I don't think I've ever met an American who can pronounce it. (most?) Americans cannot make the sound "u". It's a very sharp, pointy sound. Try to sustain a long "ooooh" and slowly raise your tongue toward your lips to make the resonant space in your mouth as small as possible.
Another way to get there is to start with "eeee" and slowly close your lips until they are in the position used to pronounced "oooo" - only you keep the tongue where it was for the "eeeee". Now purse your lips forward.
Keep in mind us French position the sound all the way up to the front of the mouth, where the lips are, which makes it sound really .. pointy, or sharp if you want - whereas Americans place theirs all the way back in the throat, which makes your voice sound deep and resonant.
Once you got the "u" down or close, the rest is easy:
GRU - EE -- EH - R
Oh wait - Americans cannot pronounce a French R. That one I can't explain too. If that makes you feel better, I've spent years trying to pronounce the American R before I gave up. We don't make the same sounds, so we didn't develop the same muscles from birth. At one point, it's too late and you just can't learn to make certain sounds: the muscles just aren't developed for that sound.
But yeah, a good approximation would be GREW - EE - EH - R, but it'd be much better if you can get that "u" pretty close.
That was a pretty exhaustive description of the sound. And a very un-judgemental view of how difficult it is to reproduce the sounds of other languages.
Years ago in ex-yugoslavia I found all these signs saying Biro - I found out it was bureau, in this case meaning office - transcribed from the french into serbo-croatian as phonetically as possible - trying to get that narrow u into a reasonable approximation. It's really a u that is way closer to an ee than to a u.
Yes, as infants we can pronounce, potentially, any human language sound, but once we've learned which sounds are part of our language, it becomes extremely different to say them or even distinguish them sometimes. Leading to all kinds of funny situations. Most Italians can't distinguish the short i from the long ee-sounding i (bit and beet for instance). Which leads to really funny or embarrassing situations for speakers asking for a sheet of paper or a piece of paper. (i leave it to you to substitute the long and short ee and i sounds)
Same for me in the opposite direction, I never could remember which sound corresponds to e (meaning "and") in italian and e' (which means "is") - no way, i can hear them but can't remember the sound. and there are more of course. Despite having grown up hearing italian as a child, i only spoke it in my 20s for the first time, and after 35 years, am still not able to distinguish them. Luckily there are no embarrassing situations that come from it.
Well, i had a high school french teacher that said the word "de" in french was pronounced "der".
How are we ever to learn french!
When I first came to the U.S. I visited a friend in Boston, MA. We decided to make raclette. While he was at work, I thought I'd do the shopping. I walked into a supermarket, and asked for potatoes. The employee looked at me with a blank stare.
Me: "Yes, potatoes, do you have any potatoes?"
Him: "Do we have any ... whaaaat?"
Me: "Potatoes!" (getting slightly frustrated that he couldn't even understand a simple word)
Him: "I'm sorry - what? Toys?"
Suddenly I became very, very frustrated with myself not being able to communicate on the most basic level. How could my attempt at pronouncing "Potatoes" turn into him understanding "Toys" was just... completely beyond my understanding. I think we must have ended up having pizza that night.
But years later, that little indicent suddenly made sense.
See, in France, we don't care much about tonic accent. I mean it's there (or not), and it can mean various things depending on who's talking, or simply be a personal touch, but there's a huge freedom with them. Whereas in the U.S. the tonic accent is very important. You don't say oh-RANGE. You say OH-range. But I only learned that waaaaay later. And you don't say po-ta-TOES. You say po-TA-toes.
But my French-trained brain wasn't ready for that new layer of subtility. And in France there's one place where the tonic accent matters, it's at the end of a question. In fact we have a tendency to just add an accent, or lilt, at the end of every sentence. The pitch just rises up. So my question went something like:
"Do you have any po-ta-TOES?"
And all the employee could hear was probably "something-something-TOES?". Since he assumed I wasn't seriously looking to buy toes, he suggested his next best guess, "TOYS".
I have since learned to pronounce po-TA-toes and OH-range. Just don't ask me to say "error".
Hey petalsancoco - does that sound accurate to you? First he's saying it with a definite American accent (to my ears at least), then he's attempting to imitate the French accent - but it still sounds like a foreign speaker to me.
FF - I know how you felt - stranger in a strange land. When i visited the USA, we went to a take away shop, and I felt I was speaking a different language. I was ordering some burgers for the kids, ok, got thru that, but then the clerk asked (as I eventually translated) "Would you like a soda with that?"
