'En' avion et 'Un' avion

I'm having such a difficult time distinguishing between these two sounds. Is it this difficult for French speakers? The gentleman and the lady keep asking me to translate "En/un avion" and I'm happy to do so but those two sounds are SO similar!

April 6, 2019


To answer your question, French native speakers perfectly hear the difference between those two sounds. They might seem hard to distinguish at first - however the brain just need training to get used to the language and its specific sounds.

I have found those Youtube videos which summarize every nasal vowels and the ways to write them :

Maybe it will be useful.

April 6, 2019

C'est parfait! Merci beaucoup, c'est tres utile!

April 6, 2019

They are quite different sounds, as one person explains quite well here.

In French you use quite different mouth movements and a lot of nasal sounds. Unfortunately, unless you have a diction coach, it's just a question of practice to both speak and hear correctly.

After speaking only French for 3 months once, the first time I spoke English I spoke with a French accent. I found it hilarious even though my friends had no idea what I meant (because they all had that accent).

April 6, 2019

Yes, they distinguish them all the time. It depends on context, just like in Chinese, tons of words sound the same but you can tell the words apart from what is being said in the conversation. Here is a simple example:

Il a une jouet avion. - He has a toy plane

L'homme va vivre en France. - The man is going to live in France.

There are bunch of sound alike like "est" and "et", "a" and "à" there are some in English too.

I SHOT the bear

He had a SHOT of espresso.

April 6, 2019

Just to be clear, "shot" and "shot" are pronounced exactly the same. So are "a" and "à" in French.

But "en" and "un" are not pronounced the same. It's not only a question of context here, but of correctly identifying the word.

April 6, 2019

Yes, this is logical but when the entirety of the context is "En avion" or "Un avion" it can be somewhat maddening, lol. The sentences such as "L'homme va a France en avion" and "L'homme a un avion" are obviously much easier than the standalones. Oh well, I'll just have to let my ear get a little sharper.

Thank you!

April 6, 2019

I say both of those the same?

April 6, 2019

try to emphasize the uh in un. You know the first sound we make for onion in English? Try making that sound nasally. French is a language where you can't really pronounce the last letter correctly or at all sometimes, but there are exceptions. As for en, start with a little bit of uh (like barely any emphasize) then go for a strong AW. make the AW super nasally then add an n tone to the end right into your nose. It is a nasally word en.

April 6, 2019

This is not correct, and is likely to cause even more confusion. un is pronounced as ɛ̃, which is like a nasalized e sound. Many American English speakers use quite a similar nasalized sound when saying can't. Try to say can't with more nasalization but without the c and n't. It's still a bit different, because un is a pure vowel, and the a in can't is a compound vowel or diphthong, but it's quite close.

April 7, 2019
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