coussin + before & after photos of my home office!

Hound dog French: Pronunciation practice with my daughter

bicyclette and shop in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse
A charming shop in Paris

ricain(e) (ree-kah(n) ree-kahn)

    : American (slang)

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French lyrics to the famous song, below: Download MP3 or Wav file

Si les Ricains n'étaient pas là, vous seriez tous en Germanie. If the Americans weren't there, you'd all be in Germany. -Michel Sardou, French singer

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Ricane English and Hound dog French

The other night I received an unusual request from my daughter. Standing in the doorway, her voice was soft: "Can we practice English?"

"Bien sûr!" I said, patting the cushion beside me. We've come a long way since elementary school days, when my kids would stop me at the gates of their école maternelle: "Please don't talk, Mom. Pas un mot!"  

What had been embarrassment has turned, over the past few years, into fierté. "I am so lucky to have a mom who speaks English!" Jackie acknowledged, entering my bedroom.

Seated beside me now, my 15-year-old is determined. "I want to pronounce my r's like an American!"

"Really?" I say, beginning our lesson.

"Weally!" Jackie smiles, happy to jump in.

"No, rrreally," I correct her. 

"WWWeally," Jackie tries again, clearly struggling. Funny how that R humbles both of us, Jackie in English—and me in French! 

"Not 'wheely'."A wheely, I point out, "is something you do to show off on your bike! Try again. Rrrreally... rrrraspberry... rrrrow... row row row your boat."

Jackie laughs. She doesn't recognize Row Your Boat, but the rhyme is funny all the same. My daughter repeats the words, impatient when I don't respond right away.

"Corrige-moi!" She pleads, reminding me of her summer plans. She'll spend a month in Idaho, at her grandparents', and she wants to lose her accent, rrrrapidos

"OK. Listen up: rrrred... rrrromania... rrrrachel... rah rah rah shish boom bah! " 

My student laughs. The pop culture reference escapes her, but silliness is universal, and that she gets

Enough silliness, Jackie reminds me this is serious business! She only has 5 months to learn to speak like a star-spangled ricaine!

"But you don't have to sound like an American. Everyone will love your French accent!" I assure her.

Jackie shakes her head, and the look on her face is slang for nothin' doin! "I need to learn argot, too!" my daughter adds.

Jackie's wish to conquer her thick accent and to speak street English reminds me of my own aspirations to sound like a native. As an American, I have always wanted to speak French like Jodie Foster! 

Jackie urges me to talk in full sentences now, for more repetition and comprehension.

"OK," I agree, wondering what to talk about.... 

"It is a gift to be bilingual..." I begin.
(Jackie smiles, as she repeats)

Encouraged, I keep the drill going, sneaking in a few affirmations... Jackie repeats each line: 

Speaking French and English will open many doors for me... 

I enjoy studying language....

...and math, too!!... (Jackie shoots me a sarcastic look, but is obligated to repeat my English words... Which reinforces my idea...)

I know that the more education I get, the more opportunities I will have in life...

I organize my school supplies.... And enjoy keeping my room tidy.... I make my bed each morning... 

Jackie shakes her head as she repeats the last sentences. "OK, Mom. Can we work on the r's again?" 

As we go through Roxanne, row row, and raspberry shish boom bah, I steal glances at my daughter, admiring her profile as she twists her lips, trying to find the American r channel. If she keeps twisting, she just might reach it! Her silky hair cascades off her shoulder in a fountain of brown and blond. "What is it you call that style?" I ask, referring to her recent trip to the hairdresser's.

"Tie and dye."

The tie and dyed hair looks great on her; but the brown-roots-blond-ends wouldn't work for me, though. I go to the salon to reverse that effect!

As Jackie struggles with the string of "r" words, I reach over and pat her on the shoulder, sweeping her bottle-blond ends aside.

"Don't worry, Jackie. I am incapable of pronouncing certain words, too."


"The French word for 'truffle'... Impossible for me to pronounce it!

"Vas-y! Let me hear you say it!"

I shake my ahead, ashamed.

"Truffe! Go ahead, say it!"

I can't! I can't say the word. To say it is to appear a fool in front of my student. To say it is to lower oneself below even the Parisian mud puddles. To say it is to eat humble pie.... To say it is to sound like a hound dog. I don't want to sound like a hound dog in French! I want to sound like Jodie Foster!

