What is the best way to learn French?
So what's the best way to learn French? Well, the answer to that question varies from person to person. Every French learner has their own learning style and goal. The best way for you to learn French may not be the right fit for someone else. In this article we list some of the most notable options so you can find the approach that works best for you.
Rocket French is an effective and comprehensive course that takes you from absolute beginner to intermediate level in French. The secret to Rocket French are its two lesson types. The first type are the interactive audio lessons. These audio French lessons feature a real conversation between native speakers. Here you'll learn whole French phrases. The goal is to get you speaking French as soon as possible. The second type of lesson on Rocket French are the language and culture lessons. These lessons get down to the nitty-gritty of French grammar. Here you'll learn the rules behind the French language, so that you start making sentences on your own.
I'm a fan of Rocket French because it offers a balanced approach to learning a new language. Many programs teach you only phrases, and never explain to you how grammar works. Other courses make the opposite mistake and throw rules and conjugation charts at you, and then you're left speechless when it's time to talk with a real person.
Rocket French is also big on practicing what you learn. After each lesson there are a series of activities to review the material. These include automated flashcards, quizzes, multiple choice exercises, spoken exercises and more.
One of my favorite features of Rocket French are the role playing tracks in the interactive audio lessons. These tracks eliminate one of the French speakers and give you the chance to answer and ask questions yourself, while the other speaker responds. This sort of role playing is a powerful learning technique, and a great way to build your French vocabulary quickly.
Rocket French covers all aspects of learning French. In their courses you will learn how to read, write, speak, and develop your listening comprehension skills as well.
Frenchpod101 started over a decade ago as a simple podcast to help you learn French online. Since then it has grown into a massive hub of French learning resources. The heart of Frenchpod101 are still it's podcast lessons. These lessons are sorted into seasons and divided by difficulty level.
The lowest difficultly level is absolute beginner, and the highest is advanced. There are hundreds of episodes in each level. Each episode features a conversation between two French speakers. Two podcast hosts act as your personal French teachers and introduce each dialogue. They shed light on useful vocabulary and new grammar. They also keep things lively by sharing jokes and interesting stories about French culture. Each episode includes transcripts in French as well as English, making it easy to follow along regardless of your level.
In addition to their massive library of French podcasts, Frenchpod101 also offers a lot of other useful French learning tools. There's a French dictionary, a flashcard system, French pronunciation guide, downloadable ebooks, a grammar bank, videos, listening exercises, and a lot more. These resources cater to all learning styles.
Pimsleur French is an audio course that teaches you conversational French. Through its unique and trademarked question-respond-correct method, Pimsleur gets your brain thinking in French. In each 30 minute audio lesson you start with a series of phrases. You learn each phrases word by word and syllable by syllable. Once you've had a chance to repeat the new phrases, Pimsleur starts throwing prompts at you to answer and ask questions in French.
The prompts change a lot and are designed to keep you thinking on your feet. With the Pimsleur approach you're not just a parrot reciting French vocabulary lists over and over. Their method simulates the kind of language practice you'd get while talking with French speaking people in the real world. It's a great way to improve your listening and speaking.
But Pimsleur doesn't just focus on listening and speaking. It also features a reading component. You are taught to read French words phonetically at first, and then for meaning. As you progress through the French course, you'll be reading words and phrases from previous audio lessons. If you're a native English speaker the French language is fairly easy to learn how to read. If you complete Pimsleur's French course (there are five levels), you shouldn't have a problem reading, writing, understanding, or speaking French at an intermediate level.
Other than maybe Rosetta Stone, Duolingo is the most popular language learning course around. Duolingo teaches mainly grammar and basic vocabulary. The app uses a mixture of listening, speaking, and writing (typing) exercises to help you learn and remember French. Duolingo is designed as a game. Their gamified approach to learning a language really pays off. The app can become addicting, and you might find yourself reaching for your phone throughout the day to practice French. Lessons are sorted into groups which cover specific grammar rules or vocabulary.
Duolingo won't bring you to fluency, but it will give you a solid foundation in French grammar and vocabulary. A study found that completing a Duolingo French or Spanish course is comparable to completing X semesters of a college level foreign language course.
Duolingo works under a freemium model. The app is basically free to use (with ads). However you also have the option of paying for a premium version which removes ads and gives you unlimited access to the app.
Do you ever wish you could watch French videos with interactive subtitles? Well, that's exactly what FluentU offers. On FluentU there are hundreds of French videos including music videos, tv show clips, internet videos, news, commercials, and other French media. Each video gives you the option of using French and or English subtitles. While watching you can click on a word at anytime to see it's definition, translation, and even some examples sentences.
You can also add any word from a video to your FluentU flashcard deck with one click. FluentU is a great tool for reviewing French. It's also a great way to learn new vocabulary, and see how French grammar is used in the real world. If you're looking for the best way to learn French practically, in a way that teaches you how the language is used on an everyday basis, then FluentU is worth a look.
Babbel is a language course built around quiz like lessons. Babbel teaches you new grammar and vocabulary, and then tests you on it with multiple choice, matching, or fill in the blank exercises. In the early stages Babbel teaches single words and very basic phrases. The later course material features French dialogues and teach longer and more complex phrases.
