Want to learn French but don’t know where to start? I’ve finally discovered the fun side of language learning and now so can you! Here’s my list of the 10 best ways to learn French right from the comfort of your home.
I’m just bad at languages. It’s not my thing.
After taking Mandarin classes for six years, I still couldn’t understand what my teacher was saying almost all the time. My excuse? I’m just bad at languages.
After barely making it through high school French (I even shed a few tears in front of my grade 12 teacher for a pretty embarrassing reason…), any basic conversation was still a struggle. My excuse? I’m just bad at languages.
But maybe it’s not actually true. Maybe I’m not as bad at languages as I thought. Maybe no one is inherently bad at language learning.
As a kid, I dreaded going to Mandarin classes every Friday night. And when I was actually looking forward to going, it was more for the socialization aspect with my friends (in English, of course). The bottom line? I wasn’t interested in learning Mandarin and didn’t put in much effort. So, of course, it makes sense that I barely retained anything.
As for French, even though I was genuinely interested in learning the language and chose to take French classes beyond the required grade 9 in Ontario, I was always “too busy” to focus on it beyond the few hours of classes and homework a week.
Don’t get me wrong: I did put effort into French class; I could read and write; and by the end of high school, I’d learned all of the grammar rules and verb tenses (and there are a lot of verb tenses!). However, I could still barely speak. Why was this?
Well, it was school and “grades are everything” in school. Studying French to ace tests became a priority over really learning the language. Sure, we read aloud in class and had presentations here and there, but a few hours (if at all) a month wasn’t really going to help. French became more of a chore than it was enjoyable and so, while I did have the best of intentions to learn the language, anything French-related slid to a back burner, that is, until a few months ago.
About half a year ago I discovered, for what may be the first time, the fun side of language learning. It all started with watching a French movie: L’Auberge Espagnole. This movie was funny, entertaining, but most importantly, it was something I would normally have watched in English.
So, my advice to make learning French fun?
Do the things you like to do in your native language in French!
And this works for any foreign language you may want to learn. Just start doing the things you like to do in your native language in the language you want to learn!
Well, that was quite a mouthful. In other words, if you normally speak English and love watching romantic comedies, watch them in French, or Spanish, or German, or whichever language you want to learn. This doesn’t just work with movies, though, but for many other activities as well.
Here I’ve compiled a list of 10 ways you can have a lot more fun learning French (or any other foreign language) right from the comfort of your own home. While I’ve only used these tips to learn French and provide many French-specific media links, the tips and resources I talk about can also be applied to learning other foreign languages.
1. Learn French by Watching French Movies
It’s the age of Netflix and who doesn’t love to relax by enjoying a good movie… or two, or three! So, the next time you’re about to watch a movie in English, go for a French one instead! Turn on English subtitles if you’re a beginner. Even if you have absolutely no idea what anyone’s saying, just listening to the language will help your ears become more familiar with its sounds and rhythms. You’ll easily pick up on certain words or phrases that appear often too.
Now, through a quick Google search, you can find dozens upon dozens of online lists of “best French movies for beginners” or “must-watch classic French films”, but these just don’t work for me — usually because I’m not interested in their suggestions. I mean, if I wouldn’t be interested in a certain movie if it was in English, why would I be interested when it’s in French?
With that said, below I’ve embedded the trailers of a few French movies I have personally enjoyed. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea so only watch it if you think you might like it!
L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
This comedy drama fuelled both my love for travel and the French language. It follows the story of Xavier, a French economics student, who goes to Spain as part of a language program to learn Spanish. He moves into an apartment filled with students from all over Europe, and we watch as friendships, love, and other sorts of adventures unfold. The dialogue is mostly in French though there is some English, Spanish, and little bits of other languages as well.
Here’s another fun comedy: Alex runs a business where he’s hired to break up unhappy relationships — and he’s great at it. His new assignment is to break up the wedding of a man’s daughter and her English boyfriend. Can you infer what events ensue?
My last French movie suggestion is Amélie. This sweet and quirky movie is described as a “romantic comic fantasy” and will have you dreaming of Paris in no time. Amélie, a young woman with a very keen imagination, has decided to spend her life bringing happiness to those around her. In the process, she forgets about herself, that is, until… you’ll have to watch the movie to find out!
Are you getting excited to learn French yet? I know I am just writing about it!
2. TV Shows Are Another Fun Way to Learn French
Don’t have time for an entire movie? Watch an episode of your new favourite French TV series instead! Characters may have their funny signature catch phrases which you can hear over and over again every episode. Try saying it out loud yourself. Repetition can be fun!