"Say it, Mom! Come on, truffe!"

"You really want to hear it?"




French Vocabulary

bien sûr = of course
une école maternelle
= preschool
pas un mot
= not a word
= correct me 

la fierté = pride
ricain(e) = slang for American
(m) = slang 

vas-y! = go ahead!
une truffe = truffle

Our daughter, Jackie
Our daughter, Jackie. Highlights à la "tie and dye" or "ombré" hair is all the rage in France at the moment.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape (c) Kristin Espinasse

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arthur breaux

I see y'all want to speak "English" rather than "American". There is a very distinct difference, you know!

Marika Ujvari

What a fun posting! I have trouble pronouncing the W and TH. Every W sounds like a V - my friend tell me. But I dare them to pronounce Hungarian words.


Love this story! Being bilingual really is a gift!
I received the gift growing up and can now speak 3 languages.
Keep speaking to your daughter in English, she can then
Have doors open to her because of this "gift" which is language.
Accents are unique, and your daughter will appreciate that
As she grows older. Continuez....Bon travail professeur!

Marika Ujvari

My children can only pronounce correctly the names of the Hungarian dishes they llike.

Amber, Peoria, IL

I LOVE this story for its mother-daughter moment! And c'est vrai, it is only an advantage in life to be bilingual! How exciting for Jackie to travel to the states this summer! Idaho is a beautiful state and time with grandparents is priceless! Bonne journee, mon amie.

Pat Cargill

Jackie, I commend you on your desire to improve your English and you have a marvelous teacher! You will, however, be totally accepted and appreciated with your accent, which to the American ear is delightful!

Many thanks, Kristin, for this lovely posting about mother and daughter- it warms my heart!


The French r words - I too find them impossible. I prepare for them and go for it and sound ridiculous every time. I just can't get it at all!! x


This anecdote is sweet literature, but not fictive. Years ago now for a brief while my wife and I were told by our daughter not to use Spanish in public because it was embarrassing, she thought. Our daughter is now a government employee who got her job not just for her business masters, but also directly due to her Spanish major (and she also earned German, communications, and business majors and a French minor.) To anyone in this situation with their children: be patient. Children eventually grow to appreciate the worth of all modes of communication.

Gordon Lyman

Once in Paris I said four words in a row more or less OK. Apparently anyway, because a beautiful French shop-woman gave me a wonderful smile and said "perfect".

Otherwise, French has been almost all humble pie for me. But, your blog Kristin! is a pleasure over and over.

Merrill Hakim

Kristin, bravo to you and Jackie for your efforts with the English. As a retired FRench teacher, I want to tell you that pronouncing the r at the beginning of a word is the hardest place to start with it, both in French and English. If you work on final r's and r's in the middle of the word, she might pick it up quicker. Good luck! And I love reading your blog and seeing the photos you post. BEautiful!

Peggy Welborn

No, no Jackie - we Anglaise try and try to roll our r's and you want to sound Americain? Everyone will adores your French accent - there is nothing sweeter.
Peggy in Florida

L. M. Davies

"Trying to find the American r channel" made me smile wide! My own kids don't remember radio tuners with dials - everything is digital now, so it's hard for them to know that feeling of edging up to a station only to slide off into static. But your description was perfect for me. How wonderful for her to be able to practice with you. I, too, long to speak French (and Italian) like a native. I'm brave enough to try, but often think I am genetically incapable of producing certain sounds. Even a simple rolled R seems impossible. I guess I just have an American tongue. lol
Thanks for a great column to start my day!


What a fun "play on words," Kristen! It will be interesting to hear how she sounds when she returns home from Idaho!

Ken Scupp

Jackie- Vous avez tort, si vous croyez que les garçons en Idaho ne aiment pas vôtre accent français. Mais, si vous voulez vraiment à améliorer vôtre anglais/ricaine, Je veux volontiers skype avec vous avec le autorisation de vos parents. J’ai fait la connaissance du vôtre père à Boston l’année dernière. J’ai besoin d’améliorer mon français aussi. Vous aurez un temps magnifique dans Idaho cet été. Je croyais que ricaine est dérisoire ?


Love this story!