Babbel is often compared to Rosetta Stone. Their methods have some similarities. The biggest difference is that Babbel explains grammar, while Rosetta Stone has a strict no translation policy. Also Babbel is a lot cheaper than Rosetta Stone. Depending on your learning style, Babbel may be a useful option for learning French.
Can you learn French at home?
With apps and online courses it's not hard to learn a language from any location, provided you have internet access. However even with an ever increasing number of new and shiny mobile apps to learn French, some people still still prefer the classic person to person approach. What many don't know, is that you can take the traditional class and tutor experience and have French learning sessions in the comfort of your own home. Here's how...
Italki is a language learning site that connects students with teachers from around the world. There are literally thousands of teachers across more than 100 languages. Once you create a free account on the site you can browse the teachers' profiles and book a paid lesson with the one that works best for you. The lessons are one on one video classes, and usually happen over Skype.
Every teacher has his or her own approach to teaching a new language. Some may be more hands on, while others might be more hands off and simply help you with French speaking tips. Most teachers provide learners with class materials, videos, audio, pdf textbooks, and anything else that you might need to learn French. A single class can last anywhere from 30 minutes up to an hour and a half (most classes are 1 hour).
In addition to paid classes, Italki also has some useful free resources you can use to learn French. There's a learning blog written by teachers and a public notebook where you can write journal entries to have them checked by native speakers. Italki also allows you to search the profiles of other students to find French speaking students who want to improve their English, and set up a language exchange. The idea is you help them with your native language, while they help you practice and study French.
The best way to learn French if you want to speak the language, is to practice with a real French speaker. Italki allows you to do that no matter which language you want to learn.
*With a purchase of $20 or more. After you finish your first lesson 10 free Italki credits will be added to your account.
One of the best ways to improve your proficiency is to speak French with real people. You can review grammar rules and word lists until your blue in the face, but until you start working on your spoken French, you'll never be fluent. Luckily you bring a real life immersion experience into the comfort of your own home with a language exchange. Language exchanges work very simply.
You find someone who speaks your target language, and who also is learning your native language. You then take turns practicing with another to improve your reading, writing, and most importantly speaking. There are several online language exchanges you can use to practice with people from around the world.
Speaky lets you chat and make video or audio calls with language partners directly from the site. There are thousands of users online at any given time. Speaky is also available as an app for Android or iPhone.
My language exchange
My language exchange is an online community of language learners with over 3 million members. You can browse the profiles of community members by language or country. It's free to sign up for the site and become a member. It's a good way to get some real life practice with people who know French.
Can I learn French by myself?
Yes. You can absolutely learn a language on your own. You don't need a class, a teacher, or even a textbook to learn French. If you're an independent learner then the best way to learn French is the one that's most interesting to you. I recommend having some sort of reference tool (something you can use to help explain grammar or vocabulary if you get stuck). This can be a grammar book, course, or even a Youtube channel (more on that in a bit). Other than that, the materials you use to learn French are completely up to you.
Best way to learn French for free
Don't think that spending money is the only way to get into language learning. There are a ton of free resources available. We've already listed a few in this post, but here's a few more 😉
There are ton of free videos on Youtube for learning French. Here are a few of the standout channels for French learning:
Did you know the folks behind Frenchpod101 also have a Youtube channel with hundreds of videos for learning French? There's videos for learning grammar, vocabulary, listening exercises, French culture, pronunciation, and general language learning tips. With almost 7 million subscribers, it's the largest channel around for learning French.
Learn French with Alexa
This channel is run by a real French teacher. Alexa has compiled a massive collection of videos on the French language. Her videos go in depth into grammar, teaching new words, and also pronunciation. Alexa is a fun teacher and her videos are never dull. You never know what interesting thing she'll do while teaching.
Piece of French
This channel is run by French native speaker Elsa. Elsa's channel takes a day in the life approach to learning French. She shares all kinds of daily activities and conversations with her viewers. These videos are a great resource if you want to improve your French by learning how it's used in every day life.
Learn French for beginners
This free app covers reading, listening, speaking, and writing through grammar and vocabulary lessons. There's quizzes and guides on the French alphabet. The app also includes a free French translator.
Learn French Free
Learn French Free is an app that helps you get started with French Vocabulary. It works like a phrasebook. You learn new words on various topics such as directions, shopping, weather, and more. You can bookmark your favorite phrases and review them.
As we mentioned before Duolingo is a great app for learning the foundations of the French language. The app is mostly free to use with ads.
Free French programs
FSI French courses
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) is the US State Department's training institution for US diplomats who serve overseas. Over the years the FSI has released their language courses into the public domain, where they are free to use and download. Here's a link to six of the FSI's programs for learning French. The FSI programs are thorough and very comprehensive. They are mainly audio based programs that include a companion textbook.
The FSI courses are often dry and at times even feel mundane when you're working through them. These programs were not made for the commercial market, so there's no flare or bells and whistles. These programs exist to teach you a foreign language, no more and no less. That being said, the FSI courses are an effective way to learn French. You will read, write, speak, and listen in French. .
If you want to study French, your options are nearly endless. However depending on your goals and learning style it can be hard to find the course that's right for you. Hopefully this post will help you find the best way for you to learn French. Studying French can be a deep and truly rewarding experience. Whatever language learning tool you choose, keep your head down and make sure you don't give up. Remember that the road to fluency is a marathon not a sprint. As veteran language learners will tell you, a little patience and perseverance will get you where you want to go!