What a great time to be learning French!
And let’s not forget – mobile apps.
But you might be thinking, which apps should you start with?
No worries – we’ve put together a list of the nine best apps for learning French.
Let’s dive straight in.
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
9 Best Apps for Learning French
MindSnacks is a beautifully designed iOS app for French learners. Even though the app is geared towards students, I suspect you’ll find the iOS French app to be highly enjoyable in helping you learn new French words.
Widely acclaimed for its game oriented approach to learning and revising words, MindSnacks helps you learn new words through 9 games. The app is divided up into different units of vocabulary like food, job, transport, and for each vocabulary set, you can use these games to help learn and strengthen these words.
In one game, a word flashes on the screen, and you have to match it to the drawing. Get as many right every round for high scores. In another game, a bunch of French words and English words appear as balloons. Your challenge is to match as many pairs as possible.
With over 50 vocabulary sets available, you’ll find that these games will help you get through most of the heavy lifting in an entertaining way, helping you comb through the basics in no time.
Price: $4.99 (App Store), $5.99 (Google Play)
Mosalingua is a platform that’s a good blend between an interactive French app and an audio phrasebook.
What makes Mosalingua unique is its use of the SRS technique when presenting new words. Basically, SRS is a way to calculate when words should be presented for you to revise just before they’re about to be forgotten. That way, in the long term, words you learn will stick with you a lot longer.
With over 14 categories and 100 sub-categories, all with conversations and audio files to boot, and covering over 3000 phrases in its audio phrasebook, Mosalingua is designed to help you absorb all this material (and keep it!) in the shortest possible time.
For an app that has received largely positive ratings for its iOS French app and its Android French app, Mosalingua French is a great course to check out.
FluentU is a really unique platform for learning French. Unlike other apps here, FluentU uses a different approach to teach French – a video based methodology.
In a nutshell, FluentU is a video based learning platform that takes the web’s best French videos, and turns them into language learning experiences. What makes it unique is the face that it features clips from a wide variety of different contexts, so you get a sense of how French is spoken in different places. Clips can include anything from TV shows, music videos, commercials, French movie trailers, so you can learn how French people actually talk – you know, things like common French expressions and frequently used slang. The videos themselves are also pretty interesting, and they give you a really nice window into the French culture, which I think is pretty neat.
But if you’re worried that you won’t be able to catch on, don’t be. All of FluentU’s videos have interactive subtitles that you can hover over any time during the video, and the clip will pause and draw up definitions and useful examples of how each word is used.
There are lots of supplementary features that help you understand this material, including a fully interactive transcript of the video, grammar points, vocabulary decks, and a powerful “learn mode.” The “learn mode” gives you multiple choice and translation questions, while providing video examples which are tailored for your level. Try it and you’ll see that video context is a powerful tool to help you learn French grammar faster.
With FluentU, every use can almost have a different experience with it – FluentU has videos tailored to every level of French learners, so whether you’re at a beginner level, or at a native level, you won’t be left out of the loop.
Highly recommended for self learners who value examples, context, and culture in their French learning.
The app is still being developed, but you can create an account and start learning French on the website right away.
Price: Free (for a demo account)
It’s almost impossible to mention language learning without mentioning Rosetta Stone.
One of the oldest and most popular learning methodologies around, it’s now available as a mobile app.
Without going into the gory details, Rosetta Stone sets itself apart from many other language methodologies by offering a completely immersive experience. From the very beginning, it teaches French purely through French – there’s not a word in English inside the course.
By doing this, it simulates the environment that it believes is most conducive to learning a new language – when we were young children learning to speak our mother tongues.
Even though it can seem alien at first, by linking concepts and objects directly to French words (instead of their English equivalents), Rosetta Stone is a method that has great long term benefits.
You’ll be taken through a well sequenced pace where you’ll be exposed to words, sentences and phrases that builds on top of what you’ve already learnt.
For instance, you might be taught the French word for man (l’homme), woman (la femme), water (l’eau) through pictures.A phrase might then be shown to you that says “L’homme et la femme boivent d’eau” (the man and the woman is drinking water).You might not know the word “boivent” (to drink), but based on what you’ve already learnt, along with visual aids, you can probably guess.
If you’re a stone cold beginner in French, and you’re looking for a French iOS / Android app that allows you to learn French in a pure way, Rosetta Stone might be what you’re looking for.
One of the most innovative apps for learning French words I’ve seen in a long time, Memrise is an excellent choice for your learning needs if you’re struggling to remember French words after a while.
Its methodology is highly unique. Unlike most apps, it doesn’t (just) teach words through pictures. It teaches you French words through humour. For example, the phrase “j’attends” (I am waiting) might be remembered by “I am waiting until I am old enough to attend school”, along with a picture of a baby with a pacifier. (You have to see it to really see the humour!)
