There are many famous French tongue twisters, such as:
- Les chemises de l'archiduchesse sont-elles sèches ou archi-sèches ? (Are the Archduchess' shirts dry or super dry?)
- Un chasseur sachant chasser peut chasser sans son chien (A hunter who knows how to hunt can hunt without his dog).
As you can see, these tongue twisters often play on alternating the [s] sound and the [sh] sound, as this is difficult for most people.
However, struggling with the French letter R is a real problem for many learners, at least at first. French R's are not difficult to make per se, but they may appear difficult at first. It's a bit like being asked to make a B-flat with a strange flute in the dark, without knowing where all the notes are beforehand. It's tricky, but not impossible with a little bit of patience and experimentation.
To help you get it right, I've come up with a several sentences with lots of R's in quick succession. They are just a lot of nonsense (as nursery rhymes can be sometimes), so don't worry about their meaning just yet. Thus, ignore the column on the right initially. Just do your best to read the French text well and to read it fast.
The rules are simple:
- Don't skip R's! They are mandatory.
- Keep in mind the exception: -er at the end of a word is usually pronounced [é], not [err].
- Don't overdo it! French R's are like a sexy purr. If you have a sore throat at the end of the exercise, you are doing it wrong!
Un rare reptile ressemble à son rival rose.
Une roche roule avec rage le long de la rampe rustique.
Un ridicule repris de justice se reproche ses rêves romantiques.
Ce rat répugnant a horreur de la réglisse rouge.
Tel un rapace dans son repaire, le requin règne sur les grands récifs de corail.
Le rire rapproche les résidents de toute race et nous fait réaliser le plaisir de vivre.
La rose rayonne parmi les iris et rehausse la rocaille de couleurs resplendissantes.
Un repas de gaufres et de rillettes est un vrai régal revigorant.
Je dois renouveler mon répertoire car ce dernier est réduit à quelques refrains.
Au réveil, je réfléchis rarement au réchauffement planétaire.
Un tracteur rouillé ne rajeunit réellement pas!
Les appareils radioactifs irradient des ondes mortelles.
J’espère que vous avez eu du plaisir à prononcer rapidement ces redoutables mots remplis de R !
A TONGUE TWISTER
A rare reptile looks like its pink rival.
A rock rolls with rage along the rustic ramp.
A ridiculous convict blames himself for his romantic dreams.
This disgusting rat abhors red liquorice.
Like a bird of prey in its den, the shark rules the great coral reef.
Laughter brings together residents of all races and make us realise (be aware of) the pleasure of living.
The rose shines among the irises and enhances the rock garden with resplendent colours.
A meal of waffles and rillettes (that's mince pork, usually spread on bread) is a real invigorating treat.
I must renew my repertoire (of songs) because the latter is reduced to only a few choruses.
Upon awaking, I rarely ponder global warming.
A rusty tractor really doesn't get any younger! (as in, it will only get worse with time).
Radioactive devices radiate deadly waves.
I hope you had fun quickly saying these fiendish words full of R’s.
* When I was young, we used to call tongue twisters “Exercice de diction” (enunciation lessons). I came across the word virelangue only later in life. Maybe it's a Canadian thing, I don't know. This precision might not but useful, but I'm a person of strong opinion, so I'll say it anyway: I don't like the word virelangue. It looks like a quick carbon copy of the English word. I don't see the need for it when we already have a beautiful (and entirely French) concept for it. Other words for tongue twisters include fourchelangue (tongue splitting) and casse-langue (tongue breaker).
I hope you had fun quickly pronouncing those fiendish words full of R's. I encourage you to try it few times.
By the way, did you know that the letter R (called [ar] in English), is called [air] in French? Make sure you say it right when you spell in French!
Now, a few words on the English translation provided next to the French text: I have to admit some bits were hard to translate faithfully because translation is not an exact science. Sometimes, an idea works in one language and not in the other. You might have noticed that when you watch a foreign film with subtitles, some translators choose to stick to the words (a bit like using Google Translate blindly) while others will try to keep the meaning (idiom, cultural references, etc.) intact. Another thing that complicates translation is the tone (slang, swearing, puns, accents, etc.). It's always a tough choice, especially in dubbed films, as the translated line has to be the same length as the original one. Also, when there is a plethora of synonyms, which one do you pick? The closest word, spelling-wise (for example, do you translate détester as "to detest"), the most common word ("to hate") or the most powerful one ("to abhor"). There is just no good answer!
But, back to my silly tongue twister. I hope you won't be disappointed by its meaning. After all, it just consists of random sentences that popped into my brain while I was creating this exercise. It was meant to be ludique (that's a French word meaning "educational, yet playful").
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