Get Your Fill of French for Free with These 11 Awesome E-learning Resources
Online resources are invaluable to mastering the French language, but there’s just so much French information out there. It’s impossible to scour it all.
Where on earth to begin?
That’s why we’ve compiled 11 websites right here, fit for a variety of learning levels and learning styles, and all of them free.
Everyone learns differently, so feel free to play around with these sites and others you find until you discover what works for you.
- What Are the Benefits of French E-learning?
- Get to Know the CEFR
- What Does Effective French E-Learning Look Like?
- The Tech-savvy Francophile: 11 Great Sites for Free French E-learning
- And one more thing...
What Are the Benefits of French E-learning?
Well, you probably already use the internet for so many things… checking your email, binge-watching YouTube videos, monitoring Facebook, reading BuzzFeed articles à l’infini (to infinity). So adding French education to your online activities just makes sense.
You’re already comfortable and familiar with the internet—why not take advantage of the myriad online resources for beginning, improving or polishing your French?
French is a powerful language. Its prominence in politics, business and culture means that there’s no shortage of websites dedicated to helping you master this most useful of tongues. Although this is certainly good news, the possibilities can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve chosen the 11 best websites to get your French skills up to par!
Another great benefit of e-learning is the amount of control you have. You can choose what you want to study, when and for how long. You can easily utilize these sites anywhere you have internet access and some places even allow you to download lessons and audio clips so you can practice offline.
One of my favorite things about these 11 resources is the variety. They cover everything from grammar and vocabulary to cultural background and karaoke exercises. Whether you want to brush up on your reading skills, learn how to have a natural French conversation or listen to what’s popular in France right now, these sites will give you a great place to start!
Get to Know the CEFR
On many of these sites, you’ll encounter the mysterious acronyms A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and (sometimes) C2. They correspond to the standard European scale of language acquisition, formally referred to as “The Common European Framework of Reference,” or CEFR. In other words, it’s a measure of how well you know French (or whatever language you’re learning). A is considered beginner, B is intermediate and C, advanced.
Understanding the CEFR will help you get the most out of these sites, and since CEFR is considered one of the most common measures of language acquisition, having a working knowledge of it is a great asset.
- A1 is the most basic level. At this point, you’re just learning your first words and phrases. You’re comfortable with terminology that’s highly familiar and frequent, and your sentences are short and simple.
- A2 denotes a basic level of competency, and you’re able to get the gist of short, simple messages. You can follow and participate in very basic conversations.
- At the B1 level, you’re an intermediate learner. You have a working vocabulary that can be used to describe a wider scope of topics, such as science, politics and philosophy. You can get the gist or main idea of most written texts and audio recordings.
- Those at the B2 level can comprehend most resources in detail. You know enough to confidently travel to a French-speaking country.
- The level C1 is considered fluent. You can understand many of the same books, movies, etc. that native speakers consume. You can confidently live in a French-speaking country.
- The highest level is C2. Many sites don’t include this category because you’re able to perform at a native speaker level. Not only do you express yourself well and understand the language fully, but you also understand the subtle nuances of the language that only comes from living long-term in a French-speaking country.
What Does Effective French E-Learning Look Like?
I know. A lot to take in. With so many websites and options, how does one possibly find a consistent and effective method to put them into practice? That is totally up to you. I suggest you browse these resources, check out what they have and find what you like best.
Once you choose a few favorites, you can set aside some time every day, or at least a few times a week, to do exercises, read articles or watch a video. Some possible, practical examples might be to:
- Commit to reading through at least one French news article on TV5 Monde each morning. I did this for awhile.
- Learn a new French idiom every day with Reverso’s Expressio.fr tool. They have a “phrase of the day” you can look at, or you can browse through them and pick one.
- Once a week (or every other week or once a month—whatever works with your schedule), make a recipe with Larousse.
- Choose a topic every day with French-games.net, go through the lesson and, of course, play the games!
Whatever works for you, e-learning is a fun and effective way to sharpen your French. Learning a language is never easy, but if you jump in and stick with it, I guarantee that you’ll improve. Bon voyage into the world of French e-learning!
The Tech-savvy Francophile: 11 Great Sites for Free French E-learning
French by French
Like keeping it simple and consistent? Named after the premise of “French taught by French teachers,” French by French is a completely free website that provides brief, simple and effective lessons for beginners to advanced learners.
Every lesson begins with a brief dialogue clip, a transcript and a translation. The rest of the lesson breaks down that dialogue by introducing new vocabulary, explaining grammar paradigms, sharing cultural insight and providing a few exercises to help you review the lesson.
