I often hear my students say "I don't understand the French, they speak too fast!" "Spoken French is so different from written French."

(you, to the French)

The truth is that the French don't speak that fast. And yes, if we look at this study from Science Advances, the French language is only the seventh-fastest language in the world, just before English which is in eighth place. And far behind Spanish which is in second place.

So, why do we have the impression that the French speak so fast? And why is it so hard to understand them? I'll explain why in this content today. And most importantly, I'm going to give you some tips on how to better understand spoken French. And stay tuned until the end, because I have a surprise for you.

For our exercise today, we're going to take an excerpt from the well-known French series Dix pour cent.


Many of you have watched and loved this series, but many of you have also told me that you don't fully understand the dialogues. Indeed, it is a series in which every day and familiar vocabulary is used. It's also a series about the world of work, and in the world of work, you want to go fast and get a message across quickly. For you, it is sometimes not easy to understand.


Spoken French VS written French :

First extract:

Let's observe:

"Je veux absolument aller voir la pièce de Koltès au théâtre du Rond-Point cette semaine, tiens. Prends-moi deux places pour mardi."
(sentence from episode 1, season 1)


Je veuxbecomes “J’veux

Cette semaine→ “Cet’semaine” : it's like one word.

Tiens” = The word “tiens” in French is here a filler word that has no real use. It just attracts attention.

This sentence is said in one go, without hesitation, without pause. When we speak in French, we don't really pause unless there is a punctuation mark.

There is not one syllable or word that is more stressed than another. In French, we don't stress words and syllables much unless it is to get a message across.

This sentence, for example, can feel like it's just one long word, because there's no pause between the words.

It's quite monotonous, actually. Hence the difficulty for a non-native to understand every word in this sentence.


Second extract:

Demain, tu me réserves une table au Fumar, je déjeune avec Audiard et Arestrup. Je te le prends, hein. Merci.
(sentence from episode 1, season 1)

Tu me réserves” becomes “Tu m’réserves”. The "e" in French is very often suppressed, not pronounced.

Je déjeune” becomes “J’déjeune”.

Je te le prends” becomes “Jte l’prends.”

You see, actually, it's not that we talk fast. We eat the words. Instead of actually pronouncing each letter and syllable correctly. We delete letters and syllables. And we pronounce many words as if they were one word.

We don't speed up the way we talk. Not always. We just don't pronounce all the letters and syllables to go faster, that's true. But, our speech rate is not that fast.

We don't talk fast, we just don't pronounce all the letters and syllables in French.

Afterwards, to understand the words that are cut off when the French people speak, your ear has to get used to this way of speaking. Stay well until the end and I will give you a tool and advice for that.


Third extract:

Samuel, je peux te voir tout à l’heure ?
(sentence from episode 1, season 1)


je peux te voir” becomes “j’peux t’voir.

And for "tout à l'heure", here, we make a connection. Another very important thing to understand spoken French is the slurs.

Often, when you have a word that ends in a consonant and a word right after that begins with a vowel, we will make a connection. Not all the time! But, in oral speech, slurs are quite important and still give, it is a speed effect.


In summary:

In summary, it's difficult to understand spoken French because :


  • words are cut, not fully pronounced
  • hardly any words and syllables are stressed
  • not pronouncing all the letters and syllables
  • we make connections between words
  • pronouncing a sentence as if it were a single word


This is the explanation of why it is so difficult to understand native French people when they speak. But, then, you, how can you do to better understand the French, better understand spoken French.


This is where my surprise comes in, I created a free ebook where I explain in more detail: How to master spoken French?

  • Why is spoken French so important to know?

  • In what situations should spoken French be used?

  • The vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation of spoken French?

  • And I propose you some exercises to practice spoken French


And as a bonus, I will email you additional tips on how to understand and master spoken French in your everyday life.