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  2.1 The sounds - an overview

French has 26 letters, 37 phonemes (sounds) and 130 graphemes. A grapheme is defined as a depiction of a sound in writing. In English, for example, the words"cough" and "deaf" end in the same sound, but that sound is written differently.
Given the number of phonemes and graphemes in French, the same sound is often written differently.We have mentioned this already in chapter 1.

Vowels: There are 19 vowels. Of these, 4 are nasal sounds. These four are quite a challenge. Another challenge is the different sounds of the vowel e; the sounds are quite similar, which does not make things easier.
The 'Umlauts' in French are another problem for English speakers. However, before we have a closer look at all of them we should define: What actually is a vowel?
A vowel is a sound that can be uttered freely, without a physical impediment. Only the amount of room in one´s mouth available to enable resonance determines the sound that will be made. A nasal vowel sound uses the room in one´s nose for resonance. The vowel sound enables the tongue to return to a position from which it can form the next consonant. If you try to pronounce the following acronyms without a vowel, you will see how difficult it is:

FTP - File Transfer Protocol
HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol
www - world wide web
LC - Letter of Credit

As a summary you will find the following overview. As you will see we use the phonetic script. This will enable you to know the pronunciation of a new word when looking it up in a dictionary.

12 vowels
Phonetic Script Grapheme
ici (here), lit (bed), stylo (pen), îleSS (island), maïs (mais), meeting (meeting)
légère (light), télé (TV), parler (to speak), nez (nose), pied (foot), messieurs (gentlemen), poignée (fist), volontiers (gladly)
sec (dry), père (father), chienne (female dog), merci (thank you), jouet (toy), lait (milk), mtre (master), payer (to pay), treize (thirteen), être (to be), Noël (Christmas), volley (volley)
patte (paw), sac (sack), à (to), femme (woman)
lune (mood), sûr (sure), eu (had)
je (I)
feu (fire), nœud (knot), jne (to fast)
fleur (flower), cœur (heart), club (club)
poule (chicken), (where), gter (to taste, to try, to eat), football (football), août (August)
vélo (bicycle), landau (baby carriage), bateau (ship), drôle (funny)
pomme (apple), album (album), alcool (alcohol)
pâte (dough), phrase (phrase)

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