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Accueil, mille-feuille and "bringing the squirrels to their feet"

Truffe + Hardest words to pronounce in French

Odette in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse
Some brightness for your weekend. Enjoy! Photo taken in Paris.


Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

What are the hardest French words to pronounce?

Longtime reader, Hampton, forwarded me an article from The Local listing Ten French Words You'll Never Pronounce Right, including mille-feuille, pneu, grenouille, and serrurerie.

Eep! Tell me about it!

Hampton suggested I get Jean-Marc or Jackie or Max to pronounce these tongue tricky words. But because my family is away at the moment, I thought you and I could make our own list, here, and then have our resident Francophones choose ten of them to record. Sound good? Are you chiche, or up for it? I am--I can't WAIT to know which words you find difficult to pronounce.

Allons-y! Lets go!
Tell us what are the hardest French words to pronounce. Click here.

As for me, I cannot for the life of me say the word TRUFFE. Don't believe it? Here goes: Download MP3 or Download Wav

Truffe! J'adore manger les truffes!
Truffles. I love to eat truffles!

(Did you hear Jean-Marc laughing in the background? "Pourquoi tu le prononce comme ça?" he says.) CLICK HERE to tell us which French words are hardest to pronounce. 


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Little french seamstress

The Little French Seamstress. Celebrating with my 17-year-old in Cassis, after she was accepted for a second internship (this one in Marseilles). Jackie will be apprenticing for a Tunisian-French woman who once sewed uniforms for the French military and now runs her own business from her tiny living room. Sales recently took off when same sex marriage became legal in France. "It's fun designing for grooms," she says. Should be a great experience for Jackie.

Knotted fig
Fig trees, olive trees, and umbrella pines, below. In the center, a stone cabanon; the new red door has many past lives: it floundered for a time at the junk store, then moved to a wall inside our house. Next it filled in a gap below our kitchen window. We then moved, taking the old red door (really a shutter) along with us to Bandol, where it found purpose as a gate on the dog run....only to become a foot bridge between unlevelled land. Last week we dusted it off and leaned it gently against the little stone cabanon. I think it finally found a home!

COMMENTS welcome here, and don't forget to mention which word you have the most difficulty saying in French. Merci et bon week-end!

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"rue" I can do interior r sounds like a native, but sometimes words that begin with r just won't pronounce properly. I avoid the word rue like the plague. :-)


"Truffe", pas de problème, mais "YAOURTt" je trouve difficile.


écureuil---c'est impossible for my American mouth!!


Trois -- I can't get my lips around this oh-so-common word, and it always ends up sounding more like toi. My French friends laugh and laugh.

Jan Marquardt

dessous vs. dessus!! I could only finally hear the difference when a five-year-old was told to say the words for me. Now I try to diphthong the first one but I always have to stop and think, hard.

janine cortell

When we lived in france one of my neighbors called my two year old "ma petite ecureuil".
This last word is a difficult one to pronounce for most students. Janine Cortell

Penny K

English people almost always pronounce Reims wrong!


Ingres …le peintre ...

Marion Kuster

Heureuse-- I tried to use it in a little thank you talk to our host community in Vanves, which had so warmly welcomed our fifth graders from Ripon, Wisconsin, in an exchange. I'm still trying to say it correctly........

William Stein

The worst problem isn't individual words but liaison between words. The rules are complex and subject to "levels" of speech, and there are many exceptions.

yuriko hoshino



I agree yaout (yogurt, dont think i spelled it correctly) and pouilly-fuse


Vous charrieriez
Selon toutes les indications ce serait la /r/ suivie de /y/ qui pose le plus de problèmes pour les anglophones. J'ajoute ici la /r/ en positions multiples dans le même mot..


My hardest word to pronounce is "fourrure," (fur natch). I have been speaking French since age 14 and normally have very good pronunciation for an American, but this one is a bit of a tongue-twister (literally LOL).

Jane LeMaux

Limeuil a village close to where I live.
FOURQUES the LD where I live, even the French have trouble with this.


Chirurgien, c'est trop pour moi et Brie malheureusement.

Dianne de Poitiers

Yes, "grenouille" is very difficult for me to say. But I usually turn it around and ask my French friends to say "frog." They can't do it without their French "r." Come on, it's only one syllable!