The best thing is that these aren’t created by professionals – these are submitted by the community. So you’ll be seeing firsthand how other people learning French manage to learn tricky words by disguising them through clever jokes – an approach I’m sure you’ll find highly effective.
Memrise has many modules ranging from Basic to Advanced levels, where words are presented in batches of fifteen centered around themes like verbs, thoughts, feelings and colors.
A really creative way of tackling one of the most difficult problems of learning any language – acquiring vocabulary, the Memrise iOS and Android French apps are definitely worth checking out.
Price: $30 / month
Open Language French is a bit more formal compared to other apps – it’s actually based on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), which is an internationally accepted scale of measuring language proficiencies of foreign language speakers.
Inside French Pod, you’ll see that it has many components in a lesson. You start off with a dialogue, which the lesson is centered around. Two native (or bilingual) hosts play out the dialogue, and interject English notes to explain new concepts and words along the way, so in a sense, even though you’re learning French with an app, it feels like you have two teachers.
After that, you can go through vocabulary to solidify some new words, as well as expansion for additional related phrases to expand your vocabulary.
There are also some great classroom themed activities like doing a written task on the learnt material (for instance, you might be asked to write a short paragraph on a favourite movie), and there’s also a discussion section where you can ask questions on the lesson.
While it feels less entertaining than many other apps listed here, it’s also one of the most comprehensive apps that cover a lot of ground. Highly recommend Android / iOS app for learning French.
Price: 14,99 Euros / month (~USD 21)
Busuu French is a very different app that what you’re used to – like all other apps, there’s a learning component – but what makes it really unique is that unlike other apps that are geared towards personal use, it has an active community of users to help you practice speaking French.
The Busuu app is also based on the CEFR, so its material is highly certifiable. In each lesson, you’re typically taken through key vocabulary, the dialogue, a writing exercise, a practice speaking session with native speakers, dialogue recording, and a lesson review to close things up.
Similar to OpenLanguages, it’s very comprehensive in the topics it covers, and the exercises designed around speaking, writing, listening and speaking.
So if you’re someone who prefers a program with a lot of different exercise types to it, in particular – lots of native speakers to practice with, the Busuu French app for the iOS / Android might just be the thing for you.
Price: $3.99 in both iOS and Google Play store
SpeakEasy is actually a phrasebook app available for iOS and Android you can take with you on the go.
Armed with native speaker recordings, you can be sure that you can get the whole experience when travelling to a French country. So when you find yourself in situations where you have to speak French, you have these recordings to fall back to.
Some cool features SpeakEasy has includes the slow playback feature, and also flashcards. This way, you’re really armed with everything you need to succeed with learning and practicing new French phrases!
Among all the apps here, Duolingo probably strikes the best balance between learning French and being fun, like a game. And it’s got some serious accreditation to boot. It was the winner of both Apple’s App of the Year (2013) and Google Play’s Best of the Best (2013) awards, so you can bet it’s really well designed.
In a nutshell, I think Duolingo really excels in simplifying. Even the design speaks for itself – with a cute green bird as its mascot and a clean, minimalist theme, it’s certainly easy on the eyes!
What Duolingo does is it breaks down everything, adjectives, question words, tenses, abstract nouns (words like “feelings”), technical terms, and chunks them together into neat units. If I can count, there are about 60 units in total for Duolingo French, so you’re probably going to be busy for a while.
One of the best things about using Duolingo is that it’s really quick to use. Inside every unit, there are sub-units, where Duolingo teaches you about seven new words. It does this through a combination of fun exercises such as rearranging sentences, matching a picture to the word, and repeating a phrase in French to be assessed.
And there are only about 20 of these questions per unit, so you can get through it pretty quickly.
The great thing about Duolingo is that you don’t need a huge time commitment to use this. If you only take 20 minutes every day to go through 3 – 4 units, you can probably get through all the units in Duolingo in three months. That’s 1500 words in three months!
On top of that, Duolingo has other great features including the ability to follow friends, an XP “track” to benchmark your progress, a virtual currency store to buy new clothes for your bird mascot, a word meter that designs review lessons based on your familiarity with words, etc.
In all, a great iOS French app and Android French app that actually succeeds in teaching the committed student French with less than 20 minutes of daily practice.
Highly recommended for beginners!
A great time to be learning French with apps
As you can see, many of these apps share a common goal – to distill learning French into its bare essence and present it in fun, digestible lessons.
Learning French through apps is truly a great way for French learners…whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner.
Of course, each app is designed with just a slightly different purpose in mind.So, not every app might be for you. But hopefully, after this post, you’d have a better idea of the types of French learning apps available for both iOS and Android devices, and whether they’re suitable for you.
Merci et bonne chance!
(Thanks and good luck!)
If you liked this post, something tells me that you’ll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.