> SlowTrav > France > Instructions for Visitors > Language Lessons

French Language Lessons: How to Pronounce France Place Names

David Ronis

France is organized administratively into régions, départements, arrondisements, cantons, and communes. (Notes: the term arrondisement, in this context, refers to a subdivision of a département, and not a neighborhood in Paris. Also, each of these French terms has either an English cognate -- e.g. "region" -- or an anglicized pronunciation - "canton".) This system can be challenging for North American travelers to understand as the political and geographic organization of France is different than ours. Generally, travelers are most aware of régions (such as Alsace), départements (like Seine-et-Marne), and communes - which are roughly equivalent to cities and incorporated towns in the U.S. Pauline's Regions of France page contains descriptions of these divisions as well as excellent detailed maps. In addition, the Subdivisions of France pages on Wikipedia provide more detailed information for those interested.

Names of French places can be tricky to pronounce, often seeming to defy all rules. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that many place names are derived from older versions of the language incorporating regional dialects, local spelling and pronunciation, and to which modern rules do not apply. Often, if you would like to know how to pronounce a place name, it's best to either consult a native speaker or a pronouncing dictionary. In an effort to assist travelers, this lesson provides a pronunciation guide for the names of all the régions and départements in France as well as selected cities.

Listen

You can listen to the lessons. The audio versions are at the bottom of each section.

Notes on Pronunciation

French words tend to be accented lightly on the last syllable or the last syllable of a group of words. In rare instances for emphasis or where this is not the case, an accented syllable will be indicated by ALL CAPS. Liaisons are indicated by red, italicized initial consonants (e.g. "Puis-je vous aider?" pronounced as "pwee-zhuh voo zeh-day"). See Guide to Transliteration for more information.

Régions

The largest administrative subdivisions in France are régions, comparable in size to states in the U.S. or provinces in Canada, proportionate to the entire country.

FRENCH SAY IT LIKE THIS
Région ray-zhoh
Alsace ahl-sahs
Aquitaine ah-kee-tehn
Auvergne oh-vehr-nyuh*
Basse-Normandie bahs-nohr-mah-dee
Bourgogne boor-goh-nyuh*
Bretagne bruh-tah-nyuh*
Centre sahtr(uh)
Champagne-Ardenne shah-pah-nyuh*-ahr-dehn
Corse kohrs
Franche-Comté frahsh-koh-tay
Haute-Normandie oht-nohr-mah-dee
Île-de-France eel-duh-frahs
Languedoc-Roussillon lah-guh-dohk-roo-see-yoh
Limousin lee-moo-za**
Lorraine loh-rehn
Midi-Pyrénées mee-dee-pee-ray-nay
Nord-Pas-de-Calais nohr-pah-duh-kah-leh
Pays de la Loire peh-ee duh lah lwahr
Picardie pee-kahr-dee
Poitou-Charentes pwah-too-shah-raht
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur proh-vahs-ahlp-koht-dah-zewr
Rhône-Alpes rohn-ahlp

* What we're calling the third syllables of Auvergne, Bourgogne, Bretagne and Champagne are not really proper syllables and should be pronounced very lightly.

** Third syllable rhymes with "hat".

Listen

You can hear this part of this lesson being spoken.

Download MP3 soundtrack: fr_places_regions.mp3 (108kb)
Click on the link to play the sound file (it may take a minute to download). Right click to download the file to save on your computer.

Départements

Départements are subdivisions of régions. Unlike régions, départements do have elected officials. Also the national government appoints a representative to each departement, a préfet. In addition to their names, départments are given a two digit numerical code, which is incorporated into the postal code.

