Is it already Tonguetwister Tuesday again?
Oui, oui, oui!
La grosse cloche sonne.
lah gross klush SUN. Click below to hear the audio file!
The big bell is ringing.
Simple enough, until you try to say it several times. Once more, those s/sh sounds will tangle your tongue. Want to know what helps? Move your mouth!
That’s right. French is a very active language. If you speak French for an hour or so when you’re not accustomed to it, the results will be like any other form of exercise: Your face will get tired! If you are pronouncing correctly and with care, you will be using muscles that you don’t exercise all the time…muscles in your cheeks, your lips, your jaw, even your tongue!
So try this tonguetwister in front of a mirror. When you say grosse, make sure your lips are pushed forward and make a nice round shape. (If you’re older than 20 or so, you may see little pucker lines all the way around your mouth.)
When you say cloche, your mouth will open some, but your lips will still push forward to make the /sh/ sound at the end of the word. You can start that mouth-shape while you are still pronouncing the vowel in the middle of the word. Bare your teeth.
And when you say sonne, the vowel sound is the same (so keep baring your teeth!), but your lips will be more lax. You don’t need to push them forward anymore. Instead, your tongue will be busy behind your upper teeth, touching the backs of your teeth.
Are you wondering why the /o/ sounds are different? Grosse breaks the rules. The masculine form of grosse is gros (pronounced grow; no /s/ on the end). That’s what’s called an open syllable (no consonant to shut it off), so it has what’s called a closed vowel. That’s the pure /o/ sound. Since the masculine is pronounced that way, so is the feminine.
The other two words, cloche and sonne, are closed syllables (shut off by a consonant sound), so they have an open vowel sound. (Don’t ask me why; that’s just the rule…though rules are made to be broken.) You’ll notice that your mouth is more open when you say cloche sonne. The sound very closely resembles the English /uh/ sound, as in cut or mutt.
All that for a four-word tonguetwister!