And these words are difficult in both languages too: "ecureuil" and "squirrel."


l'ours (bear) is at the top of my list! Trop difficile for this American mouth.


Hands down for me: heureux. That word does not make me happy...

Bonnie L

My pet-peeve, simply because I order them for desert whenever I see them on a menu, is mille-feuille....MEEL- foy?!? Usually the waiter will smile ruefully and understand what I want. Can't be the worst attempt at pronouncing the word he's ever heard, or can it be?? Would love to hear it pronounced correctly. Merci!

Sue jean

Definitely rue, but agree with most of the others mentioned.

Lawrence Krakauer

The hardest French word for me to pronounce is the name of a French town in the Luberon called Buoux. I simply can't deal with that "u" in front of an "ou".

J. Roese

Chirugie, serrure, ecureuil, et RER !


"Rue" it was hard for me back when I lived and worked in Paris, 1971-76, and it is hard now. My mouth could never form the sound, even after countless repetitions. Now it doesn't matter that much, I just figure an American accent is ok at my age.

Bob McGowan

Some words in succession can be a little challenging, such as
"rue du loup," especially when said quicky.


My husband, who likes fizzy water and wine (not together!), cannot pronounce bouteille. It comes out sometimes sounding like "boo-tay" or "boule-tay", and that's on a good day. Needless to say, drinking in France sometimes poses problems for him.

Nancy Pay


"The surgeon does surgery"
Nancy , NC

Mary Fisk

"accueil" was always hard for me


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.

Kristin I

Roi... blanc... et les Bourbons!

k griffith

Atterrir surtout au futur -- vraiment tous les mots avec 2 ou 3 "r" au futur!!

Denise Schoen

I grow antique roses, and the beautiful white "Sombreuil" is almost impossible for me to say.


"r" as in Robert

Paula MacKay

Un mot difficile pour moi c'est une rue à Paris: Montregeuil ( J'ai peur de demander où se trouve cette rue, à cause de ce nom!)


Rue eceureil and heureux


"Roi". When I first started studying French in high school I learned that word and have never been able to pronounce it correctly. It sounds so garbled. By the way, your "trouffe" sounded extraordinarily similar to mine. Oh well, it is good to help others laugh.

Dorothy Lawrence

Trottoir - tres difficile pour moi!


Any one having trouble with the letter J, pronounced G and vice-versa in French and English?

Suzanne Dunaway

You pronounce 'truffe' perfectly. Tell your bad husband to be quiet!!!The word 'fourrure" is hell to pronounce!!!
My teacher at Berlitz was M. Grenier and he allways said, 'PAS grennouille, bon!" Loved him. Talked food the whole time....

Joanne Ablan

C'est très difficile pour mon oreille anglaise à distinguer entre les mots rue et roue (street and wheel). Peut-être vos experts peuvent
composer une phrase avec les deux mots? Merci beaucoup. Joanne,
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Ann Borkin



Chirurgie est difficile pour moi!!


Rural, rurale, ruraux, and, in Paris, Avenue Ledru Rollin. It's that nasty "dr" that my tongue just will not do.


Coo-ee !! - Couilles................??

Joan Bendix

Regarder has always been hard for me. Starting the word with that French R and then another one in the same word. Zut alors!

debbie poulin

There is a street in the 15th arr of Paris called
"le Docteur Roux" and if i had to tell a taxi where to take me it was impossible to say " La Rue du Docteur Roux".
Try it!

Brenda in SF

Though I like to stroll by the cafes, bakeries, fish and cheese shops on Montorgueil, I have trouble pronouncing it.

Once when speaking to a travel agent in Paris, we were nearly booked for a train trip to Cannes, instead of Cain which was our chosen destination.

Suzanne White

There are tricks. For regarder (Americans often find it challenging), add a syllable in the middle. Instead of trying to roll the second "r" in your throat, say re gar (re) der. It works a treat. For the crazy "u" , you can pinch up your mouth like un cul de poule and keep it that way while saying long E as in see or free. Soon it will come naturally. It's about building those muscles. Takes exercise. Also practice making that hanging down palate thing in the back of your throat wiggle when you say "r". Say "Trois Gros Rats" at least ten times a day until that muscle strengthens. You will see. After about a month you'll begin to sound like Edit Piaf singing "Rien. Rien de rien..."

David Berger

Ecureuil. Our French "daughters" still challenge us with that, and llaugh at us, but what about our favorite French little cake with molten centers?
I usully fink put on ordering that and have a tart pomes instead.

judith bryant

Anything with a "u" -- including, I'm sad to say, "un" and "une". (Years ago, I was hitch-hiking from Grenoble to a Swiss friend's home. When a driver stopped in the town of Pully, we were totally confused. We'd tried to ask for "Prilly"! I still can't pronounce them differently.)


It's silly but I struggle a lot with Au Revoir. A lot!


"Ecureuil" - squirrel. Not only do I stumble in pronouncing it, I always forget how to spell it, adding extra "u"s and "r"s and "e"s. And the darn things are all over our Vermont back and front yards!
Great post, Kristin.


écureuil and accueil get my vote

Kathryn G Nelson

I once had a wonderful french and linguists prof at U C Berkeley. He told us the reason english speakers have difficulty is that french is spoken with the tongue in the back of the mouth and palette and we put ours behind our teeth and lips. It also requires us to exercise muscles in our throat, cheeks, jaws, and lips with three times more stretch and vigor than english. He called our speech lazy. Using this really helps me master the difficult sounds. Hope it helps you too.


I agree with a number of the commenters that écureuil is very difficult. Also, getting the emphasis on the correct syllable for grenouille and citrouille can be a challenge. When I lived in France we English speakers would measure the improvement in our ability to speak French by challenging one another to say: j'étends la main afin d'éteindre la lumière.

Bobbi Bowman

I vote for Accueil as a tough word and really oeuf is bad also...used in a sentence for example.

and good idea for a post.thanks


l'oeil. I always say "un de mes yeux" just to avoid it.

Debra Amrein-Boyes

I can agree with Kathryn: imagine your tongue has 3 sections: front middle and back. The american English "R" is pronounced by curling the front part of the tongue up and back and speaking the sound. To pronounce the French "R" raise the back third of your tongue towards the top rear of your palate/mouth, keeping the front part low in the jaw behind the bottom teeth, and "push" the air over the tongue while adding the sound. You can often tell when French and English is being spoken even when you can't hear the speaker, by observing the workings of the mouth during speech.
Usually the R's and the U's are the giveaways. While hiking in the Swiss Alps last fall I greeted an on-coming hiker with the usual "hello" (in Swiss dialect). After she passed us I told my husband that she was certainly an American, because even though she only said one word, the R gave her away immediately.

Faye Stampe in Gleneden Beach, OR

I have trouble with De Rien ---- you're welcome. I'd rather say: Je Vous En Pries. sp? Can't do Rien. Happy weekend!


without a doubt, for me it is .....yaourt


Grenouille, ecureuil, feuille, Montorgueil, and any other words with that sound are very hard for me, but the hardest of all is to get that lovely lilting quality that makes French so expressive.



That's the day's vocabulary haul?

Judith Harris

The word I hear mispronounced so often is Monsieur.

Christine Webb-Curtis

"chirurgerie" It's the worst for me.

Bruce in Northwest Connecticut

I briefly lived in a village in Normandy called Athis de l'Orne, as the Orne river flowed through it. Thirty years later and I still can't say "Orne." Going from the R straight to the N is impossible for me.


I lived in Montreal, Quebec for a time. If you consider Quebecois real French then I did my hardware shopping at the quincaillerie which I could never pronounce. Can you? And does it have a French/English translation?


Trying to pronounce ecureuil is bad enough for me, but it makes my husband positively squirrely!


Quincaillerie for sure. Thank goodness the folks at the hardware store near our chalet in Quebec speak some English. We enjoyed Cassis last February. Would love to spend more time there.



Dawn Johnson

It is interesting now just a small handful of words are topping the list. Rue has always been my Achilles heel. One of the. most common words too. I think it's because it combines the r and u sound both of which are hard sounds to master in of themselves.

