Fruits frais, fruits frits, fruits cuits, fruits crus.

It’s tonguetwister time again!

Fruits frais, fruits frits, fruits cuits, fruits crus.

frwee FRAY, frwee FREE, frwee KWEE, frwee KREW. Click below to hear this!  

Fresh fruit, fried fruit, cooked fruit, raw fruit.

Grammatically, this tonguetwister makes perfect sense. But the pronunciation may drive you crazy. You will feel as if you are being tormented by Mr. Fox (of Fox in Socks fame, by Dr. Seuss): “Now is your tongue numb?” Oh, yes, it will be.

The so-called “retroflex r” in French–the one that is rolled in the back of the throat and that causes most English-speakers to curl up in despair (when it is really your tongue that should be curling  up, with its tip pointing to your soft palate)–is probably the consonant in French that is pronounced the furthest back in the mouth.

But the “wee” sound, spelled ui, is about as far front as you can get. Your lips must project forward, at the same time pinching together to make the tiniest little opening you can manage. Your whole mouth, all the way down to your chin, should feel tight: work those muscles!

You see the problem? You have to move your mouth very quickly from one extreme position to another. Luckily, your tongue can stay in its “back” position while you are saying the ui. And the f sound will help your lips to get into the right position.

But there is hope! It’s fine, in French, to use “the other r“. It’s the trilled r that is familiar to speakers of Spanish, Italian, and some other languages. And that makes this tonguetwister infinitely easier to say. Try it both ways and see which is easier for you.

You see, there’s a reason why I rarely talk about les fruits in French! That is probably my least favorite word: my “word from hell”. Everyone’s entitled to have one word like that, don’t you think?

Now is your tongue numb? Mine is!


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