MusicPronunciationWhy is it easier for some people to speak a foreign language?

19 December 2022by Isabelle

Depending on what your native language is, you’ll find certain sounds easier to pronounce

The pronunciation challenges French people face when they speak other languages may not be entirely due to the French education system or the dubbing of films on TV. What a relief, non?

Each language has its own frequency, which could explain the strong French foreign accent.

When you speak, your voice operates within a specific range of frequencies which varies according to your language.

When you sing, this frequency range is called your voice tessitura, or vocal range.

This corresponds to the range between your lowest note and the highest note you can reach.

Each language has its own range of frequencies

🥉French lies within a very limited range of frequencies, between 1,000 and 2,000 Hz.

🥈British English spreads its syllables between 2,000 and 12,000 Hz.

🥇Slavic languages cover an even wider range: from 100 to 12,000 Hz, or 16,000 Hz according to some sources.


French ears are therefore exposed to a much more limited soundscape than Eastern European ears. A French person covers one octave when speaking, while a Brit masters 2.5 octaves!

❓ At this stage, you are probably wondering what the connection is between octaves and frequencies, right?


Music theory for linguists

An octave is the 8-degree interval that separates two identical notes.

Take the C major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C – My German friends would replace the B with an H).

One octave separates the lower C from the higher C. Mathematically, the higher C’s frequency is twice that of the lower C. And if I do the maths correctly (not certain I can be trusted on that :-)), speakers of Slavic languages would move over 6 octaves!!

That beats Mariah Carey’s five-octave range by a long shot!🎶

To capture the music of other languages, we have to start by “unlocking” our ears and exposing them to other frequencies.

The first step to good pronunciation lies in developing our listening skills.

Music and songs can be valuable tools.

More on the subject in upcoming blogs posts.


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