Sue J.

darling post, Kristi. love how you presented the conversation. pour moi, those pesky Rs have gotten in the way a time as well -- tarte and Draguignan, most recently. Luckily, I can spell in French :)

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

I can manage the French /r/ well enough — with one exception. I briefly lived in a rented house near the small Norman town of Athis de l'Orne. That name, as well as the name of the Orne River, are absolutely impossible for me. When I try, it sounds as if I'm gargling, or strangling, or both.


Having 14 and 12 year old girls, I certainly know what it's like not to understand "street" language....even if it is a form of American English. By the way, there is a term for hair that is darker all the way to the ends and then gets lighter. It's called ombre! The term can also be used to describe how eye shadow is applied, too. One of my girls complimented me on how my ombre eye shadow looked one day. I had no idea what she was talking about.


I've never had a problem with the French "r" but the trilled Italian "r" is something else. The tip of my English tongue just won't flap fast enough. I am passable if there's a single "r" but when it's doubled and you have to sound both of them, I rarely succeed, in spite of all the time I spent when I was first learning (and occasionally still do) saying "rrrrrrrrrrrrr"!

I have also not mastered the American "r" after over 40 years here. I still say Hahvahd (like a Bostonian) instead of Harrrvard like everyone else.

Johanna DeMay

Dear Kristin,

Kudos for your effort to teach Jackie! Growing up bilingual gives so many advantages, not the least of which is the ability to easily acquire a third language.

My French teacher, a bilingual person who is originally German, used to English to German children. They also had great difficulty with the American "r". She would tell them to imagine they had green peas on their tongue, and then try to roll the peas against the roof of their mouth. Perhaps her advice can help Jackie.

Good luck with your efforts!

Johanna DeMay


Another thought: At university, we had a course in Italian phonetics, and the most helpful thing was being given diagrams showing where in your mouth your tongue was supposed to be to make certain sounds or how your lips were supposed to be shaped. Your tongue is placed differently to make an Italian "t" or "l" from where it is to make the sound in English. (It was a real AHA! moment.)

Same is true of "r" in Italian and in French. If Jackie has her tongue positioned for a French "r" she won't succeed in making an American one. Describe to her where your tongue is and see if she can copy that, and if it helps. It does take a lot of practice before one's tongue stops defaulting to the native language position.

Julie Farrar

Yes, tell Jackie that her hairstyle in America is called "ombre." At least that's some argot she'll have. For me, French r's will be my downfall. I never could roll them in Spanish class either. Thank you for sharing such a sweet teenage moment with us. While her new American friends will love the exotic nature of her foreign accent, teenagers wanting to fit in and not stick out in any way is definitely a universal language. She will do fine in her foreign tongue, just like her mother does.


I suggest that Jackie try saying the r in the back of her mouth - almost in the throat. My French seems to sound better when I move the sounds toward the front of the mouth compared with American English. So perhaps she will do better with English if she moves the sound toward the back.

Kristin Espinasse

Merrill, very helpful tip. Will try those middle an end of word rs.

Linda, oh no. Ive dated myself! :-)

Ken, I was wondering the same: is ricain derisive?

Bruce, keep gargling... Apparently you are on your way to ar r magnifique !

Lark, loved learning the ombre term, which will be useful in writing, too. Will share with Jackie.


My grandomother with whom I lived and with whom I was not allowed to speak Rnglish used to make me say: RE RA RI RO RU. No idea why vowels are not in order. It's hard - try it!

I thank her from my heart every day for the gift of a second language that she gave me.


For learning the "argot", maybe your daughter could connect with a high school French teacher here who could put her in touch with his/her students to exchange language "tutoring". It might be better to start in Idaho, since some argot tends to be regional.
If she did that, she would already have an introduction to some of the natives her own age when she arrives.

Another note: You should teach her about (American) football and baseball. There are hundreds of idioms that come out of those two sports -- "southpaw", "home run", "on deck", "couldn't get to first base", "out of left field", "step up to the plate", "1st and 10", etc.

