Lesson 4: Talk about Yourself

Learn how to briefly talk about yourself in French. Learn how say what your name and age are, where you live (city and country), what you do for a living, what you like doing, where you work and what languages you speak. Audio text with interactive exercises to improve your learning.

Read the text below and listen to the audio for pronunciation. Next, do the reading comprehension exercise and answer the questions at the end. For any problems with comprehension, take a look into the Notes section.

1. Text: Talk About Yourself in French

Bonjour. Je m’appelle Marie.
Jai 27 ans et jhabite à Nantes, en France.
Jai toujours vécu dans cette ville.
Je suis professeur de français et je travaille à l’Université.
J’aime apprendre les langues étrangères.
Je parle anglais et espagnol.
J’aime également sortir avec des amis et voyager.
Je suis déjà allée* en Allemagne, en Pologne, en Espagne,  en Angleterre et en Irlande.
Et toi, quels pays as-tu visités ?

2. Notes

Vocabulary
French English
habiter à to live, to dwell
travailler to work
aimer to like
apprendre to learn
parler to speak
les langues étrangères foreign languages
sortir to go out
aller to go
quel (quels / quelle / quelles) which, what
visiter to visit, to go to

habiter à Nantes / à Paris / à Rome
travailler à l‘hôpital / à la radio / au centre commercial
Jai vécu: I have lived / I lived …
aimer apprendre / manger / voyager / rencontrer

Grammar

Le présent et le passé (Le passé composé )

A. Simple Present Tense:

 – Le présent : current actions and situations, habits, general truths

Examples:

  • Je m’appelle Marie.
  • J’habite à Nantes.
  • Je parle espagnol.
  • Je suis professeur.

Conjugation example:

The most common French verb group is the the “-er” group, that all the verb that end on “er”. Examples: parler, habiter, aimer, s’appeler.

All of them conjugate the same way, by adding the appropriate suffixes to the stem (its base)  of the verb.  -e, -es,-e, -ons, -ez, -ent

habiter : to live in, to dwell
j’habite en France

tu habites à Paris

il / elle / on habite près de chez moi.

nous habitons ensemble

vous habitez loin

ils / elles habitent à côté.

B. Past Tense

 – Le passé composé: completed actions in the past.

être / avoir + verb (past participle).

Whether you need to use être or avoir depends on the verb.

Eg. avoir + vivre

  • Je vis à Nantes. I live in Nantes.
  • J’ai vécu à Nantes. I lived / have lived in Nantes.

Eg. être + aller

  • Je vais à Berlin. I go to Berlin.
  • Je suis allé à Berlin. I have been to Berlin.
  • Je vais à l’école. I go to school.
  • Je suis allé à l’école. I went to school / I have been to school.

! I have been to Spain = Je suis allé en Espagne = J’ai visité Espagne. 

! Je suis allé= you add the “e” at the end of the “allé” when you “Je” refers to a girl. It exists and is visible only in writing.

Le passé composé conjugation

avoir + vivre être + aller
J’ai vécu à Madrid

Tu as vécu en Espagne

Il / elle / on a vécu séparement

Nous avons vécu dans une maison

Vous avez vécu à Moscou

Ils / elles ont vécu en couple

Je suis allé à Paris

Tu es allé au travail

Il / elle / on est allé(e) se laver les mains

Nous sommes allés à l’église

Vous êtes allé(s)* vous promener

Ils / elles sont allés en vacances

The “s” in this sentence should appear if “Vous” refers to more than one person. If it is “vous” as in the polite and formal way of addressing someone, the “s” is dropped.  

3. Exercises

Reading Comprehension: 

Explanation of the exercise
Type in the French translation of the sentence in English. If you are stuck or need a suggestion, look closely into the dialogue above. Some detail might have escaped your attention.
  The punctuation marks have already been added there for you. Don't add the punctuation mark ( " . ", " ? ", " ! ") at the end of the sentence as it won't validate your answer ! Sometimes you may be asked to add a comma ( " , ") inside a sentence.
  For the French characters, if you don't know how to type them on your keyboard, please use the virtual keyboard provided below the exercise. The French characters are necessary for the sentences to be correctly completed. Otherwise, your sentence won't be validated.
  Please, remember: this kind of exercise, that is reading the lesson first and then trying to retrieve it from your memory and / or helping yourself by looking back into the lesson is EXTRAORDINARILY efficient. You will be surprised how fast you will learn and how quickly you will actually build your own sentences.
1. I live in Paris.
.
2. We have already been to Ireland.
Nous .
3. I lived in Germany.
.
4. I am an English teacher.
Je .
5. I work at school.
.
6. I like to speak French.
.
7. I have learned to speak French.
.

