chirurgie
- surgery

la fourrure
- fur

la grenouille
- frog

- bear

mille-feuille ou millefeuille
- kind of dessert

- (a town in the Luberon)

la serrure
- lock

le RER
- (high-speed train between Paris and suburbs)

la bouteille
- bottle


- eye

(Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce all these French words, click here)

Kissing-boothEnjoy this French word journal and find it helpful in any way? Please consider leaving a small donation to keep things running. Click here.


Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."