FRENCH SAY IT LIKE THIS
Département day-pahrt-mah
Préfet pray-feh
Ain a*
Aisne ehn
Allier ah-lyay
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence ahlp-duh-oht-proh-vahs
Hautes-Alpes oht-ahlp
Alpes-Maritimes ahlp-mah-ree-teem
Ardèche ahr-dehsh
Ardennes ahr-dehn
Ariège ah-ryezh
Aube ohb
Aude ohd
Aveyron ah-veh-roh
Bouches-du-Rhône boosh-dew-rohn
Calvados kahl-vah-dohs
Cantal cah-tahl
Charente shah-raht
Charente-Maritime shah-raht-mah-ree-teem
Corrèze koh-rehz
Corse-du-Sud kohrs-dew-sewd
Haute-Corse oht-kohrs
Côte d'Or koht dohr
Côtes d'Armor koht dahr-mohr
Creuse kruhz
Dordogne dohr-doh-nyuh**
Doubs doo
Drôme drohm
Eure uhr
Eure-et-Loir uhr-ay-lwahr
Finistère fee-nee-stehr
Gard gahr
Haute-Garonne oht-gah-rohn
Gers zhehr(s)***
Gironde zhee-rohd
Hérault ay-roh
Ille-et-Vilaine eel-ay-vee-lehn
Indre a*dr(uh)
Indre-et-Loire a*dray-lwahr
Isère ee-zehr
Jura zhew-rah
Landes lahd
Loire-et-Cher lwahr-ay-shehr
Loire lwahr
Haute-Loire oht-lwahr
Loire-Atlantique lwahr-aht-lah-teek
Loiret lwah-reh
Lot loht
Lot-et-Garonne loht-ay-gah-rohn
Lozère loh-zehr
Maine-et-Loire mehn-ay-lwahr
Manche mahsh
Marne mahrn
Haute-Marne oht-mahrn
Mayenne mah-yehn
Moselle moh-zehl
Meuse muhz
Morbihan mohr-bee-ah
Meurthe-et-Moselle muhrt-ay-moh-zehl
Nièvre nyehvr(uh)
Nord nohr
Oise wahz
Orne ohrn
Pas-de-Calais pah-duh-kah-leh
Puy-de-Dôme pwee-duh-dohm
Pyrénées-Atlantiques pee-ray-nay-zaht-lah-teek
Hautes-Pyrénées oht-pee-ray-nay
Pyrénées Orientales pee-ray-nay-zoh-ree-ah-tahl
Bas-Rhin bah-ra*
Haut-Rhin oh-ra*
Rhône rohn
Haute-Saône oht-sah-ohn
Saône-et-Loire sah-ohn-ay-lwahr
Sarthe sahrt
Savoie sah-vwah
Haute-Savoie oht-sah-vwah
Paris pah-ree
Seine-Maritime sehn-mah-ree-teem
Seine-et-Marne sehn-ay-mahrn
Yvelines eev-leen
Deux-Sèvres duh-sehvr(uh)
Somme sohm
Tarn tahrn
Tarn-et-Garonne tahr-nay-gah-rohn
Var vahr
Vaucluse voh-klewz
Vendée vah-day
Vienne vyehn
Haute-Vienne oht-vyehn
Vosges vohzh
Yonne yohn
Territoire de Belfort teh-ree-twahr duh behl-fohr
Essonne eh-sohn
Hauts-de-Seine oh-duh-sehn
Seine-Saint-Denis sehn-sa*-duh-nee
Val-de-Marne vahl-duh-mahrn
Val-d'Oise vahl-dwahz

* Rhymes with "hat"

** What we're calling the third syllable of Dordogne is not really a proper syllable and should be pronounced very lightly.

*** the final "s" is sometimes pronounced

Listen

You can hear this part of this lesson being spoken.

Download MP3 soundtrack: fr_places_departments.mp3 (538kb)
Click on the link to play the sound file (it may take a minute to download). Right click to download the file to save on your computer.

France Cities and Towns

Unfortunately it's impossible to include a pronunciation guide for every town and city in France here. The following selection is a list of some the most popular tourist destinations. Some of them are also names of other administrative areas.

If there is a name of a town not included in this list that you would like to know how to pronounce, post your question on the French French Language Forum on the Slow Travel Message Board.