4. Homework

  1. Write about yourself following the structure of the dialogue in this lesson. You need to include:
    1. what your name is and how old you are
    2. where you live (city, country)
    3. what kind of work you do and where you work
    4. what you like doing
    5. what foreign languages you speak
    6. what countries you have visited
  2. Or answer the following questions. Record the answers, upload them to SoundCloud and post them in the comments below or on my Facebook page:
    1. Quel est ton prénom ?
    2. Quel âge as-tu ?
    3. Que fais-tu dans la vie ? (Où travailles-tu ?)
    4. Qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire ?
    5. Quelles langues étrangères parles-tu ?
    6. Quels pays étrangers as-tu visités ?
  3. Learn by heart the answers you have created.

French R Sound Pronunciation Practice

The French R makes you sound French and the only way to master it is through pronunciation practice.

The rrrrr sound is a distinctive sound of the French language. It gives satisfaction to those who can pronounce it effortlessly and nightmares to those who can’t.

I can say so because I have been through it.

Even if your speach is fluent, that is you understand and you speak without efforts, there might still be some slight differences in the way you pronounce certain French sounds.

Normally, anyone knowing that you are a foreigner won’t point those out, but it is indispensable if you want your French to sound, well … French.

And what makes you sound French ? Of course, the French guttural rrrrrrrr…. sound.

Why the French R is Important ?

Your French nasal sounds may be awful, your stress and intonation despicable, but as long as you are able to pronounce the French “r” you can feel French. It’s just so distinctively French that nothing beats it, but that is just my opinion….

With a correct pronunciation, you will avoid some sarcastic remarks too, people are people after all, whatever the nationality I guess …

Why did I create these exercises ?

I’m not French myself, so ever sine I came to France I wanted to learn the French language and sound French too. I just couldn’t stand the spiteful remarks and the way people would look at me if I started to speak with a hard “R”, the way the people from the eastern countries often do…

I thought that if your mouth muscles produce the sounds of your native language that your brain is subconsciously telling it to do, then all you need to do is to convince your brain to do the same but for new sounds.

And how you do that ?

By repeating the specific sounds many times. That is how you develop the muscles in your mouth to produce the sounds and get your brain accustomed to hearing them and producing them.

I don’t think it’s going to become 100% subconscious as with your mother tongue, but it will significantly improve your pronunciation.

That is why it is easier for the people already living in the country where the language is spoken since they hear and produce the specific sounds (or at least something that is close to it) on everyday basis.

However, it is wrong to think that this is the sine qua non condition to an adequate pronunciation. Far from it !

How many people have you met who have been living abroad for ages and still struggle to sound more like a native ? Lots of them.

Unfortunately, there are people who have been living for decades in a foreign country and they can’t even speak the language of their new home country. But that’s a different story, since there are many factors that must be taken into account: human factor, family relations, psychology of the individual, social contact, etc.

And this is not because they are less gifted or less smart. They just don’t know how to learn and didn’t take time to work on it.

That’s why I like to think of second language acquisition as very similar to physical workout, especially nowadays when the world is going fast and you need to (and want to) learn fast.

And this is particularly true in the case of pronunciation, since your muscles are involved in the process. It’s just you won’t come across people doing these exercises at your local gym .

How to produce the French “R” sound ? 

diagram_uvula
Uvula (french-linguistics.co.uk)

It is a sound that is produced in your throat.

What you should do is to gurgle as if you were cleaning your throat, or trying to scratch your itching pallet with the compressed air coming from your lungs.

The French “R” sound is what the specialist call a uvular fricative.

You need to have the feeling that the back of your pallet is working slightly and your tongue should stay motionless.

It is very close to the sound of snoring on exhalation (when you breath out). You can try this out.

It is very easy to inhale the air and make the palet vibrate. It is slightly more difficult to do the same on exhalation, but this is where you will find your French “R”.    

Of course, this is only an approximation ! Your gurgled “R” will sound a bit artificial and forced at the beginning.

To pronounce the French “R” correctly, you will have to practice it a bit to make it smooth.

