The best way to learn French starts right at home.
Think of your “spot” in your house.
You know, that chair you always sit in to watch TV. That side of the couch you gravitate to. That corner of your bed.
That place where you just feel comfortable, at ease, at home.
Picturing it in your mind?
Now consider this:
You can learn French right from that spot.
No need to visit a tutor or sign up for a language course. Those can be great, but if you’re the kind of person who just wants to learn in their PJs on their own schedule, you’re looking for a method that’s a little closer to home.
With the right mindset and great (often free!) resources, you can study to fluency without setting foot outside (but it’s probably a good idea to take breaks to see your friends… go grocery shopping… keep going to work…).
Before we delve into the best way to learn French on your own, let’s take a look at why learning French in your natural habitat can be so useful.
Why Learn French at Home?
Create a Comfortable Environment for Maximum Learning
The language itself is hard enough, so you don’t need extra distractions from an uncomfortable learning environment.
When the body is comfortable, so is the mind, and when the mind is at ease, learning becomes easier as well. At home, you’ll be learning in a space you’re familiar with, and you don’t need to get all dressed up or endure a cramped subway ride to get there. You can just sit down, slippers on, tea in hand and get learning.
Economize Time and Money
Learning from home is the ultimate time- and money-saver’s way to master French.
You’re not commuting anywhere and you’re not paying for a course and the books or learning materials that come with it. You’re your own guide and teacher, and you can study French for as long as you like each day.
If you’re really economizing time, you can even multitask at home, maybe doing the dishes or showering while listening to a French audio lesson.
Work with What You’ve Already Got
Believe it or not, you probably already have some of the tools and technology you need to learn French at home. Your computer, phone, tablet or TV can all play a part in your French learning. Through these devices, you can access a plethora of online resources (apps, music, videos, e-books, etc.) offering more depth of learning.
We’ll show you how later in this post.
Learn on Your Terms
The best part of learning French at home is that you decide how you want to learn. You know what works for your learning style, what interests and motivates you, how much time you can dedicate to learning French and everything else! Making your home environment a learning environment means that learning can take whatever form you like.
The Best Way to Learn French at Home in 8 Lovely Steps
1. Establish a Learning Routine
Sounds simple, right? It’s common sense that routine, consistent studying is one of the keys to successful learning.
But there’s more involved in creating your at-home French learning routine than you might think. It’s not just about picking a time to study, although that’s certainly important (as we’ll discuss in a bit).
Your first step should be to create a dedicated learning space in your home. Maybe you can best focus at a desk, perhaps you like the white noise of the living room or maybe you need a window and natural light. In this sense, the best way to learn French at home will look a little different for everyone.
Note: Part of this is exercising self-restraint with the learning tools and technology you’re using. A successful study space is free from distractions, so try not to be too near the TV or Xbox!
Next, consider consistency in your routine. How much time are you realistically able to commit to your French learning every day?
Based on your schedule and commitments, identify a chunk of study time that you could feasibly spend on French studying daily. Be realistic so you can stick to your routine—asking yourself to spend five hours a day on French when you simply don’t have that much time will only lead to discouragement.
Finally, you’ll want to choose a regular time of day that you know you can commit to focused French learning. Not a morning person? Maybe the hours just before dinner are ideal for you. More of a night owl? Studying (anything!) before bed has been shown to boost retention, actually. Working a 9-to-5 job? Do some French exercises while eating your petit-déjeuner (breakfast) in the morning.
Above all, be sure to choose a time of day during which you’re engaged, focused and ready to absorb new French knowledge.
Do beware: it’s possible to be too comfortable while studying French at home. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re studying French for those three hours a day while you’re really checking your phone notifications every other minute, wandering into the kitchen for leisurely “snack breaks” or just plain spacing out.
Learning French at home does take some dedication and persistence, and once you’re able to successfully set other tasks aside, you’ll reap the benefits of focused learning time.
2. Personalize Your French Learning Methods
Everyone learns differently, whether at home or elsewhere. The beauty of learning French on your own is that you’re the only student, and thus you can tailor your studying to your personal learning style. Below, we’ll look at how a range of learning styles can be adapted to at-home French study:
- Auditif (Auditory): If you’re an auditory learner, you prefer listening and speaking in order to understand new content. For learning French at home as an auditory learner, you might benefit most from listening to audio lessons, audiobooks and other tools that offer spoken French and/or explanations of language concepts.
Auditory learners also value repetition, discussion and conversation in order to learn.
