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!)

roquette blossoms artichoke and golden retriever in St Cyr-sur-Mer France
Scroll down for the list of hard-to-pronounce French words, and listen to the sound file. Be sure to sign up for the weekly newsletter filled with useful everyday French vocabulary!

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

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

One of the things we language learners have in common is the fear of speaking in a foreign tongue, specifically le français! 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 he was now driving our rental car into some parking lot. On second thought, 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 French speaker? On a more practical note, what to say now?! What if it all came out garbled? In Franglais?

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 encouragingly as if to say, Ne t'inquiète pas. Vas-y! On t'écoute. Do not worry. Go ahead. We are listening to you.

Dad and me walking near port of Cassis south of France
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 Challenging 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

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

Kissing booth golden retriever dog

Merci beaucoup for coming here to learn the most difficult words to pronounce in French! I invite you now to sign up for the free weekly vocabulary newsletter from France. (See this blog's header or side column for the sign-up link, and a warm welcome to you!

Cat chat volet wooden shutter window in cassis france
"Cat in Cassis." By the way, ever wonder how to pronounce Cassis (the seaside town)? Locals pronounce it "kah-see".

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety