Which French accents are the hardest to understand?

Geography and the speed at which people speak have an influence

Some areas also have their own unique vocabulary
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Reader Question: Is the French that people speak in certain regions easier to understand than others? Are there any stereotypically difficult accents?

France has many regional accents, similar to the UK and most other countries, which can make it hard for non-native speakers to understand what is being said. 

How easy it is to understand an accent depends on how and where you learned French. If your teacher spoke with a Marseillais accent, then you will probably find the Marseillais accent the easiest to understand. 

That being said, the French spoken in some regions has a reputation of being easier to understand, or ‘purer’. 

Tours, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department, is reputed to have the purest and most neutral accent. Residents do not speak particularly fast or slowly and it is supposedly closest to ‘classic’ French, without any strong regional influence. 

Literary figures

Touraine, an ancient province of France, used to be home to literary and intellectual figures such as Honoré de Balzac, and was the unofficial residence of many kings. This may be why the French spoken has evolved to be closest to the ‘Académie française’ ideal of French. 

The French spoken in Paris is also fairly neutral, and close to the French that would typically be taught in schools. There is not really a clear Parisian accent because people from so many different regions live there. 

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Another factor to take into account is the speed at which people speak. Parisians tend to speak quite quickly, whereas those from Normandy speak at a more moderate pace for example. 

Generally speaking, the French spoken across the country is fairly similar, outside of some areas with a strong regional accent, such as in the very north or south of France. 

Marseille has a strong regional accent, with pain being pronounced paing

Similarly, in the far north, locals speak in a strong regional accent that has lots of its own unique vocabulary called Ch'ti.

If you watch the film Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, one of France's most beloved comedy films, you will hear many people speaking Ch'ti.


Each region also has its own slang terms.

If you asked French people which accent they find most difficult to understand, it would depend on which French they are most used to hearing. 

However, they would agree that one type of accent is very difficult to understand: the Canadian or Quebecois accent. As French people have so little exposure to this, it can be difficult for them to decipher. 

Read more: 9 ‘English’ words in French that do not exist in English