You should not worry too much about pronouncing it correctly, as in the real speech you don’t pay that much attention to one particular sound.

That is also the secret of mastering this particular sound. Many learners of French commit the mistake, quite naturally, to push it a bit too far.

They overdo it and it makes them sound weird. This kind of behaviour is quite normal.

That’s why some of the learners give the whole thing up and either pronounce the “r” as the would in their native language (à l’américaine (the English style) ou à la russe (the Spanish style) , or they keep overdoing it. The solution lies, as usual, in between.

The types of “R”

You also need to know that the French “R” does not always sound the same way. Sometimes it is more or less audible. It may depend on such things like:

  • the speaker,
  • the speed of speech,
  • the place of the sound in relation to other syllables in the sentence,
  • stress that the speaker puts on that particular sound or others
  • or other things that I am not clever enough to enumerate …

But you don’t need to analyse all that in your speech, it is just good to know. With a bit of practice you will come to the same conclusion.

You might hear some of the French People make a trilling “R” with their uvula (like the one you can hear in the songs of Charles Aznavour or George Brassens).

This is not the reference however and most of the French people don’t speak like that.

How to practice the French “R” ?

In order to have an impeccable French “R” pronunciation, you must speak French and listen to a lot of French all the time ! Yeah, right….

That would take ages and would cost you a lot of frustration along the way !

In order to improve a particular aspect of something, you need to make a conscious and concentrated effort over a given period of time to accelerate its improvement.

In our case, you need to focus on that particular aspect of the French pronunciation (that is the French R sound), exhaust your muscles (yes, your mouth and throat have muscles too !), by repeating the sound in exercises, exaggerating it even, and then smooth it out in speech.

Exercise 1

Do you remember that gurgling  and snoring I told you about ? You take it and you repeat it continuously with all of the French vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u). You start slowly.

With some practice you can make it faster so you can produce that uvular fricative “r” sound effortlessly.

  • ra ra ra
  • re re re
  • ré ré ré
  • ri ri ri 
  • ro ro ro
  • ru ru ru 

Exercise 2

With nasal vowels as with an, in, un, on.

In this exercise not only will you practice your French R sound but you will also practice the other distinctive French sounds, that is the nasal vowels like an [ã], in [ɛ̃], and on [õ].

  • an [ã] : grand, franc, ranger
  • in [ɛ̃] : brin, fringues, ringard
  • on [õ] : rond, front, gronder

Try to do that exercise whenever you have time (in a car, in the elevator, in your shower, etc). Once a day for a minute for one week would be perfect.

Exercise 3

The other trick is to practice with words. The ones below will really muscle your vocal apparatus. Some of them can be really hard.

They will not only make you work your French “R”, but also some other important sounds associated with o, e, é, er, an, u. 

  • rajouter, râler, racorder
  • regarder, recevoir, redire
  • répéter, réussir, récupérer
  • rire, ricaner, riche
  • robert, robinet, romantique 
  • rural, rustique, russe

 

Buy the ebook: “Master the French R Sound”

Do you want to take your French pronunciation to a higher, native like level ? Here is how !

Master the French R eBook

Example page French R

Conclusion

The best advice I can give you as a conclusion is to work hard your exercises everyday for a week exaggerating the sounds while practicing them and not to worry too much about it in the actual speech.

In fact, forget it is there and that it doesn’t sound very “RRR” like the real French “r”.

If you concentrate too much on pronouncing the French “R” correctly, not only will it sound strange but it will also wear you out, make your speech less fluent and natural and you will feel quickly exhausted.

That’s right, speaking a foreign language is kind of a strain for your brain (though beneficial and giving lots of satisfaction) so you’d better take it easy concentrate of the fun part.

Should you have any suggestions concerning how to pronounce and improve the French “R”, share it with me in the comments !

 

Lesson 1: Introduce Yourself

Learn how to introduce yourself in French, tell your name, your age and where you are from. You will also see how to ask simple questions in French, basic French conjugation, the verb to be (être), to have (avoir), to be called (s'appeler) and you will discover names of different nationalities in French. You will also have your first lesson on French phonetics: how to correctly pronounce je, j'ai, tu and d'où.

