Wednesday, March 16, 2011|
ESL Teacher Blog: French Loanwords in English - Common Pronunciation and Spelling Patterns
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 1:01 AM
- It’s said that about a third of the English lexicon is borrowed from French. Intuitively, students feel the ‘foreignness’ of these words and wonder if they’re worth the effort to learn (aren’t they too rare?). Although some of the words do sound or look alien (cul-de-sac or hors d’oeuvres), they’re routinely used in daily conversations.
Looking at a number of words that share the same spelling/pronunciation pattern makes students aware of this phenomena in English and helps retain the new vocabulary. We often generalize the rule with irregular verbs (bought/fought/brought), irregular plurals (wives/leaves/loaves), silent letters (knife, knee, know), etc.; but not so much with the words of the French origin - maybe because they’re harder to think of on the spot.
As with any vocabulary, these can be introduced as a list or mixed up and left to the students to figure out the pattern:
/ch/ sounds as /sh/
- /g/ sounds as /ʒ/
- the final /t/ is silent
- the final /ue/ are silent
- the final /e/ is pronounced
- -eau combination sounds as /əʊ/
eau de toilette
- spelling -ette at the end of the word
brunette (or brunet)
- final /s/ and /x/ are silent
With practice and due to the fact that some of these words have adopted English-like pronunciation and spelling (no accent marks), they will hopefully sound less foreign to students.