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[ε] in the French language sounds like a double vowel, close to the English [ei], how should I pronounce it correctly? Besides, a French [ε] sound sounds obviously different from an English [ε]. Can you help me with my question?

  • The OP hasn't shown up seen since pretty much when the question was asked. However, it would be useful to know where they got exposed to that type of pronunciation, and a few words that showed that peculiar feature. I suspect the specified diphthong would occur in words historically containing long ε, like bête, maître or poussière, but it would still be nice to get a confirmation. Also, the location could prove useful, as [ei] to me seems to display a thick and totally assumed local accent. – Pas un clue Jun 12 at 15:44
  • Could you please add examples of both French and English words that illustrate the pronunciation you are talking about? Strictly speaking, [ε] should be essentially the same in both languages. – Tsundoku Jun 12 at 21:26
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[ɛ] is not a diphthong (what you call a "double vowel") it is a mid-open front vowel. On the wiktionary you can listen to the word tête and have the IPA phonetic transcription besides. Moreover for this word you can compare the pronunciation in different types of French, you can see that the word is pronounced with the sound [ɛ] in France and with a diphthong [æi] in Quebec.

For your information, an English word with the sound [ɛ]: dress.

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  • Of course, if you listen to the Canadian ones in that link you'll hear some pretty strong diphthongs :) – Luke Sawczak Jun 7 at 17:40
  • There seems to be a fairly strong agreement about calling the /ɛː/ phonem off the French language altogether, but the Quebec variety still makes abundant use of it, mostly according to the old ways, but also in untraditional ways (some of which are criticized, though they are used by pretty much everybody but the most ferocious language freaks: mètre would be one such example). That being said, tête in Quebec would be /tɛːt/ (realisations vary: proper [æː], familiar [æːj], relax [aij]), not /tɛt/. A few words that would use /ɛ/ → bette, craie, dette, guetter, haie, mais, mettre, tes. – Pas un clue Jun 10 at 14:19
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Here are two samples of the French [ɛ]:

As an example, consider the letter L which sounds roughly the same ([ɛl]) in French and in English.

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