So, you’ve heard that websites can help students improve their French learning skills.
Your colleagues might use them and constantly rave (read: brag) about how the students are so much more excited (and efficient, cooperative and self-sufficient) now that they have brought the internet to the classroom.
Problem is, you’re not quite sure why or how it works.
Fear not—we’ve got you covered.
And in addition to orienting you into this web world, we’re sharing ten French learning sites that your students will be stoked to surf. Let’s dive in!
Why Websites Are Perfect Tools for Your French Students
Students and internet: A match made in heaven
Your students live and breathe the internet. Let’s not fool ourselves: Long gone are the days where they’d rush for a bilingual dictionary to learn everything about an unknown word.
Going online to check a meaning, spelling, structure or verb should not be mistaken as a demonstration of our era’s laziness. Rather, it ought to be celebrated as this generation’s desire for efficiency.
Instead of fighting the tools that your students prefer to use, help them by pointing them in the right direction—towards the websites that will help them progress and not “waste their time.”
Culture and curiosity
Websites offer a diverse, endless range of content and knowledge—think of it as the ultimate library. They facilitate the learning process by helping students take control of what they want to learn, based on their interests.
While not all websites are worthwhile, the discovery process resembles the journey to finding the perfect book. In short, your students demonstrate a sense of independence and ownership when they get online to find answers—and learn.
Increased familiarity and exposure
Keep in mind that for your students, browsing the web is how they can travel without leaving the comfort of their home. Think of it as an instantaneous, free and inclusive window to the French world.
By exposing themselves regularly to French websites, your students will progressively assimilate frequent terms (passive learning, anyone?) and stumble upon new content. Ultimately, they are a great and affordable way to recreate a close-to-real immersion experience: Websites don’t only contain written contents, but also incorporate videos, audio and a videoconferencing that can develop their listening and speaking skills.
What can be more French than an authentic French website, written by native French speakers for other French speakers?
True, your students may not necessarily want to learn sophisticated or literary French first (the French that most teachers want to teach first), but like English, French is a varied, comprehensive language with multiple styles and levels of speech.
If your students veer from the below list and end up on sites that use argot (slang) for example, know that it will actually increase their understanding of the French language as a whole, but you need to let them know how it fits within the language (i.e. slang is slang, it is heavily connoted and should not be used in official or work contexts).
Additionally, languages evolve. Websites (and yes, social media) are often the first to reflect changes to the language. Rather than fight it, guide your students and teach them what the correct (or best possible) forms are. Explain the evolutions, and how to best use them in which context.
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How to Maximize Your Students’ French Learning Skills Using Websites
Give your students options, but let them pick what sites work best for them. It’s easy to be all over the place when using websites, so make sure to focus on a handful of good ones rather than trying to do too much and gobbling up data from all of them.
Rest assured that the websites listed below are all worth your students’ time, but make an effort to familiarize yourself with them before introducing the sites to your students. For example, know which website serves what purpose, what tools are most useful, etc.
Here are some additional tips that will maximize your students’ learning skills with these websites:
Teach students how to be organized
Enter bookmarks. Make sure your students mark the websites that works best for them as favorites in their home browser. This will save time, and is such a simple step that produces huge benefits—almost completely ensuring that your students will visit those sites regularly on their own.
Also, the main challenge when using websites with your French students is to teach them that they need to be proactive, as well as which methods to use to make their online learning more efficient. Don’t expect your students to master content just by surfing digital pages—that’s just not how it works!
Encourage your classes to:
- Look for words they don’t know using the Larousse virtual dictionaries
- Verify grammar and conjugation using the Bescherelle website
- Print out pages that are most useful
- Make their own flashcards using copied-and-pasted content from the French websites you are using together
- Constantly review these cards—as they would with books!
Include these sites in your teaching routine
Instill a sense of curiosity in your students. It’s always beneficial to introduce vetted French websites to your students with a sense of discovery. Peak their interest by letting them know why it’s interesting, but don’t reveal too much either.
Make sure that you are regularly introducing websites to your students; it cannot be a one-off thing, otherwise the purpose of immersion will be lost.
Be precise in what you want your students to learn and browse. These websites all include a comprehensive selection of courses, videos and pages—so make sure to give your French learners a link and precise directions of what you expect from them.
Encourage students to use online tests to prepare for the big exam
That’s right: Let your students know that there are a spew of free tools online that can help them improve their scores dramatically. Simple and easy, online tests are a great way for students to quiz themselves while building confidence.
Guide your students at the start and let them know exactly which tests they should check out. These tests can also serve as graded exercises, but keep in mind that most of these websites already put the answers online.
Now, let’s get to specifics and see which French websites can best help your students learn French effectively!
10 French Learning Websites Your Students Will Be Totally Stoked to Surf
Needless say, this is the ultimate guide to check and learn new words, idioms and structures.
One of the most reputable French dictionaries has put its entire content online for free. Your students can simply type in the word they want to search and the results are displayed at a glance. Note that the word’s mots proches (similar terms) are displayed on the left side of the page, a great way for your students to learn some words that stemmed from the word in question.
The Larousse website includes a French-French dictionary, a French thesaurus and dictionary of antonyms, an encyclopedia and bilingual dictionaries. What else could you ask for? Oh, this: a conjugations checker, forums, games and a French cooking dictionary—all of which you’ll find on Larousse!
Now, that’s a name that needs no introduction. To check a conjugation and your tableau de conjugaison (conjugation board), which includes a verb’s conjugation for all tenses and modes, we’ve all had to carry our little red book. Until now.