Bill Facker

That you share these poignantly intimate moments with us is truly a fantastic gift, Kristin. A gift for your readers, a gift for you, and a gift your family will appreciate more and more as time marches on. What a great piece of writing! ... and, Jackie, don't work too hard on "obliterating" your French r in favor of the American r ... that French r is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth! Aloha, Bill


What a lovely story! My eldest daughter was born in Paris; we both speak French. It's been a wonderful bond between us. I've been told my "r"s are very good and I wonder if it's from hearing it so young. I lived in Montreal as a small child and remember my frustration at not being able to communicate with many of the neighbourhood children. They seemed so exotic! I was five when I promised myself I'd learn French one day. Now the accent québecois sounds strange and flat to me, but I do understand it (usually, lol). I'm in heaven when I hear a real Parisian accent, though. Jackie has no idea how adorable her French accent will sound to Americans but I applaud her efforts to improve her English.


Thanks for making me laugh this morning! I especially enjoyed the part where you were indoctrinating during the lesson in English. I have always wanted to learn French. When I was a child my girl friiends would pretend we were speaking French when we would go to the plunge. Of course it was just gibberish, but we loved to fool the boys ;)

Nancy L.

Oooh, Long Story so I will try to be brief. In 2006 we attended a wedding in the Dordogne. I boned up on my H.S. & college French as best I could and while attending the wedding was a 'hit' with the French in-laws because I was the ONLY 'Ricane there who spoke French. Even rudimentary French works well in social situations where you can turn the conversations to those words that you know and have many short conversations with dozens of people. Flash forward to 2008 when we are visiting again with the French in-laws, but it is a small, intimate dinner for 8. Apparently they had thought I was much more fluent than I am, since they barraged me with questions and comments ALL in French and about 1/2 through the meal I had to confess that my French is not as good as it had first appeared. Although we were dining on Coq au Vin, I had to eat a little Crow. Story #2: 2006 in a little bistro in Paris again trying out my French. When I became tongue tied our charming waiter encouraged me to continue because, as he said "Votre Francais etes adorable"! ...The moral for Jackie is that "Accents can be 'cute'!" lol

Kathy (near Sacramento)

For all of you who are having trouble making the French 'r' sound, here's an idea from a student years ago. As I was working with the class on this sound, he exclaimed that it sounded like his cat when she had a hairball. Ever since I have encouraged my students to "find their hairball!" That's pretty much the place in your throat to make the French 'r' sound.

Debby Montague

Thank you for the smile, Kristin. And the inspiration. I will be visiting Tourettes-sur-Loup in just two months, and I really want to impress my brother-in-law with my French. Unfortunately all the French I have now is from high school lessons long, long, long ago, and my accent...tres mal. But I will try to learn...perhaps if I can conquer truffe...

Joanne Ablan

One of the most difficult French sounds for me to master is the
difference between "rue" and "roue"! Fortunately, my French
teacher had the patience of Job. Joanne

kim archer

Love it! I too have a touch of Jodi Foster-envy. And my impossible to pronounce french word is "roi." I avoid this word at all costs or end up saying "le king" or " mari de la reine". otherwise I end up with the horrible sounding: "wah" accompanied by a very un-french gag-reflex sound. sigh.

Christy Canzler

Touching and precious story- thank you so much for sharing it. I will save it to re-read! I just love our little "grown ups" and the surprising sweet moments they bless us with. Greetings from Oregon.

Clarice Hammett

Thank you for the great post! It is nice to know that other native English speakers who have been speaking French for along time (and who have spent time in France!) still have trouble with the "r" as well!

What a great thing to be able to share language learning with your children.

Thank you for your wonderful blog, that always makes my day a little better because there is some French in it!

Merci mille fois!


A thoroughly charming story!

What do you call a person who speaks three languages? --Trilingual

What do you call a person who speaks two languages? --Bilingual

What do you call a person who speaks one language? --American

Je desole' My father, who was native born Chinese, came to the USA in 1922 at age 11. He learned english when he got here, and had pretty unaccented English. The letter Z, as in magazine always tripped him up though. He pronounced it as Y.

Glenn from St. Paul

My French stumbling block of the day is trying to pronounce "procureur" after having become hooked on the TV series "Engrenages." I can usually handle one "r" sound in a word, but three is de trop. And as a former teenager (il y a longtemps), there is no doubt that American boys will find Jackie very attractive, French accent or no.


R and RR in Spanish still completely befuddle me. I cannot roll my R's. I'm told it's genetic.