Les Revenants (The Returned)
Les Revenants is one of my all-time favourite TV shows ever! It’s right up there with The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad — yep, it’s that good. This supernatural drama is based in a French mountain town where suddenly, people who have died several years or decades ago reappear. They seem to be alive and normal in all regards, and having no recollection of their death, try to go back to their old lives. In addition to this strange phenomenon, a series of other peculiar events begin to happen…
3. Watch French-Speaking YouTubers
Let’s not forget about YouTube. Who else has been guilty of watching YouTube for hours on end? I mean, I just have to watch that next cat video right?
5 hours later:
Now, what was I suppose to be doing?
Oh, that’s right. I was writing a post about how to learn French. Let’s see where I am.
Ok, so I was writing about learning French by watching YouTube… and then I got lost in the sea of random and strange and funny YouTube videos again…
I’m so sorry! Let’s get back on track now, shall we?
Find some fun and interesting French YouTubers, subscribe to them, and you’ll be set! The next time you find yourself on the strange part of YouTube again, you can just click on your subscription box and learn French while watching YouTube videos instead!
What’s great about YouTube videos as opposed to movies or TV shows is that the language they use can be even more similar to spoken, everyday French.
Below, I’m going to give you a list of my favourite YouTubers that I watch to learn French and what their channels are about.
I’ll begin this list with the very first French YouTube channel I discovered: Cyprien. I absolutely love watching his humorous sketches. Most of his videos are now captioned in both English and French (not the auto-translate ones which we all know are just terrible), so even if you’re a beginner in French, you can follow along.
How many of the things Cyprien mentioned in the above video could you relate to?
Another great French YouTuber that does humorous sketches is Norman Fait Des Vidéos. Most of his videos also have English and French captions. I usually watch them once without captions and again with French captions.
Are you more of a beginner in learning French? Then Comme une Française may be the channel for you! Geraldine’s videos teach you everything from the French basics to French culture, food, holidays and more. Certain French phrases in each video are introduced and repeated several times allowing you try to say them yourself. You are also encouraged to contribute your thoughts and practice writing French in the comments below. These videos are a great way to learn French for beginners and I definitely recommend them!
The videos on Easy Languages can be very helpful tools to help you learn languages from around the world. It has everything from Spanish to Greek to Korean to Swahili and more. In particular, I’ve loved watching the “Easy French” playlist, hearing how French people right off the street speak. Each video is based around a certain topic where people from the streets are asked a question and you can listen to their response. There are both English and French subtitles included as part of the video to help you understand. Try to cover the subtitles with a piece of paper or by minimizing your browser the first time you watch it, and play it again with the subtitles to see how much you caught the first time around. They currently have over 50 “Easy French” videos and come out with new episodes weekly.
The last YouTube channel I’ll mention to help you learn French is related to travel too! Alex and MJ are two French Canadians who have quit their jobs and are travelling around New Zealand, Fiji, and probably many more countries to come! Each of their vlogs, usually around 3 to 5 minutes long, are full of fun French learning opportunities and beautifully captured and edited footage. Even though I’m from Canada, I’m more familiar with the Parisian French accent, so this French Canadian accent is an interesting change to listen to. You can follow along their travel adventures solely in French, or with help from the English captions they’ve provided.
Of course, these recommendations are not for everyone and may not be for you. Find YouTube channels that interest you and you’re sure to have a lot of fun learning French. There are also French beauty channels, French gaming channels, French cooking channels, and probably just about anything you can think of!
4. Listen to French Music
Do you love listening to music? Another great way to incorporate more language learning into your everyday routine is by listening to French music!
I’ve found so many great songs in French on Spotify by browsing the playlists already put together by Spotify Canada or Spotify France. There are playlists sorted into genre-specific songs so you can easily find songs that you’ll love to listen to!
Some playlists by Spotify Canada I enjoy include Succès de la chanson française, Pop indie contemporaine, Rock indie moderne, and Noël au Canada for Christmas time. There are also R&B playlists, country ones, and just about every genre you can think of!
5. Learn French by Playing On Fun Language Learning Apps
Everyone has had some experience with procrastination right? Whenever I’ve had a big assignment or report due, instead of doing it, I’d go on Facebook, watch YouTube videos, or play some games on my phone. After downloading Duolingo, I found myself learning on this app instead of playing Bejeweled, Tetris, or some other game. Because this app offers quick 5-minute, 10-minute, or 20-minute language courses a day, I would play and learn French for a short period of time and then go back to doing my work more quickly.