One of the strengths of French by French is that all the lessons can be downloaded as a PDF so you can review it offline. You can even print the lessons out to annotate if you’re the type who likes having a physical paper trail. All the audio clips may also be downloaded for free.
Because the lessons are in a clear and logical order, this is a particularly good resource if you’re just starting out. Each lesson is brief and shouldn’t take very long. If you stick to a routine and cover at least a few lessons a week, you’ll see progress relatively quickly.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Do you find yourself on YouTube for hours, watching an endless stream of funny cat videos? Luckily, YouTube’s addictive qualities can be redeemed for French goodness. Although you do have to pay to use FrenchPod101's full online services, you can learn a lot from their YouTube channel (which is free).
One of their playlists is “Ask a French Teacher,” which covers some common issues, such as the infamous “False Friends.” Another playlist is your guide to French holidays—everything from how Christmas is celebrated in France to La Fête Nationale (The National Holiday).
In “Weekly French Words With Lya,” each video shares vocabulary relating to a specific subject, such as words to use at the post office. Check out all they have to offer and see what interests you and what you think will be the most helpful!
In terms of levels, FrenchPod101 seems pretty spread out. For beginners, you can find videos with basic phrases and simple grammar concepts. For levels A2 and B1, you can look at their videos about more specialized vocabulary. Furthermore, they have listening comprehension videos for everything from “absolute beginner” to “advanced.”
Who doesn’t love free online games? And when you learn at the same time, it’s a win-win. One of this website’s strengths is its versatility. To really master a chosen topic, you can go through a whole lesson starting from learning the vocabulary, doing simple exercises with the new vocabulary and, finally, reviewing the new words with a game.
They do have a good variety of games to play. My personal favorite is “The Frog Flies,” where you use the arrow keys to maneuver an animated frog to catch a fly. Finally, after playing games, you may take a test to solidify your new knowledge. If you don’t want to go through the whole process, or are already familiar with the topic, you have the option of skipping straight to the games (don’t worry, it’s not cheating) or forgoing certain activities.
Although this website does have topics for beginners and intermediate learners, I find that (in many case) even the “intermediate” topics aren’t overly challenging. Thus, this site seems most beneficial for beginners as a way to learn new vocabulary or to review and reinforce words you learned in a course.
But then again, even if you’re an intermediate or advanced learner, this site is a good excuse to play some games and review at the same time.
This simple page takes you to many French resources, such as some basic conversational phrases, the “survival phrases” you want to have while traveling, etc.
They have free lessons for both beginning and intermediate learners with an emphasis on videos (which makes sense, since BBC is a British TV network). You can also take a proficiency test, which can help you determine your CEFR level and choose activities that are most relevant to you.
The website itself is most helpful to beginners because most of their information is introductory (such as conversational phrases) or self-contained (such as holiday phrases). It also includes good links to other resources.
One thing to keep in mind when using this site is that it’s archived, meaning that it’s no longer updated, so be careful about using certain areas, such as their list of French slang (since slang tends to change quickly as trends come and go).
Formerly About.com French, ThoughtCo French is a wonderful reference for all things grammar. They have detailed guides in all areas of grammar, both basic and complex.
You can also find fascinating articles on French culture—including one on how to use a French toilet. (Now that’s what I call comprehensive!) Another feature you’ll find extremely useful is ThoughtCo’s resources for authentic French pronunciation. Having a good French accent and great conversation skills are indispensable for being comfortable with native speakers, making such advice essential.
Although they do have some beginner’s articles, due to the emphasis on culture and grammar, ThoughtCo is most helpful to intermediate learners.
A toolbar on the left divides the site into categories such as “basics” and “grammar,” and the articles themselves aren’t arranged in any linear fashion. Therefore, you would probably want to use the search bar if you’re researching a particular topic, or you could simply explore a certain category and choose whichever articles interest you.
TV5 Monde is a French broadcasting service whose French-learning tools consist of brief news clips followed by multiple choice, matching or true or false exercises. Take your time to make sure you understand the clip, re-watch it as many times as necessary and read the transcript.
The clips are divided by CEFR level and represent a wide range of subjects, from recipes to education. If you take a look at all that TV5 Monde exercises have to offer, you’re certain to find something that catches your eye.
Not up to toning your oral comprehension right now? TV5 Monde also has a large variety of news articles perfect for practicing your reading. Again, there are so many topics to explore. Their news is divided into such areas as African news, sports, world developments impacting women and developments in science.
Stay informed and learn more French at the same time. Reading the news in French will further deepen your understanding of French culture and expose you to world events from a French perspective.