Janine Cortell

Dear Kristin:
This story brought back so many personal memories. I was born in France to a French mother and German father. I came to the U.S. when I was a bit more than two years old...
As a child I begged my mother not to speak French to me. Fast Forward Junior High School, I realized what a great advantage I had to be able to speak this beautiful language(and an easy A to boot). At that point, I begged my mother to speak French to me whenever we had the opportunity.
I learned to love French and went on to get an M.A. in French literature and to teach French for over 40 years. Vive le francais.
I hope that Jackie will continue to take advantage of her Anglophone mother. I have found that being bilingual has brought me many friends and a wonderful teaching career. Warm regards, Janine Cortell


How about imitating Smokey when he's annoyed? Grrrrreally? When I studied voice, I found that whereas spoken French puts the R's in the back of the throat, sung French rolls the R's. I wonder how they learn to do it.

Vera Marie Badertscher

My own French pronunciation is so bad that I could not believe that the French people at dinner with us one night in Normandy did not break into raucous laughter when I attempted to speak. They didn't even smile, bless their hearts.
We met a waitress in Brugge who spoke such perfect American that we asked her if she had lived there. No--she watched American movies and then practiced the way the starlets moved their mouths. Your daughter might enjoy trying that.

Vera Marie Badertscher

P.S. I read somewhere that a linguist had determined that before a baby learns to speak--when they are "practicing" sounds--they eventually make every sound that is used in every language! Too bad we loose the ability.

Nikki Tureen

What a bright, loving story...truly one of your best. I'll bet it almost wrote itself. And if it didn't, it reads as if it did, so there's your craft kicking in!
Jackie will have a ball, as long as the girls aren't too jealous. Are "Mean Girls" a problem in France, as they have been here?
And Kristin, hope you're loving the openness of the sea Bandol in contrast to the inland quality of Sainte-Cécile. That's my regret about Vaison - no water. When we're there, we've started spending a few days on the coast. Last time driving back, we stopped in Bandol & lunched on great thin crust Roman pizza. Cannot get anything close in our neck of the woods!!!


Our dear Kristi,
What a beautiful and heart warming post.
It may have started out as the language lessons between mother and daughter,but it
quickly turned into what a close and loving bond that you and sweet Jackie share.
THANK YOU,dear friend, for making our weekend such a joy.
Love, Natalia XO


This story delighted me so very much! So lovely. As ever,thank you for sharing these poignant moments. Best, gina


That was a lovely piece! Thank you!

Our French friends said "A--re, a- re" to their babies while we always said "Hi! Hi, happy baby" to our son. Now their children can say Rue but not Heart, and our son just the reverse.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Great story Kristen!

It made me smile. It's raining on the coast of Oregon --- so you brought some sunshine my way!

Be well.

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Bonjour Kristin,
Jackie is quite lucky to have a Mom who speaks French and English or American English! Great story!
Tell Jackie I can relate because I spent a couple of hours today with my new Rosetta Stone French and was having trouble with a few "r" words like rouge.
Tara is taking sailing lessons in Antibes and her first class was yesterday. She said she will only know the sailing terms in French. She is having a blast!

june furey

Kristin & Jackie, I am in NZ visiting my family,was visiting the local mall and shopping at L'Occitane for perfume,the delightfull assistant was very helpful and we commented on her very good English accent and asked where she came from in France, and when she told us Brittany I was interested due to hereditary links, needless to say she said she was on a working holiday to improve her English before she went home to take up her university studies. She was happy we enjoyed talking to her and my daughter and I commented on her beautifully spoken English, which of course is different again to American English.No matter whatever your accent is if you make yourself understood Jackie, everyone will be delighted to hear you speak. June,Gold Coast, Qld


Delightful story!!!! :-) :-)

My daughter, when she was little, had trouble with her "L's". We used to practice saying "lovely little lolly legs" over and over...she still giggles when I call her this at times!

Lorraine in Atlanta, GA

Now I know why my 14 year old greeted me tonight with "Bonjour maman!" (He reads your post which we both love!) My mum is Scottish and promised my dying father that my brother and I would always continue to study in French in Canada. I remember thanking her at the age of 16 because I never had a problem getting a summer job and I knew it was a blessing! In school, I had teachers of all accents: Quebec, Swiss, French, Belgian, Moroccan, Haitian. It gave me a wonderful ear for all French accents! It's sad that, too often, the French language is rated, by some, instead of celebrated. We all speak the language of "Moliere"!