FRENCH SAY IT LIKE THIS
ville veel
Abbéville ah-bay-veel
Agen ah-zhah
Aix-en-Provence ex-ah-proh-vahs
Ajaccio ah-zhahk-syoh
Albi ahl-bee
Alençon ah-lah-soh
Amiens ah-mee-ah
Angers ah-zhay
Angoulême ah-goo-lehm
Anjou ah-zhoo
Annecy ahn-see
Arles ahrl
Arras ah-rahs
Auch ohsh
Aurillac oh-ree-yahk
Auxerre oh-sehr
Avignon ah-vee-nyoh
Bar-le-Duc bahr-luh-dewk
Bastia bah-styah
Bayonne bah-yohn
Beaune bohn
Beauvais boh-veh
Belfort behl-fohr
Belle-île behl-eel
Besançon buh-zah-soh
Blois blwah
Bonnieux bohn-nyuh
Bourges boorzh
Brest brehst
Briançon bree-ah-soh
Caen kah
Cahors kah-ohr
Calais kah-leh
Cannes kahn
Carcasonne kahr-kah-sohn
Carnac kahr-nahk
Carpentras kahr-pah-trah
Cavaillon kah-vah-yoh
Châlons-sur-Marne shah-loh-sewr-mahrn
Chambéry shah-bay-ree
Chambord shah-bohr
Chamonix shah-moh-nee
Charleville Mézières sharl-veel may-zyehr
Chartres shahrtr(uh)*
Châteauroux shah-toh-roo
Chaumont shoh-moh
Cherbourg shehr-boor
Clermont-Ferrand klehr-moh-feh-rah
Colmar kohl-mahr
Courchevel koor-shuh-vehl
Coustellet koo-stuh-leh
Créteil kray-tay
Digne deen(yuh)
Digne-les-Bains deen(yuh)-leh-ba**
Dijon dee-zhoh
Dinan dee-nah
Dinard dee-nahr
Épinal ay-pee-nahl
Évry ay-vree
Èze ehz
Foix fwah
Fontainebleau foh-tehn-bloh
Fréjus fray-yewss
Gap gahp
Gérardmer zhay-rahr-may
Gordes gohrd
Grenoble gruh-nohbl(uh)
Guéret gay-reh
Hyères ee-yehr
Issoire ees-wahr
La Rochelle la roh-shehl
La Roche-sur-Yon lah rohsh-sewr-yoh
Laon lah
Laval lah-vahl
Le Havre luh ahvr(uh)
Le Mans luh mah
Le Puy-en-Veley luh pwee-ah-vuh-leh
Lille leel
Limoges lee-mohzh
Lourdes loord
Lyon lee-oh
Mâcon mah-koh
Marseille mahr-say
Massif Central mah-seef sah-trahl
Melun muh-luh
Mende mahd
Menton mah-toh
Metz mehts
Montargis moh-tahr-zhee
Montauban moh-toh-bah
Mont Blanc moh-blah
Mont-de-Marsan moh-duh-mahr-sah
Montélimar moh-tay-lee-mahr
Montluçon moh-lew-soh
Montpellier moh-puh-lyay
Note: even in compound names, the "t" in "Mont" is only pronounced if it is followed by a vowel.
Mont-Saint-Michel moh-sa**-mee-shehl
Morlaix mohr-leh
Moulins moo-la**
Mulhouse mewl-ooz
Nancy nah-see
Nanterre nah-tehr
Nantes naht
Narbonne nahr-bohn
Nevers nuh-vehr
Nice nees
Nîmes neem
Niort nyohr
Orléans ohr-lay-ah
Paris pah-ree
Pau poh
Périgueux pay-ree-guh
Perpignan pehr-pee-nyah
Point du Raz pwa** dew rah
Poitiers pwah-tyay
Pontoise poh-twahz
Privas pree-vah
Quiberon keeb-roh or kee-buh-roh
Quimper ka**-pehr
Reims rass**
Rennes rehn
Rochefort rohsh-fohr
Rodez roh-dehs or roh-dehz
Rouen roo-ah
Saint Brieuc sa** bree-uh
Saint Malo sa** mah-loh
Saint Rémy sa** ray-mee
Saint-Lô sa**-loh
Somme sohm
Saignon seh-nyoh
Saint-Étienne sa**-tay-tyehn
Strasbourg strahs-boor
Tarbes tahrb
Toulon too-loh
Toulouse too-looz
Tours toor
Troyes trwah
Tulle tewl
Valence vah-lahs
Vanne vahn
Versailles vehr-sahy(uh)***
Vesoul vuh-zool
Villefranche veel-frahsh

* Try to pronounce in one syllable. If that's too difficult, "shahr-truh" is acceptable.

** Rhymes with "hat".

*** The second syllable basically duplicates the diphthong in the English word, "sigh."

Listen

You can hear this part of this lesson being spoken.

Download MP3 soundtrack: fr_places_towns.mp3 (763kb)
Click on the link to play the sound file (it may take a minute to download). Right click to download the file to save on your computer.

Swiss & Belgian Cities

We are also including a pronunciation guide for names of some Swiss and Belgian cities as well as other countries where French is spoken.

FRENCH SAY IT LIKE THIS
Bruges brewzh
Bruxelles brew-sehl
Charleroi shahrl-rwah
Genève zhuh-nehv
La Chaux-de Fonds lah shoh-duh-foh
Lausanne loh-zahn
Liège lyehzh
Lucerne lew-sehrn
Martigny mahr-tee-nyee
Mons mohs
Montreux moh-truh
Neuchâtel nuh-shah-tehl
Nyon nyoh
Valais vah-leh
Vaud voh

Listen

You can hear this part of this lesson being spoken.

Download MP3 soundtrack: fr_places_swiss_belg.mp3 (88kb)
Click on the link to play the sound file (it may take a minute to download). Right click to download the file to save on your computer.

Other Francophone Countries

FRENCH SAY IT LIKE THIS
pays peh-ee
Algérie ahl-zhay-ree
Belgique behl-zheek
Cameroun kahm-roon
Canada kah-nah-dah
Congo koh-goh
Côte d'Ivoire koht dee-vwahr
Gabon gah-boh
Haïti ah-ee-tee
Luxembourg lewk-sah-boor
Monaco moh-nah-koh
Niger nee-zhehr
Sénégal say-nay-gahl
Suisse swees

Listen

You can hear this part of this lesson being spoken.

Download MP3 soundtrack: fr_places_other.mp3 (76kb)
Click on the link to play the sound file (it may take a minute to download). Right click to download the file to save on your computer.

Back to Top

Car Rental Hotel Booking Flight Booking Train Tickets Books, Maps, Events
Europe Cell Phones Long Distance Cards Luggage, etc. Travel Insurance Classifieds

* Advertise on Slow Travel | Post your travel questions on the Slow Travel Forums

Copyright © 2000 - 2014 SlowTrav.com, unless noted otherwise. Slow Travel® is a registered trademark. Contact Slow Travel

RSS Feeds - Link to Us - Disclaimer - Privacy Policy - Currency Converter - Colophon - Sponsors - Become a Member
Home | Forums | Slow Travel? | Europe Trip Planning | Photos | Trip Reports | Search | About Us | Classifieds