- Visuel (Visual): If you’re a visual learner, you prefer to learn with visual aids such as images, charts, maps and graphic organizers. For learning French at home as a visual learner, the best way to learn French might be watching video lessons or YouTube videos with subtitles.
Visual learners value the use of pictures and imagery, and might use photos or objects as prompts to remember vocabulary words—keep that in mind as you build vocabulary lists or make flashcards.
- Lire et Écrire (Read and Write): If you prefer to read and write to learn—taking notes, writing essays, reading texts, underlining, jotting questions in margins—your preference is to learn with words. For learning French at home, you might benefit most from copying down vocabulary and phrases from books, videos or other resources with English-to-French translation.
- Kinesthésique (Kinesthetic): If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you prefer to use your hands to figure out how something works or why something is. For learning French at home as a kinesthetic learner, you might benefit most from applying the French language in your everyday life.
For example, you may want to conduct certain activities like navigating your phone in French (more on this later in this post!), or you may prefer to look up a French recette (recipe) to figure out the translation and metric conversions. Kinesthetic learners often make use of visual and/or reading/writing techniques in their hands-on exploration.
3. Stock Up Your Media Libraries
It can be hard to keep up with the Joneses in terms of all the latest trends, but when it comes to learning French from home, don’t find yourself left in the dust! Tenez-vous à jour (stay up to date) and equip yourself with a well-stocked arsenal of materials for learning.
On your computer, download and bookmark comprehensive French learning content. That way, any time you’re at your computer you can pick up where you left off with your favorite language resources. Here are some that you might want to get clicking on:
- YouTube channels offer a fabulously free way to learn French from home. Start with one of these YouTube channels, most of which are split into thematic lessons, and grab a notebook.
- French learning websites are a great tool for ongoing learning and language practice. Make a bookmarks folder in your browser filled with your favorite sites. To get you started, here are some great websites for French learners and a few websites where you can listen to native French speech.
- FluentU introduces you to authentic French at any level.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.
You'll receive video recommendations that suit your interests and current level of progress.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
On your mobile device, take advantage of audio resources and apps. Podcasts, like these top picks for French learners, allow you to absorb French lessons while multitasking around the home. Or, check out these native French podcasts for a mix of language and cultural learning.
Language learning apps are relatively inexpensive (sometimes free!) and diverse in format. Find the one that works for your routine for French learning at your fingertips.
On your bookshelf, grab some hard-copy French novels or French poetry. These are great because you can mark up your own copy, writing in the margins and highlighting new words and phrases. You’ll also start to see how common French words are used in context, not to mention the wonderful exposure you’ll be getting to French culture and literature. Search out some of these books that are ideal for French learning.
If you’ve run out of space on your bookshelf, French e-books are inexpensive, if not free, like these. Stock up your e-reader so you can spend lazy mornings in bed with a good French book.
4. Frenchify Your Tech
Our electronics have become an integral part of our lives. We interact with them throughout the day—texting and websurfing on our mobile phones, playing games on our tablets and binge-watching our favorite shows on our streaming gadgets.
As “smart” devices and services, these ubiquitous technological wonders can also help us learn French at home.
Most modern technology has a language feature included. And fortunately, French is common enough that it’s generally included as an alternative language option. So, take a few minutes to “Frenchify” your tech: Change the language settings on your computer, phone, TV and any other technology to French. (Just make sure you know how to set the device language back to your native language, in case you run into any major technical issues!)
Since most people use the aforementioned devices fairly frequently (if not daily), chances are, whether the language is in English or French, your instincts and muscle memory will draw you to where you know to go anyway. Once you get over the initial frustration, setting your technology in French can become an easy and natural way to incorporate French vocabulary learning into your day-to-day activities.
Plus, most of the vocabulary on an ordinateur de bureau (computer desktop) is applicable to real life (the trash can — la poubelle; the mouse — le souris; the sound — le son; the screen — l’écran).
This practice will give you exposure to everyday tech words. These words are now a part of day-to-day life in the French-speaking world.
Despite how ubiquitous these tech words have become, you may not have learned from your French classes or lessons. Here’s your chance to encounter these words multiple times a day.
You can even turn video games into French lessons. The language preferences for individual apps and games can usually be set to French.
Plus, the words you learn won’t necessarily be tech-related. I recently changed the language on one of my favorite video games so I could integrate French learning into my leisure time. I quickly learned new words such as tirelire (piggybank) and chargement (loading), as well as phrases such as sauvegarder la progression (save your progress) and récompense débloquée (reward unlocked).
Streaming service Netflix lets you change your language preference on a profile-by-profile basis, so you don’t have to worry about inconveniencing others in your home who share your account. You can either switch your existing profile’s language over to French or create a separate French-language profile in your Netflix account.