Here is a good exercise for Jackie that our French exchange student had to say before dinner every night. "The Three Trees" until it does not sound like "De Dree Drees"!

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

What a wonderfully sweet and tender story today. Jackie is going to have so much fun visiting with her grandparents in Idaho! She will be the "queen bee" from morning 'til night. Here is a sentence for her to practice: AROUND THE RUGGED ROCK THE RAGGED ROBIN RAN. ....lots of R's and two TH's thrown in for good measure.

Mille mercis et bon week-end, Cynthia (It's snowing tonight in Maryland.)

Catie Fitzgerald

Kristin I relate to you and Jackie in this story. The "r" sound in both English and French present problems for non-native speakers. I am a native English speaker, FYI. Please share with Jackie that I admire her desire to perfect the way she speaks English. Speaking like a native regardless of the language in questions is never easy but the natives will appreciate and respect the effort. Of course, they will also love her French accent!

Mara in Wisconsin

Second the advice to think about--and describe --where the tongue is. I taught a young français to say the American "th" instead of the "zz" sound by pointing out that the tongue touches the tip of the teeth not the ridge of the mouth. For me, the hard distinction is «dessus» versus «dessous» which really matters since they mean the opposite!

Walt Ballenberger

I always thought that ricaine was a pejoritive term. Is that incorrect?


As an ex pat canadian raising a little one (also named Kristi)born in New Zealand..I found she dould NOT pronounce her R's (They came out as "ah"....showah, cah, fah (similar to the british )She tried So hard but always sounded silly...would say "showerrr...carrr" Till wehen she was 6 yrs old we spent 6 weeks in Canada and she came back with a perfect Canadian accent...(which she then got teased for once back home. I hope Jackie doesnt loose "all" her french accent on her american holiday....

Susan Klee

Jackie & Kristin! You had the right idea with Row Row Row Your Boat! As a language teacher (and student), I advise you to *sing* the difficult sounds -- or everything you want to pronounce. For reasons I don't know and perhaps linguists do, having the tune and the rhythm along with the words does help our brains arrive at the pronunciation we seek. But I agree with the people who say: *Don't* lose your French accent. First, it is nearly impossible after puberty due to our brain's structure at that point. Second: many accents are considered charming in the U.S., and French diction is surely paramount among those. But mostly: it's a waste of time if you are 13 or older: concentrate on *intonation,* which is crucial for people to comprehend you in English: much more important than the pronunciation of isolated sounds. Get the rhythm, the emphasis on syllables: You'll be much better understood!


Kristin, I have a story about how being bilingual worked in reverse for my dad during WWII. He grew up in a a Canadian-French-speaking home and when he was ready to ship out after basic training they pulled him aside and told him that, because of his French background, they wanted him to go for more training. He learned Parisian French, including technical language for the army, and became a member of the Second Signal Corps where he would be an interpreter between the American and the French brass in France. When he eventually arrived in France (4 days after D-Day), his group made their way in time across France (They were actually billeted in the palace of Versailles for 2 weeks!) It turns out that the group with whom he had done basic training ended up going to north Africa and most of them were killed in action. When I was teaching French to middle-schoolers, I used to share this story with them as an example of how you never know how learning another can be useful to you... Truly, I believed it saved his life!

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

I hope your daughter learns to speak American like a native, just as she speaks French like a native -- which seems to be what she wants to do.

Hearing it from you with plenty of feedback may be the fastest way.

Of course the internet is full of help.
This site tries to show by diagram, and plays short tapes of the sound.

The woman on this you tube video describes the American English liquid consonant r more the way I would -- maybe it is helpful.

Repetition is the sure way to success, really.

Very lovely story, on all counts.

Olga Brown

Hi Kristi,
What a lovely post!
I just can suggest for both of you, mother and daughter, speak only English at home every day all day long. You still have plenty of time (5 month). And , Kristi, you should speak real conversational American English to her, with all slang words you would usually use, speaking normally there, in the U.S. The more she practice the more she will master her English. I came through that stuff myself.
Jackie, you'll be just fine here, in America, honey. You have nothing to worry about. Most people in the U.S. love accents. They usually ask me:" Where your accent came from? I love it!"
I know, that I will never get rid of my accent, but it does not bother me at all.

