I'm afraid without sound clips, this post isn't going to be nearly as funny as when it happened live in class . . . but if you're willing to read, I'm willing to try.
The Francophone R is pronounced with a much more airy sound than our strongly defined American-Anglophone R. When making the American-Anglophone R, the tongue has a very defined job . . . as the tongue contracts, it bends backward and nearly touches the roof of the speakers mouth. As the diaphragm passes the air around this specific formation, the vibrations from the vocal cords transform into the American-Anglophone R. However, when forming the Francophone R, things get a little vague. Voile du palais relevé. Resserrement du passage de l'air à l'arrière de la bouche au niveau de la luette. Did you get that?? Good. What it says is to lift the palate and force the air through the back of the mouth at the level of the uvula . . . what it means is to gargle while you speak . . . but with a very soft, airy, flowery, gentile French gargle.
Those of you who know me, know how difficult (okay, impossible) it is for me to do anything soft and gentile . . . let alone flowery!
My prof is soft and gentile . . . she does everything delicately. Especially her R's (some tell me it's because it's her mother tongue, but I think it's a gift). Répétez, S'il vous plaît, she says softly. Corps-fort-mort-bord-port. We repeat in unison (which is always safer because then she can't pick out who's off . . . or so I always hope): CoRps-foRt-moRt-poRt. Round Two: Corps-fort-mort-bord-port. We repeat in unison encore, this time a little closer.
Marie se marie à Paris. Éric sera heureux des rues décorées. My prof calls on me to read: MRaie se mRaie à Paris. Éric sRa hReuex des rues décRoées I say. Non, Déborah. Pas les consons ensemble. Entends: Marie se marie à Paris. Éric sera heureux des rues décorées. (No, Deborah, Not the consonants together. Listen: Marie se marie à Paris. Éric sera heureux des rues décorées.) I try again. Same thing: Éric sRa hReuex des rues décRoées. Only, I don't hear anything wrong. Figures.
Today, we continued our lesson on the R. I was kicking myself for forgetting my dictaphone as I'm pretty sure you would be rolling on the floor by now with laughter. When combined with a kuh sound or puh, fuh, or tuh I can do it: saCRe-naCRe-suCRe . . . afFRes-cofFre-chifFRe . . . âPRe-câPRe-lèPRe . . . noTRe-fenêTRe-minisTRe. Even the consonne sonore et [R] I can make (those are actually much easier, as they are more of a rolled R (inside your mouth) than a trilled R (inside your mouth, as if you are gargling while speaking--TRICKY!!) . . . oGRe-maiGRe-tiGRe . . . coBRa-caBRi-caBRer . . . you get the idea.
Now imagine my dismay when we had words that have double R's!! Rouvrir . . . raccrocher . . . rapparaître . . . réaffirmer. DISASTER!! It took all the force my diaphragm could muster to make the first R, so by the time I got to the second I just couldn't roll anything! But I guess the bright side of that is that I'm reading multi-syllabic words quicker now.
But then here's the clincher . . . in French there is this thing called le chute du 'emuet'. The emuet is the phonetic symbol for the sound 'uh' (shown right) as in America. Le chute du 'emuet' is when the Francophone decides not to pronounce the emuet while speaking . . . but it's done so in a very precise, premeditated manner: either the impaire or the paire. The impaire is the first, third, fifth, seventh, ninth . . . emuet. The paire then, is the second, fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth . . . emuet in the sentence. So for example:
If the phrase is: Je te demande de venir demain lentement.
The impaire is pronounced comme ça: Jte dmande de vnir demain lentment.
And the paire is pronounced comme ça: Jet demande dvenire dmain lentment.Reminds me a bit of trying to read Dr. Seuss quickly.