The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

French Lesson

dcbrow's picture

French Lesson

This is what you get being married to a French Professor.  I said "I need to make my pâte fermenté" but I pronounced pâte as in Pat Sajak.  She said, "Your what?" in startled tones.  I said "My pâte, you know p-a with the little thing." I made finger motions for the accent.  "a-t-e.  fermenté".  "Oh," she said.  And then pronounced it correctly: Pot.  I pronounced it closer to well...  Pet which means fart.

Moral:  Be careful how you pronounce things or your bread might be more smelly than you intended.  And to think I took French in high school.

leucadian's picture

Maybe she could proofread my vocabulary post here:

ericb's picture

How funny! I will not admit to how I pronounced "Pa (with a little thing) te), other than I may have used two syllables. Of course, that was in my head. I'm too embarrassed to let anything French slip out of my mouth unless I have heard my wife (a French major in college) pronounce it first. 

I remember an online conversation I once had trying to describe the American pronunciations of "aunt." I described it as both rhyming with "ant and ont," but that was unclear to many people depending on the dialect of English they spoke natively or learned. So, I had to further describe it as "chant, pant, semANTic" vs "(baptismal) font, haunt, debutant."

My point being, could you give us a few other words rhyming with pâte, just to make sure we (I) am clear? Would "hot, knot, and naught" work, or is it more along the lines of "mote, wrote, and compote?" It might also be helpful for those who do not speak English natively (unless, of course, they speak French!).

Wow, I have officially gone deeper into this topic than I intended. That's what 5:30 am does to me, I guess. Thanks for sharing! I hope your bread is aromatic, but not, er... smelly!


johnster's picture

There are vowel sounds in French that are nasal vowels for which there is no English equivalent.  The pronunciation of the "a" in "pate" is similar to the short "a" in English from the word "father", but the tongue moves closer to the back of the mouth allowing/forcing air through the nose, and the corners of your mouth pull back further than they normally would, like a big, forced smile.  (It took a tutor to teach me that one as well as the other nasal vowels like the "i" in "vin" which is pronounced like the "o" in "on", but, again, passed through the nose.)


Studying French has just been a hobby of mine due to my love of food.  (After all, it seems that the French practically invented food!)  ;)





Patf's picture

We live in SW France and here they call bread "peng", or even "ping".
They also seem to sound the silent "e" at the ends of words, so "pâte" will be "patu". a as in lad and u as in bun.
johnster - when I learnt french at school we spent weeks practising those nasal sounds, until I had sore sinuses.

frazzled's picture

Well here in Brittany its PAh, but don't worry each region is different and the French are very forgiving with foriegners strangling their tongue!!