Cathia Gantz

I don't have a large vocabulary to pull from, but so far "Vielle" has me tongue tied, or lip-pursed, or something! Thank you. Cathia

Andrea Hughes

I would add: "chirurgien" as being a challenge

Annette Heath

Roi (king) is at the top of my list also.

Liane Partridge - Vancouver, Canada

My worst word of all revoir...can never seem to make it work...and then I really mess up by changing it so I don't have to say it and end up with Bonjour instead! Oh dear...and then we all laugh and all is good!! I still love French.

Linda Jaeger

for me it's cueillir and accueil!


Nous étudiions ... vous étudiiez: l'imparfait est très difficile.


Deux. Should not be hard, but I swear that everyone gives us "that look" when we simply want two of something! I guess is the subtlety of duh, dew, da, the problem.

Simon Johnson

cou - sounds like cul when I pronounce it.
The same goes for quand and con.....

Ken Scupp

Please teach us how to pronounce the difference between au-dessus & au-dessous. Thank you

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

I am never quite sure how to order Pouilly fuisse wine!
Merci, Nancy


Any words with r or u. I mispronounced menu for years. Also, words with ille or eille or aille at the end are a nightmare for me!


I can't believe no one said "roi" (unless someone did say it and I missed it.) I feel like I can pronounce most of the words on that top ten list and many of the words listed above, but I could not say the word for "King" if my life depended on it.


Words like "serrurerie", and those ending in "oeille, euille, eille.etc."

Sarah k

Going in another direction here but it took me a while to say l'Antarctique well!
Also dessus/dessous
I got this by repeating over and over dessus/dessous in an exaggerated way and then au-dessus/en-dessous over and over with my hand above then below something.
Note if you can't say u yet you are a bit doomed until you learn that!!


I've always found "roi" difficult.

Ah, I see Joanne just a few entries above also mentions it!

Sarah k

Ok how to say u!
A couple of readers explained this here's my try:

Put your lips in a oooooo sound like booooooo.
Then here's the tricky part but you can do it!

Keep your lips in the oooooooo shape and at the same time inside your mouth say
Practice! That's the u !


My worst trouble in France was requesting "beurre" in restaurants, and I love butter so much.

Eileen Armstrong

Yaourt is it for me.
It will be really fun to hear ten of these done right!

Bill Facker

As you know, Kristin .. after loving France and visiting as much or more than anyone I know, my French linguistic skills are sorely lacking .. THEREFORE, I speak "Heart" .. it has served me well for many years - no pronunciation necessary. Aloha!

Cornelia Emery

Hareng (herring in English) Not only can I not say it, I can't even remember how you're supposed to say it!
Also 'treize'. 13 is certainly an unlucky number for me as well especially when I have to make lunch reservations. I can hear them valiantly trying not to laugh!


écureuil - it's a tricky one, for sure ... but I take pleasure in hearing the French try to pronounce the English word! It makes me not feel so bad. :)


écureuil...for me, and as I look through the comments here, it is difficult for many others as well. My French friends however find squirrel very difficult also!

GiGi Marceau

le nôtre always drove me around the bend.


Miss sir - otherwise known as Monsieur!

Leslie in Oregon

In my high school, "foreign" languages were taught using the Audio-Lingual Method, in which the students were to learn much like a child learns its first language. In my ALM French studies, we heard and spoke nothing but French (in class and in the language lab) from the first day (and we did not see any written French until sometime during the second year). This was a very effective approach, and some 50 years later, it continues to provide a firm foundation for my use and continued learning of French.

Here is how we were taught to say the "u" in "tu:" say "eeeeee" broadly, then say "oooooh" broadly, then, with the mouth still in that "oooooh" position, try to say "eeeeee." What emerges is the correct French "u" as in "tu."

maryann new york

There is an old fashioned children's rhyme which is: "Tur-lu-tu-tu-chapeau pointu" Say it over and over being careful to master the 'u' and distinguish it from 'ou'. Repeat 'u' 'ou' over and over so that you hear the difference. You will never mispronounce the French 'u'.


Prendre. I never know which "R" to pronounce particulary in different tenses.

Mary Christopher

Fauteuil is by far the worst!


Hmmm ... it's a toss-up between "accueil" and "libellule". Fortunately, they are not everyday words that I need to rely on for communicating with my Breton wife.

julie camp


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