So I can pronounce friend just fine. But when you add an s to it how do you transition from the d sound to the s (/z/) sound? Do you just ignore the d altogether?
Not much of a transition needed. Compare with the word
cards, it does not become
If your native language does not have that 'ds' sound/transition, I can understand that it might be hard for you to pronounce it. In that case you can get away with
frɛnz just make sure you get that z-sound. You could maybe get away with
frɛntz if you say it fast but that might sound a bit Germanish.
In friends, most if not all native English speakers definitely have a /d/ sound. It's just that the /d/ is unreleased ([d̚]), so it's barely perceptible. Unreleased means that the airflow blocked for the /d/ at the alveolar ridge remains there and is not released like a normal /d/. So you hear frenz.
This is very accent specific and there's no real "wrong" way within the following
- z - the D is softened to the point that the ds becomes a Z sound
- Dz - the D is slightly softened, but the D is still pronounced. The S becomes a Z sound
- Dss/tss - the S becomes almost a hiss, with the D remaining fairly sharp and the D almost resembling a T
- ss - as above, the s becomes a hiss but the D is softened or almost entirely dropped
My own accent (one of the many North-Western English accents) mostly uses the latter two