Duolingo is both a website and app that can currently help you learn 23 different languages including Latin American Spanish, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, and Swedish. You can find a full list of the languages they offer here. With over 120 million users across the world, I’m pretty sure they’ll continue to grow and offer even more languages in the future.
This app is a great tool to help you practice your written French, or any other foreign language you choose to study on it. It has some speaking and listening exercises as well.
And the best part about Duolingo? It’s absolutely free too!
6. Change Your Language Preferences To French
I mentioned in the previous tip how I sometimes find myself procrastinating on Facebook. Well, here’s a way I made my Facebook time a little more helpful in my quest to learn French: I changed my language settings to it!
A few months ago, I was reminiscing about elementary school days and somehow remembered how people used to change their Facebook language settings to “Upside Down”. This suddenly gave me the idea to change mines to French. You can easily change your own language preferences by going into Settings and selecting the Language tab, followed by your language of choice.
In addition to Facebook, you can also change the language settings on other social medias including Twitter and Pinterest.
Your phone and even your laptop or computer are also great options where you can change your language preferences to the foreign language you are trying to learn. I’ve changed my phone to French but am currently keeping my laptop in English because, let’s face it, having everything in a foreign language can get pretty frustrating sometimes.
7. Read Your News From French Websites
Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t regularly read the news. I know I should, but I still haven’t incorporated that into my daily routine. I mean, I eventually get the most important news — or most viral at least — through social media, right?
However, like my grade 8 teacher said, it’s important that we know what’s going on in the world around us. In addition to sometimes reading news sites in English, I now periodically visit French ones. Le Monde and Le Figaro are two sites that I have been reading. They cover a variety of international news and have the usual lifestyle, sport, and business sections too.
8. Learn French by Reading About Your Hobbies and Interests
Do you like cooking? Why not learn to cook French cuisine while learning French at the same time? You can buy a cookbook in French or simply print out the recipe of a French dish in French! In the same way, you can also find recipes for dishes of other cultures and print out the recipe in their language!
Do you like sports or cars or gardening, or (since you’re reading my blog) travel? You can find plenty of books, magazines, and online articles focusing on just about any topic you’re interested in. Learn the key words related to your hobbies in the foreign language you are learning!
Reading something related to your hobbies and interests will ensure that you won’t get bored of what you’re reading. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying reading articles about travel in French on HuffPost Voyage.
Another website for a fun French read? You might think that Buzzfeed sometimes has the dumbest articles but you’ve got to admit they can be pretty amusing too. BuzzFeed France is a fun way to mix more French into your day.
9. Label Everything in French With Sticky Notes
Simply post sticky notes wherever your heart desires! This is a great way to learn French vocabulary (or vocabulary of any foreign language) that you’ll need to use in your daily life.
Label everything from your coffee to your coffee mug, your fridge to its contents, your bedroom door to your bed. You can label as much or as little as you want and change it up every few days once those new vocabulary words are ingrained in your mind.
You don’t have to limit yourself to nouns either: instead of labelling your cup “une tasse”, you could label it “une tasse de café en céramique lourde” (a heavy ceramic coffee mug).
Granted, you may look a bit strange doing this, but it’s all in the name of language learning, right?
10. Speak With a Native French Speaker Using italki
And last, but certainly not least, my favourite discovery for language learning: italki!
This site is my all-time favourite way to practice speaking French. Short of travelling to France and living there for an extended period of time, italki is probably the best language learning tool to help you improve speaking French.
italki connects you with native language speakers from around the world which you can then schedule a 1-on-1 Skype call with and practice speaking right from the comfort of your home. Apart from being able to learn French, italki also has teachers and language exchange partners in over 50 different languages.
This website connected me with a professional (and native) French language teacher, and since I already had a basic level of French, our lessons are focused on perfecting my (somewhat nightmarish) French pronunciation and familiarizing myself on different sentence structures to express myself. My teacher has been very patient with me and while I was hesitant to put myself out there and “make a fool of myself” at first, I quickly let go and started speaking and learning!
Lessons can be as cheap as $10 USD an hour, with 30-minute trials starting from just $1 USD. I recommend signing up for 30-minute trials with a few different teachers until you find one that suits your learning style.
What I love most about italki is that the focus is on speaking the language. If you want to learn to speak French or any other foreign language, I definitely recommend you give it a try!
What are your favourite ways to make language learning more fun? And if you’ve used italki before, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below!
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. If you decide to sign up and purchase italki credits through the links I have provided, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission. This will help me maintain my blog and continue to bring more content to you awesome people! Please know that I will only ever recommend products and services that I use and love myself.