You speak two languages and this is a real gift!

Diane Young

Bonne chance, Jackie. C'est toujours difficile de parler une autre langue. We learned a line in college illustrating the many "u" sounds in French: "Je ne sais pas ou se trouve le tutu de tulle rouge de Lulu d'Honolulu." So we Americans are always impressed with someone's attempts to speak our language. The r's in Spanish are very hard for us also. And the speed with which foreign languages are spoken is very difficult for us to follow. Someone told me once that our English seems that rapid to a non-English speaker. I have to play your Papa's language bit two or three times to follow it.
Keep "rowing" your boat and by this summer you will be way ahead of us in our attempts to speak French!

Fred Caswell

Cher Kristi, Nancy's helping me with this on her iPhone. I am recovering from major surgery to repair my abdominal aortic aneurism. I'll write you when I get home from this rehab. Comme toujours, Fred

Judi Boeye Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

What a 'rounderful' story! When I took French in college, years ago, I had a professor who stressed the tongue and mouth position - it really helped with the ou, u, and the r. What a wonderful experience for you and Jackie! I recently met a high school exchange student from Vienne, France, and she was really surprised when her peers at the American high school wanted her to 'say something in French' and then would tell her how much they LOVED to hear her speak French - so sexy! It is much admired in America. But, she thought it was just 'normal' and nothing special. Jackie will have so much fun - what a great experience! I really admire her desire to learn another language - she's lucky to have such a good teacher!

Jeanne Ludwig

Hi Jackie and Kristi:

I am an avid reader and Speech Therapist. Try starting with "gr" words like "great". Words that have an "r" plus "o" are the most difficult so try words like ""rind", "read" first. Then when Jackie has mastered that, don't forget the words that end in "r': bear, oar, ire, ear". Bonne chance!

JoAnne Rima

Bonjour from St. Louis!
So many posts! If you get to read this, Merrill Hakim's post has sound advice. One of my previous occupations was elementary school speech pathologist. The best method I found to correct the w for r pronunciation taught us to start with words ending in the ar and er sounds. You reinforce the feel of the position of the tongue, jaw, mouth; whatever connects in their brain. Once ar, er sounds are mastered, you begin to pair with words beginning with r - essentially rolling into the word. (car/ride, winter/race). The pairs don't have to make sense together, it's just a drill exercise. Eventually you take away the ar & er words. Saying er-red, ar-round, er-race, etc., getting the feel for that, then dropping the er part. Words with r in the middle are good to practice at this stage too. Anyway it was a very successful technique for me. Developmentally children shouldn't be expected to master correct r pronunciation until around the age of second grade. I had quite a few 2nd grade parents think I was some kind of miracle worker, as they had been trying to help their kids before they were physiologically ready! So dear Kristin, try this & your darling capable Jackie will have success and think you a miracle worker! P.S. consonant blends are the hardest, recommend not starting with any of those r words. Bonne chance!


Great post! I have trouble with the French word for "squirrel", ecureuil. My French son-in-law the opposite problem. We share a lot of laughter trying to teach each other those words. I also have trouble pronouncing the French word for "yogurt". As I continue to study French, I am certain there will be many more words for me to stumble over!


Wonderful story! :-) thank you Kristi.

Here are a few tongue-twisters my English professor gave me long time ago when I needed to make a transition from previously learned British to American pronunciation. In any case, I still have the slight Russian accent peeking through as I have been told on occasion, but those drRilling exercises (and boy! did he make sure they were drilling!) helped me learn rather a nicely resonated American "Rrr" I have right now:

Oh! No need to type them at all! I forgot a few words, and the mighty internet delivered upon my request just in a couple of seconds:

And here's the one that is not listed there:


by David Keppel

Never trouble trouble
    Until trouble troubles you;
For you only make your trouble
    Double-trouble when you do;
And the trouble — like a bubble —
    That you're troubling about,
May be nothing but a zero
    With its rim rubbed out.

There are of course some self-help "learn accents" cds of all kinds, which with some, perhaps, considerable (for some folks) effort could definitely help to chisel any accent to perfection! As I have also noticed, some people with any strong musical background usually able to hone any accent in no time.