Like Larousse, Bescherelle has put its content online, allowing your students to look for a verb and review its conjugation in a single-page format. The website is quite rudimentary (think of it as the Google of French conjugation—the home page consists of a simple search box with the Bescherelle logo), but organized and efficient. This is where your students should look up a conjugation.
Keep in mind that there are no translations at all, a sign that the website is made for natives and is as authentic as it gets.
Now this online immersion platform really drives results! FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Taking a step back from the traditional textbook approach, FluentU encourages users to learn the French language in a more natural way. You can browse videos by difficulty (beginner to native), topic (arts and entertainment, health and lifestyle, etc.) and format (video blog, news, shows, etc.).
In addition to providing a carefully curated library of engaging videos, FluentU also offers downloadable audio dialogues and transcripts to use later when you’re offline, multimedia flashcards, running flashcard lists and more!
While you can definitely build a lesson around FluentU, it also provides students with engaging at-home practice, as fresh new videos are added every week.
Here’s a quick look at the content and features you can expect to find on FluentU:
FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions will guide your students along the way, so they’ll never miss a word.
Your students can tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if they tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on the screen:
That’s not all, though. Students can use FluentU’s learn mode to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video with vocabulary lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”
What’s more, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that each student has been learning. It uses viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give students a 100% personalized experience.
With a FluentU teacher account, you’ll get access to a ton of cool features. Aside from being able to incorporate the videos into your regular classroom activities, you can assign your students videos for homework and track their progress individually.
This free website offers numerous great resources primarily for beginner and intermediate students. Developed by European broadcast network TV5Monde, it includes 80 activities to learn French that are all ranked by level.
Your students can start by taking a quick test to determine their exact level. Encourage them to take it so they know exactly where they fit. Parlons français includes varied multimedia content and learning modules comprised of articles, web documentaries, games and web challenges. All lessons are accompanied with exercises and memos to recap key phonetics, grammar, vocabulary and culture points.
You can easily incorporate the website in your French class, either as complementary activities that students can do at home or together in class using a projector and screen.
This can also be a great way for your star performers to keep learning at a faster pace than they could in the classroom, as well as for your struggling students to catch up with unassimilated lessons on their own free time.
Although more limited than Parlons français, this is another free website that will greatly help your French students master the language of Molière.
While it is set in a bilingual format, BBC French offers high-quality content. Lessons and courses include video and audio content with transcripts, interactive games, vocabulary cards, grammar explanations and exercises. It is especially targeted at beginners, but goes beyond this level.
Equally fun for children and adults, we particularly like the format of their French syllabus, especially efficient for teachers who like to stay organized.
Now, don’t get discouraged by the website’s old school design—this is a particularly effective resource to introduce to all students who struggle with French grammar and conjugation.
With an extensive library of courses and exercises that discuss the head-scratching parts of French (read: rules of French grammar, conjugation and spelling), we particularly love that all points are explained in a concise manner and illustrated with numerous examples. Students can also take a test at the end of the lesson to verify their understanding of the subject they’ve just learned.
Given that website is all in French, this is mainly for your intermediate and advanced students who might need to check grammar points here and there, but the site’s forum and pen pals sections can be beneficial to all of your students.
What French teacher never felt overwhelmed by the spate of questions from their students about the origins of a seemingly nonsensical French idioms?
This website makes it easy on you! With an almost endless list of French idioms explained, this is the ultimate guide to making teaching idioms easy and interesting. Each entry details the origins and meaning of most common idioms with historical facts and anecdotes about the expressions you’re looking for. It also includes examples to show proper usage in context and translations!
This is another great resource for which we can thank European broadcast network TV5Monde. Also free, it focuses on French literature and is mainly dedicated to your advanced students (or those that have a knack for words).
With instant access to over 400 French classics online without registration, it’s also excellent for helping you structure your lessons, thanks to their collection of summaries and commentaries about the author, novel, essay or poem that you are studying.
Named after the famous Greek historian, this is a website that is actually used by French natives in their History classroom—largely because it’s the most extensive, informative and interactive of its kind.
Free or paid, this is an amazing resource for your French history buff learners, and a great way for you to introduce a part of French culture that is often overlooked by French teachers. Learning the French language through French history can be as exciting as it is enriching.
It can incentivize your students to discover parts of the French culture that are often reserved to more advanced learners, and as such offers a challenge to your most motivated and curious students.
Because this is mainly designed for French natives, the language is as authentic as it gets (no translations here, only real terminology and sophisticated wording). Use Herodote’s history courses and articles with your advanced students, but feel free to use the chronologies and flashcards with your intermediate students. These can be great starting points for discussions and are a fantastic way to help students build up their vocabulary effectively. Make sure that you tell your classes that these materials come from a French website; it will enhance their confidence in their ability to read and understand actual French sources.
10. France 5
This is the ultimate, most authentic resource for advanced to fluent learners, and it can be fantastic for you to bring to the classroom to make your lessons more interactive (provided that you have a video projector and a wifi connection). And if you know where to look, it can be great for beginners, too!
Entirely free, this is the website of France’s brainiest TV channel: France 5. Now, keep in mind that it does require that you do a bit of searching; the network offers a wide array of programs, debates and documentaries that discuss subjects as wide as social issues, politics, health, cooking, arts or history.
Browse the 7-day archive, available via the dropdown menu and view their selection of video podcasts from France 5’s latest shows. Our personal favorite include C dans l’air (advanced to fluent), La quotidienne (intermediary to advanced) or C’est quoi l’idée? (beginners). You have the option to include French subtitles in all videos as well!
The internet has incredible resources that are just waiting for you to use. It won’t be too long until you realize just how effective these websites are for your students, and how much they love them. Bon travail!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach French with real-world videos.