I could not, with different accents, for the life of me, understand him. We don't call sweet carbonated drinks here in Oz "soda". Soda = plain carbonated water. As in a scotch and soda. None of this cola, orangeade business. So, I got the jist that he was asking if we wanted a cool drink=soft drink, to me. So I asked for a lemonade. Which, again, means something completely different there from here. He meant 7-up/Sprite, I meant the same drink but in a different language. It was stressful enough travelling with a 4 year old and a 2 1/2 year old on potty training duty, plus helping ride herd on a group of under 16 female lacrosse players, making sure none of them went missing, got drunk or even worse, pregnant,....omg...I laugh now, but at the time..... Good grief. Was just trying to get a burger and a drink.
Oh, and soft drinks in Tasmania are not called soft drinks. They call them cordial. And the real cordial (concentrated flavoured sweet stuff you add water to) is called water cordial. Go figure.
P.S. I've labelled that trip in my memory as "Toilets Across America" - you just gotta be resourceful - and inventive.
I caught that.....but the French pronunciation was ok....could have used a little more RRRRrrrrr for me.
Do you agree that the French have a hard time with "th" and use "d"
My father pronounces my name "Caddie" (pet name) and for the life of him cannot say "Cathy" . My name is not Cathy by the way, a shorter version of Catherine. When saying Catherine its, pronounced , Ca-trine.
It's embarassing - I ended up having to point at his soda fountain for the one we wanted Then tossed some money at him, hoped it was enough. Must have been, as we got some change. All the money is GREEN. Ours has different colours for different denominations. $5=pink, $10=blue, $20=red,$50=yellow, $100=green. Makes it very confusing...oops gone way OT here. Sorry! He spoke English - so do I, but what a variation.
Funny: to me the R sounds right - and shouldn't be rolled. It should be really, really soft, barely there. In fact to me the second, French pronunciation has too much of a rolling R already. I guess we have different pronunciations in France and in Quebec! Let me ask you: is the second R in gruyèRe rolled as well for you? Or just the first one?
I agree most French have a problem with the "th" and use "d" instead, but for me that is not so hard to correct, and I believe I can now pronounce a correct "th" sound. Just put the tongue a little lower than for a "d", just in between the top and bottom teeth, and make it soft so the air flow is never stopped (whereas when you say "d" the air flow is stopped, just like for "k", or "p", etc....
The American R is another issue, and personally I just cannot get it right at all, no matter how hard I try. Furthermore, when an American tries to teach it to me, I cannot hear the difference between my faulty American R and his correct one. To me they sound the same, but for sure I make him laugh hard, so it's a bit frustrating. To calm my frustration I usually ask him to say "erreur" in French, or "huit" (eight) which always sounds funny when an American says it (here again, the "u" sound).
I've heard even for American toddlers, the American R is one of the most difficult sounds to get right.
One great thing about accents, is that for many of them, however frustrating they can be for the person trying to get themselves understood, they sound exotic and sometimes charming for the person listening to them. I have actually gotten various jobs thanks to my accent! And to me an American speaking French with the American accent sounds a bit exotic and definitely very cool - kinda like you're a famous hollywood actor or a rock star.
In France we say that to get the proper American accent you have to speak with a whole potato inside your mouth. Honestly I've never tried...
Funny you say that because I was just saying in the "movie thread" .....potato in the mouth....because the french like to pronounce certain vowels, why .....emphasis.
Here in Montreal , it is ALL about the accent. I do not put so much importance on it anymore especially when I am dealing with restaurants and stores. There are very few restaurants that will formally introduce themselves in English, its only French.
So being the ever so polite person that I am, if someone is pushing French conversation on me, I simply tell them " Is the manager here, I need someone who speaks English".
Then out of no where the waiter and the manager will come to table side and I start speaking..... All restaurants employees must speak both languages to get a job.
Marbles in the mouth...I know what you mean
As for the cheese.....the second "R" needs more roll, now that might be just me.
I just have to mention this here. Some years ago a fellow grad student at the U of Utah was doing an internship at some scientific institute outside of Paris, can't remember the name. My wife and I went to visit one spring. Listening to him speaking French was always entertaining. He had been born and raised in the south, so he had the proper accent and drawl one would expect from that area. And he stuttered.
We usually were able to get our point across, but sometimes the natives just stood there gawking in disbelief.
ps: Due to a camera malfunction, that entire roll of film I shot at night from the middle of various Paris streets was useless. I risked life and limb for nothing. Shucks.