Your French-language Netflix profile will save you lots of time fiddling with the audio and subtitle settings, since these will default to French, whenever it’s available. (You can still change the language for individual programs.)
On-screen navigation items will also appear in French. You might see, for example:
- Reprendre avec le profil de … (Continue watching as…)
- Tendances actuelles (Trending)
- Revoir (Watch again)
- Séries saluées par la critique (Critically acclaimed)
5. Navigate the Home in French
Don’t just learn French at home—turn your home into a learning tool itself!
The first step is to post French vocabulary around the house. This method is especially great for kinesthetic and visual learners, but really for anyone learning French at home.
Choose a particular part or aspect of the house for which you’d like to learn the vocabulary in French. It could be as broad as objects in your bedroom, bathroom, garage or kitchen, or as focused as the contents of a single cupboard or drawer.
Want to cut straight to the French learning? There are resources like Vocabulary Stickers that have done the busy work for you. Vocabulary Stickers come with pre-made French labels for more than 100 common objects you’ll find around your house. You’ll know you’re getting high-quality translations that’ll help you build good habits as you memorize new words—plus, they’re sleek, durable and removable.
Once you’ve got these stickers all around your house, your brain will see the object associated with a French word. Soon, the French words will become drilled into your memory and you’ll start recognizing those objects in French even when you’re out in the un-labeled world. You’ll find that interacting with French in this way, every day in your own home, is much more effective than drilling vocabulary lists without any context.
6. Enjoy Your Hobbies in French
Many of us like to relax by engaging in hobbies. Why not turn hobby time into an opportunity to improve your French à la maison (at home)?
Look for French-language videos, magazines, books or blogs devoted to your preferred past times.
For instance, you can use French magazines to follow the latest fashion trends or keep up with your favorite sports teams.
YouTube is a goldmine for finding instructions and tips from other devoted hobbyists:
- Check out Joueuse de Pelotes (Ball Player) for all the latest on comment tricoter (how to knit), with clear narration and visuals.
- Master your axe with channels like La guitare en 2 semaines (Guitar in Two Weeks), Trésor (Treasure) and La Maison des Sons (The House of Sounds).
- Reap and sew entertainment with channels such as Le Jardin Potager Du Bonheur (The Garden of Happiness), newsjardintv (News Garden TV) and Truffaut, which also has a website for gardeners and other hobbyists.
7. Get Sizzling with Home Cooking à la française
Cooking is a hobby for some… and—unless you have a private chef on staff or food delivery on speed-dial—a necessity for everyone.
Time spent preparing food can also improve your French.
Get French vocab practice through recipes, cooking videos, magazines and cookbooks. There are dozens of French-language recipe sites, such as My Parisian Kitchen, La Journal des Femmes Cuisine and Gourmand magazine online. (If you don’t use the metric system at home, you may need to convert measurements or temperatures to follow these recipes correctly.)
And if you want to cook up extra learning, head to FluentU.
As we mentioned earlier, FluentU takes videos on many topics—including cooking—and turns them into interactive French lessons. Bake your French mastery to perfection with recipes such as:
- Madeleines au citron (Sponge cake with lemon zest)
- Brioches maison (Home-style brioche bread)
- Gâteau vegan de base [avec et sans gluten] (Vegan cake, with or without gluten)
- Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)
Click on any word in a video to get the definition, pronunciation and multiple visual and video examples. With customized quizzes and personalized suggestions, FluentU is a delicious recipe for dynamic French learning.
8. Turn Yourself into a Home-based Tutor
Teaching someone else at home can be a simple way to practice what you’ve been learning. It’s likely, anyway, that a family member or roommate will be curious about what you’re learning (especially if you’ve posted vocabulary around the house).
Keep in mind, we’re using the word “teaching” loosely here. It can be as simple as sharing new vocabulary words and their translations, speaking or reciting new concepts in French or dropping French phrases into conversation. The idea is to get you expressing what you’ve learned so you can keep concepts fresh and track your own progress.
Remember, the student you’re teaching at home doesn’t even have to speak back… chatter away to your fish, you dog, your mom’s cactus, anything! Speaking French is key to learning French, and this is also the main factor one generally misses out on when learning French from home… But you won’t miss out! You have all the tools you need at home to be a French learner spectaculaire (spectacular French learner)!
If you take advantage of the resources around you and stick to a routine that works for your learning style—not forgetting to keep your learning well-rounded—it’s easy to carve out the best way to learn French at home for you.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.