This resource is most effective once you’re able to comprehend at least some written and spoken French. After you’re more confident in your listening and reading comprehension, TV5 Monde is very helpful in strengthening those skills and taking them to the next level.
Bonjour de France
Bonjour de France offers a variety of resources—grammar, oral/reading comprehension practice, games, etc. One of its strengths is its rich vocabulary lists.
Not only are they available in a large variety of topics, from slang to business French, but the lists are also interactive. Short videos explain the new words in an engaging way and multiple-choice questions test your understanding. My favorite part of this website is their karaoke feature, which is a fun and unique way to practice your French with music.
You can choose a song by searching by title, artist or category. After you pick one, you’ll choose the level of difficulty (the higher the level, the more words you’ll have to enter). As the music video plays, subtitles will be provided at the bottom, but some words—anything from one each line to one every four lines—will be fill-in-the-blank.
When it gets to a blank spot, the song will stop and give you a certain amount of time to type in the word. During that time, you’re also free to replay that part of the song to hear the word again.
It’ll make a lot more sense once you try it, which I highly recommend. You’ll get a taste of French music, and it’s a truly engaging way to practice your oral comprehension skills. Have no idea which song to pick? “Dernière Danse” (“Last Dance”) by Indila is one of my favorites.
This website is most fitting for intermediate learners, as many of the activities work best after you’ve acquired some knowledge about the language. For instance, learning vocabulary through French definitions is a more difficult way to learn new words and is most effective with intermediate and advanced learners.
Ahhh . . . Larousse—one of my most treasured French resources. I have used it faithfully with many a homework assignment. Larousse is there for you, whether you want to find out what a word means, find French sources for a research project or even cook up an authentic French dish.
For learning the French language, Larousse has an English-French dictionary, which works well for beginners, as well as a French dictionary (meaning both the word and the definitions are in French), which is the best choice if you’re an intermediate or advanced learner.
Their comprehensive French dictionary will not only define a word, but it’ll also give you (depending on the word) all possible definitions with examples, synonyms, antonyms, any idiomatic expressions associated with the word and even famous quotes containing the word.
Larousse also has a large encyclopedia—perfect for researching French history and culture as written by the French themselves, or for learning something new about any topic while polishing your language prowess.
Ready for a delicious challenge? Larousse also has an entire portion of their site dedicated to recipes. Cooking a French recipe will not only give you a taste of French cuisine but it’ll also challenge you to learn specialized cooking vocabulary. (Keep in mind that since France uses the metric system, you’ll have to convert the measurements).
This resource is best for intermediate and advanced learners, as Larousse is most well-known for its French encyclopedia and dictionary. Learning new French words by reading French definitions is the best method at higher levels.
Like Larousse, RFI Savoirs is an authentic source—meaning it’s by French speakers, for French speakers. RFI Savoirs is part of Radio France Internationale (French International Radio), making it the ideal place to test and polish your oral comprehension. (Although they also have articles with reading exercises.)
Their site is also fun to use; browse by topic, theme or type of activity. The variety means there’s something for everyone. Adore history (like me)? Check out their resources on the Resistance during World War II. Feeling hungry? Check out their activities all about macaroons! Find something that fascinates you so you can learn something new while shaping up your French.
RFI Savoirs is best for learners who are at level A2 and above, since their resources require a solid foundation in French. If you can’t understand intermediate written and audio sources at all, this site will be a bit much for you. But if you’re able to grasp at least the main ideas of these kinds of sources, then this is an amazing place to get some practice and have fun learning!
Forgot the past participle of dormir (to sleep)? Mystified by the French word un gamin (a kid)? Struggling with a French idiomatic expression such as voir midi à sa porte (to each his own)? Cannot for the life of you figure out when to use c’est (it is) and when to use il est (it/he is)? One of my go-to reference tools, Reverso, can help with those questions and so many more.
If you’re trying to remember the conjugation of a tricky verb, use their conjugator tool, which will give you all possible forms of a chosen verb. Their French-English and English-French dictionaries are particularly helpful because you’ll not only get the appropriate translation(s), but you’ll also find related words and examples in context. For example, if you type gamin in the French-English dictionary, you would see not only that it means “kid,” but also that gamin des rues means “street urchin,” and you would find the example il devenait un gamin génial, which means “he became a really great kid.”
Reverso also has an entire site dedicated to French idioms, Expressio.fr. You can explore their featured idioms to learn something new, or if you come across a phrase whose literal meaning makes no sense in context, you can search it up to discover the meaning, appropriate translations and a detailed explanation (in French) of the phrase’s origin.
As you can see, there’s an endless number of French-learning resources and zero excuses why you shouldn’t start today. E-learning French has never been so easy!
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
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 learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)