How to Order at a French Restaurant Without Sounding Très Stupide

Some dish names are often, well, butchered by well-meaning diners
Staff Writer

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

How to Order at a French Restaurant Without Sounding Dumb (Or Pretentious)

For many people, speaking French can be tough. There's that silent "h" and that difficult, back-of-the-throat "r" that you have to learn how to pronounce, not to mention all those different "u" sounds. It’s no wonder fewer and fewer Americans seem to be learning the language in school or elsewhere anymore — Spanish just seems so much more practical. Still, like Italian (click here to master your Italian-ordering skills), it's difficult to deny the appeal and beauty of the language, not to mention the sophistication points you win when you confidently order a menu item in French.

Click for How to Order at a French Restaurant Like a Pro Slideshow.

Although most French restaurants provide English translations of dishes these days, there are still some words that you may find yourself fumbling to pronounce. And on a first date or during a business meeting, the last thing you want is to feel unprepared or inadequate. To avoid being embarrassed in these kinds of situations, there are three general rules that you can follow.

First, gargle your "r’s". Most "r’s" in French are pronounced from the back of the throat, almost as if they are being gargled. Wherever you are, maybe at work (in the bathroom, or perhaps better, at home), practice by pretending you’re gargling some mouthwash on the back of your tongue. Believe it or not, that's the noise that you're going for.

Second, if a word ends with a consonant, don’t pronounce the last letter. For example, homard (lobster) should be pronounced "oh-marr." And this leads to a third rule: the majority of their "h’s" are silent. The French have a very hard time with the hard "h’s" in the English language — they don’t have any equivalent in French. So try to suppress any desire to firmly pronounce an "h," because in French you rarely need to!

Keep these tips in mind while viewing the accompanying slideshow. It explains the correct way to say 10 commonly mispronounced food words, so you can order with confidence at any French restaurant.

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