Hope it helps.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much for these latest tips. Jackie got back from two days away (staying at a friends). She said she MISSED our English lessons and couldnt wait to get back to them tonight! 

Merci encore for taking the time to share these links and the helpful ideas.

Kristin Espinasse

Connie, I have chills after reading the story about your dad! Thanks for sharing!


My oh my, I do love it when I hear about our children appreciating the things in us that they formally did not appreciate.
What an excellent essay today...I laughed out loud several times! Love your writing.
My hair is naturally ombre (an American/French argot?) or "tie and dyed" hair. It's a combo of grey and blond and brown.
I hope Jackie has a wonderful visit this summer.

Kristin Espinasse

Sorry to answer these out of order, again, but I enjoyed what you shared, Vera,( about: before a baby learns to speak--when they are practicing sounds--they eventually make every sound that is used in every language! Too bad we loose the ability.) Fascinating!

Thank you all for taking the time to comment. It is a pleasure to read your words.

Will B

I have cousins who live in France, and I find their accents extremely adorable when they speak English or any other language. Of course they always have trouble pronouncing the TH sound. It's more prominent than the R. For me, my doing the French R sound is passable. It's the Spanish trilled R that I can never get. It always feels like I'm choking or something.

As someone who has been in a similar situation like your daughter, growing up bilingual is a huge gift. She might not realize yet but one day it will all come to her.

Kathleen from Connecticut

I cannot for the life of me do the French "r", Spanish "r" or even the Finnish "r". but then again many people of the fore mentioned nationalities cannot do a proper "th" as in Kathy. Many of us have difficulty with pronouncing foreign words unless we were taught at an early age so that our tongues could form the proper sounds.



Great post, thank you Kristin; your understated humour shines.
Loved the stories and suggestions and tongue twisters...
It seems so many FWAD readers are "bilingguists"!
A Belgian friend of mine married to an aussie brought up her 4 boys as bilinguists. She spoke only French to them while daddy spoke only English to them... It worked a treat!
After 40 odd (!) years in Australia I still can't say kookaburra....:)
Jacqueline in post-Oswald hot n humid Brisbane


It's fabulous that Jackie appreciates what a great opportunity it is having a native English speaker for a mom and trying to learn all she can from you. She sounds like a smart girl. This reminds me, Kristin, that when I listen to you speak French, which you do beautifully, I have noticed that your r's stand out. What I hear you doing is a combination of the American r and the French r, that is, you start out with the American r and then finish with the French throat sound. If you could just forget the American part I bet you could improve it. Ask Jackie what she thinks about that.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Leslie. That is helpful. I will listen to my sound files, to pick out this r, and try to turn it over completely to the French. I do notice that when I hear my accent recorded, I am able to pick out the imposter sounds... only I dont often dare to listen ( just a quick go-through to make sure the recording is complete.)

Thanks again for all these kind and encouraging words. Jackie and I continue to love our evening practice sessions, in English!


To non-French nationalities, the sound of someone speaking English with a French accent is beautiful, almost mesmerizing. I think it would be a great pity for your daughter to lose her French accent completely when speaking English.

Suzanne Arbet

My dear friend Coco is French and has lived in the U.S. for at least twenty years now. We all adore her accent but have a lot of fun with her H's. She will drop them on words which begin with H and add them to some words which start with a vowel. It has become a running joke to really exaggerate the phenomenon such as - "I can't 'ear you, my hears 'urt" (I can't hear you, my ears hurt).
'ave a 'appy day!

Julie Borders

Such a sweet little story. As a mother of two teenager daughters, I know these type of moments are precious.

Deborah Teng

Loved this story for so many reasons - Like Kim, I cannot say 'roi', strangely 'rue' seems to be OK. I am Australian with Chinese heritage and I can speak Cantonese semi-fluently without an Australian twang but my Uncle who lives in England says my French has an Aussie accent. My boys are learning French which they love but they will not speak any Cantonese (or Hokkien which is their paternal grandparent's dialect)as that is too embarrassing and one of our funniest family stories comes from my grandfather who, after 40 years of living in Australia still mixed up L & R and exclaimed while watching the tennis one day (many years ago now) - "Oh! McEnloe and Rendl had a tellific larry!" Weally!!

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