I’m just going to get straight to the point with this blog post! I have made no secret of my desire to improve my French speaking ability and over the years I have tried pretty much every app, book, CD, and website out there. I think I even had some cassette tapes in the past?! Despite trying so many different resources, there are a handful of apps, websites and podcasts that I come back to time and time again, simply because they are so good. In the past I’ve bought website subscriptions, online and in person classes, books, CDs and found that paying for language learning materials doesn’t necessarily mean you will receive quality materials. There are some fantastic resources out there that are completely free of charge. Here are some of my favourites.
Learn French with Alexa
Learn French with Alexa is my absolute favourite French learning platform. Alexa Polidoro is French native who lives and teaches English in London. She has a fantastic You Tube channel with over 600k subscribers. I have spent hours watching her videos as they are often as entertaining as they are educational. Alexa has a wicked sense of humour, but is also very knowledgeable and has a kind and encouraging teaching style. Her videos vary in length, but each video generally focuses on one topic or aspect of grammar in a manageable, bite size chunk of between 5 to 15 minutes. Her conversational videos usually have the option of watching with English, French or no subtitles, which is great as your language skills develop.
This video is brilliant and completely typical of her teaching style:
Coffee Break French
Coffee Break French is a podcast that I have listened to every day since I started my Lingoda Language Marathon, but I first came across this podcast many years ago just before a trip to Paris. It really helped me to be able to successfully book tables in restaurants, order well cooked steak in a restaurant (tres bien cuit) and buy return train tickets to Disneyland! The first season focuses on basic French and the set phrases that you need to get by. Series two progresses to grammatical concepts so that you are able to construct your own phrases and series three and four progress further still. You are introduced to the language in a very gentle way by the teacher Mark and his student Anna. The chemistry between the two of them is lovely and, certainly in the later series, Mark’s explanation of grammatical concepts is very clear and he makes difficult language points very easy to understand. It is also really nice to feel as though you are learning along with Anna, as she occasionally makes mistakes and has a very charming Scottish accent, both of which make her very likeable. It’s probably not a surprise from the title of the podcast that you can listen to each podcast in your coffee break, so in just 15 to 20 minutes you can learn and practice something new each week, or every day if you’re like me!
I am pretty sure that most people that are interested in learning a language are already aware of Duolingo, but I love this app as it is fun and super easy to use. You simply choose your language and start working through different levels. Language learning can be difficult and studying grammar can be monotonous, but Duolingo makes this fun with the game element of the app, the progress markers and the very random phrases, that you are certain to come across. I recently had to translate the phrase “a man without body hair is like a garden without flowers” from English in to French” (Un homme sans polis est comme un jardin sans fleurs in case you are interested!). It is excellent for learning new vocab and pinpointing any grammatical errors. I don’t think using Duolingo alone would be enough to help you speak French and it would need to be combined with another method of language learning. Having said that there are no apps or websites that will make you fluent. The only way to do that is with consistent practice and regular exposure to the language. You can also practice online at:
Comme Une Francaise
Geraldine at Comme Une Francaise, has a You Tube channel is an incredibly smart and stylish French woman who teaches French language, expressions and culture in a wonderfully quirky and individual way. Her YouTube videos focus on teaching you “real” French, important cultural notes and contains many practical tips on how to improve your language skills and get by in France without making any major faux pas. I only use her videos sporadically, but I really love how she teaches you about French culture at the same time as teaching you aspects of the French language or in her own words “sound French, even to the French”. She also collaborated with Alexa from Learn French with Alexa in an amusing video, which I have actually watched several times! Watch it here:
This is a great website, for when you want to take your French to the next level. I use this for studying grammar as I really like the short quizzes at the end of each lesson where you can check if you have understood what you have learnt. You can do ten of these quizzes per month if you are not a subscriber and when you first sign up you can also take a test that will tell you what level your French is at. I use this site a lot for listening practice. There are loads of exercises available to listen to and they are categorised by CEFR Level (A1 to C1) with transcripts in French and English, so there is something for everyone.
All of these learning tools have more in depth versions available with a paid subscription. However, so far I have found that the free content on all of them is brilliant and definitely enough to teach anyone the basics of the French language and beyond. I am not saying that you shouldn’t ever pay for language learning materials (I am currently loving my Lingoda Language Marathon and will post about this soon), but it isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money on resources in order to successfully start learning a language. Have a look at some of these resources and let me know if you find them useful.
Thanks for reading.