Treacherous “liaisons”

I’m afraid this is not as exciting a topic as what you might have expected.  My apologies. The French word “liaison” conveys the meaning of connection between two things, two people or, as is the subject of this post, two words. Sorry Mesdames et Messieurs.

Try to stay with me for a minute. The subject is quite a snoozer but the rules are pretty simple and it’s something that is super common so your French Immersion little champion should become familiar with how that works.

In French, unlike in English, the last letter of a word is often muted: dit, as in (il dit = he says) is pronounced “dee” and not “deet”. The t is silent. That is until it is a consonant and the next word starts with a vowel.  In “Il dit à haute voix” (he says out loud): dit à is pronounced “deetah” which sounds better to us than “deeah”.

The s at the end of a word “liaises” to the next word (provided it start with a vowel) as a z sound, as does x: dix amis (10 friends) becomes “deezahmee”.

An n at the end of a word gets verbally attached  to the next word if it starts with a vowel, even if that n is part of a composite sound in the first word (what??). An example should clarify: mon ami (my friend), verbally becomes mon nami. Get it? simple, right?

French wouldn’t be French without exceptions of course. We won’t get into details. It’s a small miracle that you made it this far down the page, I don’t want to lose you now! Let’s keep it to one common situation. After “tu” (you), a verb ends with an s but a word coming after starting with a vowel wouldn’t be “liaised”. It makes sense since it wouldn’t flow well. Just trust me on that.

Now why “treacherous” you’ve been wondering? Even though most people spell most words right, oral French tricks us into making some liaisons that are not correct. Here are a couple of common ones. Keep in mind that while they are obvious when you write them, they are sometimes not when you hear them:

– Cent ans (one hundred years) is mispronounced cen -z-ans). Same thing with “huit ans” (8 years).

– quatre écoles: liaised with a z sound as well. Not good.

Now when your language prodigy reads you a French story tonight, keep an eye out for liaison possibilities. It will take his or her verbal skills to the new level.

 

A bientôt!

 

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