1. Dialogue : Je m’appelle … .

Comment t’appelles-tu ?
– Je m’appelle José.
Es-tu espagnol ?
– Oui, je suis espagnol. Je viens de Barcelone.
Quel âge as-tu ?
– J’ai 21 ans. Et toi ?
Moi, je m’appelle Julien, j’ai 25 ans et je suis français.
Je viens de Bordeaux.


 

2. Notes

Comments on French grammar, vocabulary, phonetics.

Grammar: Basic Conjugation

A. Basic words of French: 

être, avoir, venir, s'appeler (more about the conjugation of the 2 most important verbs in this article) 

Congratulations! You have just discovered three very basic albeit important and frequent French verbs and one reflexive verb: a very common type of verb in Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, among others).
s’appeler = to be called
Je m'appelle Jean. | Tu t'appelles Tom. | Elle s'appelle Anna. | Il s'appelle Julien.

être = to be
Je suis espagnol. | Tu es français. | Elle / Il est de Paris. ( She / He is from Paris)

avoir = to have
J’ai suis 21 ans. (Je + ai = J'ai). | Tu as une voiture. | Il / Elle a un passeport français.

venir = to come.
 venir de = to come from venir à = to come to
Je viens de Londres (London). Tu viens de Chine. Elle vient d'Allemagne (Germany)
D'où viens-tu ? Where do you come from ? (: where)

Grammar: Asking Questions

Asking Questions in French

1. Inversion
Very formal and very polite way of asking questions.
It consists in inverting the subject and the verb.
1. Je suis espagnol. Es-tu espagnol ? (Are you Spanish ?)*
2. Il est américain. Est-il américain ? '(Are you American ?)
3. Il s'appelle Marc. Comment s'appelletil ? (  s'appelle-il e-i)
2. Est-ce que
A very popular way of asking questions in French. Used in everyday speech as well as in formal situations.
It consists in adding est-ce que before any affirmative statement.
Tu es français. Est-ce que tu es français ?
Vous avez rendez-vous. Est-ce que vous avez rendez-vous ?
3. Intonation
The easiest one and the most popular in spoken French is raising intonation.
Tu es anglais ?
Tu parles français ?
Tu viens de Bordeaux ? 

Dialogue Vocabulary

French English
s’appeler to be called / to have as a name …
être to be
avoir to have
venir to come
venir de to come from

Additional Vocabulary

Nationalities ( Les nationalités )

The names of nationalities in French are written in small letters, unlike in the English language !

French English
français French
anglais English
sénégalais Senegalese
marocain Moroccan
allemand German
russe Russian
américain American
espagnol Spanish
suédois Swedish

3. Exercise: Translate into French

Click to show the explanation of the exercise

Type in the French translation of the sentence in English. If you are stuck or need a suggestion, look closely into the dialogue above. Some detail might have escaped your attention.


  The punctuation marks have already been added there for you. Don't add the punctuation mark ( " . ", " ? ", " ! ") at the end of the sentence as it won't validate your answer ! Sometimes you may be asked to add a comma ( " , ") inside a sentence.
  For the French characters, if you don't know how to type them on your keyboard, please use the virtual keyboard provided below the exercise. The French characters are necessary for the sentences to be correctly completed. Otherwise, your sentence won't be validated.
  Please, remember: this kind of exercise, that is reading the lesson first and then trying to retrieve it from your memory and / or helping yourself by looking back into the lesson is EXTRAORDINARILY efficient. You will be surprised how fast you will learn and how quickly you will actually build your own sentences.

1. What's your name ?
?
2. My name's José.
José.
3. Are you Spanish ?
?
4. Yes, I'm Spanish.
Oui, .
5. I come from Barcelone.
.
6. How old are you ?
?
7. I'm 21 years old. And you ?
. Et toi ?
8. My name is Julien.
Julien.
9. I'm 25 (years old).
ans.
10. I'm French.
.
11. I come from Bordeaux.
.

4. Homework

  1. Read the dialogue aloud 3 times. Do it slowly, be careful with your pronunciation. You need to feel your facial and tongue muscles work. This will do miracles to your pronunciation and will make your speech more automatic and fluent.
  2. Basing yourself on the dialogue from this lesson, answer the following questions (your name, age, origin). Look up in a dictionary the words you don't know. Record your answers, upload to SoundCloud and drop you answer in the comment section !

     

    1. Comment t'appelles-tu ?
    2. Quel âge as-tu ?
    3. D'où viens-tu ?
    4. Quelle est ta nationalité ?