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ESL Teacher Blog
The teacher's point of view: thoughts, observations and ideas about ESL teaching.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ESL Teacher Blog: French Loanwords in English - Common Pronunciation and Spelling Patterns

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/

chef
cliche
champagne
chic
chandelier
chalet
avalanche
quiche
 
/g/ sounds as /ʒ/

barrage
garage
espionage
massage
mirage
camouflage
sabotage
 
the final /t/ is silent
 
ballet
depot
fillet
bouquet
gourmet
cabaret
sorbet
beret
 
the final /ue/ are silent
 
boutique
fatigue
antique
unique
oblique
picturesque
plaque
opaque
 
the final /e/ is pronounced

attache
fiance(e)
resume
cafe
macrame
touche
souffle
matinee
 
-eau combination sounds as /əʊ/
 
bureau
bureaucrat
eau de toilette
 
spelling -ette at the end of the word
 
baguette
etiquette
bachelorette
brunette (or brunet)
vinaigrette
silhouette
cigarette
serviette
cassette
palette
omelette
 
final /s/ and /x/ are silent

Grand Prix
debris
chassis

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.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 1:01 AM   1 Comments  Add Comment



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