Tonton, ton thé t’a-t-il ôté ta toux?
taw-TAW, taw tay tah-tee loh-tay tah TOO?
Uncle, did your tea take away your cough?
Not really so difficult to say, after all. This tonguetwister is a great way to practice the correct pronunciation of the letter t in French. It’s only a little different from the English, but worth practicing if you want to sound like a native speaker.
Take a moment to feel where the tip of your tongue lands when you pronounce English words that begin with t: tonguetwister, take, top, tip, trip. For most English speakers, the tip of your tongue will flatten itself against the ridge behind your teeth. (That’s called the alveolar ridge, in case you cared.)
But when you pronounce a French t, the tip of your tongue should actually touch the top back of your upper teeth, right about where your teeth meet your gums. This makes a lighter sound than in English, and one that inexperienced listeners sometimes mistake for a th sound, or even some other not-quite-identifiable sound.
You may already know that there’s no th sound in French, so the th in thé is pronounced exactly like a t.
So this tonguetwister should have a light, staccato sound! It’s fun to say. Have at it!