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Updated: Houeillès, Reims: Which is the hardest French place to say?

We asked Connexion readers for the places they would rather avoid pronouncing. Here’s some suggestions…

We look at the French place names English speakers struggle to pronounce Pic: Spech / Shutterstock

The Connexion team were recently discussing the French cities, towns and villages where we would struggle to live, because of difficulties pronouncing their name. 

We asked readers for examples of place names they also find tricky to say. 

Thank you to everyone who wrote in; we have had fun trying to pronounce them.

Suggestions include:

  • Cunlhat (Puy-de-Dôme). Pronounced Kay-ya as in kayak without the last k
  • Clermont-Pouyguillès (Gers) 
  • Ouilly-du-Houley (Calvados), which our reader joked: “Sounds a bit rude to me!” 
  • Marquixanes (Pyrénées-Orientales), which has “a bit of Catalan influence”
  • Houeillès (Lot-et-Garonne)
  • Fouesnant (Finistère) 
  • Fourques (Gard), “but I can’t think why…” our reader said
  • Rochessadoule (Gard), “I’ve practised so now I can do it!”
  • Caen (Calvados) 
  • Lourdoueix (Indre) 
  • Verneuil-sur-Igneraie (Indre) 
  • Veilleins (Loir-et-Cher) 
  • Monestiés (Tarn)
  • Caulnes (Côtes-d’Armor) 
  • Broons (Côtes-d’Armor)
  • Malestroit (Morbihan) 
  • Audaux (Pyrénées-Atlantiques)
  • Pineuilh (Gironde)

Cliff Waterman said: “I have found the pronunciation of the department where we have our second home to be difficult: l'Aude. I think it's the two vowels at the beginning which are the problem.

“Various people – French speaking as well as non-French speaking, including trilingual Dutch friends – have tried to help us with the correct pronunciation, but it still sounds right to us, wrong to them!”

Connexion columnist Julia Faiers commented: “We have a ferme auberge near us in Fers called l’Aoueille – that’s five consecutive vowels! And it’s near Montesquiou, which is also a nightmare for English speakers.”

Several people suggested that Reims was a difficult place to pronounce, with Joelle Ness saying “this is as hard as it gets!”

Give these place names a go and email us at news@connexionfrance.com if you have any to add. We will update this article with new suggestions. Thank you.

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