You know the old saying:
“You get what you pay for.”
Maybe that’s why it often seems that free French learning resources leave much to be desired.
I don’t want to settle for an unsatisfactory French education. If I’m going to study French, I want to do it right!
So I guess I’ll have to buy textbooks and enroll in classes. Maybe pay for a tutor.
But what if I could find free French lessons that were actually high-quality?
After sniffing around online, I’ve discovered several free online French lessons that remind me of another saying: “The best things in life are free.”
Even when it comes to studying French.
How to Maximize These Free Resources
Want to squeeze a little extra study time into your schedule? Download French materials so you can review them whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Study while you ride the subway to work, wait in the doctor’s office or stand in line at McDonald’s.
In these instances, you probably won’t have Wi-Fi access. Most of the websites on this list offer downloadable files so you can view the lessons even when you can’t connect to the internet or don’t want to go over your data plan.
With these files, you can study while waiting for your McDouble.
Language flashcards are an old-school way to study, but I love them. I know all my fellow visual learners out there do, too!
You can make either physical or digital flashcards. If working online is your style, try making your own set on Quizlet.
Find a friend:
Studying on your own is difficult for a multitude of reasons. First, if you have a question, whom do you ask for help? Second, some days it’s hard to motivate yourself to actually work.
Learning French with a friend will solve these and other problems you might face. It’s always good to have an accountability partner!
Supplement your learning:
As you develop your routine and build up some momentum and confidence, it’ll be easier and easier to find time and energy for your French studies every day. You may even get hooked on online French learning and want to start mixing in some other material outside of your free lessons.
If that’s the case, the first tool to check out is FluentU. This innovative platform will let you apply your new skills from the free lessons within a world of authentic French speech, vocabulary and culture.
Each video comes with clickable captions that show you in-context definitions and pronunciations for any word. FluentU also creates tailor-made flashcards and exercises from the vocabulary in each video to test you on what you’ve just watched.
It’s an awesome way to immerse yourself in French the way native speakers really use it while also actively building your language skills. Plus, you don’t just have to learn from your laptop! Take FluentU anywhere with the mobile app.
Five Free French Lessons at Your Disposal
The Basics: Europa Pages
Why Europa Pages?
Europa Pages is a great free program for beginner French students. The website focuses on basic pronunciation rules, as well as low-level vocabulary.
You can start from the very beginning—learning to say words such as bonjour (hello) and merci (thank you).
If you’ve mastered the foundations but still don’t feel comfortable self-identifying as an intermediate student, check out Europa Pages’s lessons about asking for directions or staying at a hotel. These are basic conversation topics you’d be likely to study near the end of a first-year French class in school.
How it works:
At the beginning of each lesson, Europa Pages lists French vocabulary alongside its English translation. The course includes written phonetic transcriptions of all the French words. This feature is helpful because in case you didn’t know, the French language includes a lot of silent letters!
Some lessons include audio clips, while others have videos. Click on the links to hear the vocabulary being used. Hearing native French speakers makes a huge difference in mastering vocabulary and pronunciation, especially for beginners to avoid building bad habits.
Depending on how much information is in the lesson, after the clip you might see a few more vocabulary words to expand your lexicon.
Vocabulary: French by French
Why French by French?
French by French has free lessons for multiple learning levels. Choose from beginner one, beginner two, intermediate or advanced.
This way, even if you start at the very beginning, you can use French by French throughout years of study. This is great for students who want consistency in their learning. Some of the other resources on this list are perfect for beginners, but you would have to transition to another resource once you advance.
French by French’s main strength is the extensive vocabulary it provides. Learn about topics like le zoo (the zoo), préparation du repas (meal preparation) or avant le mariage (before the wedding).
How it works:
Both beginner and intermediate levels consist of 50 lessons that include key vocabulary and exercises to help you memorize the words.
If you start from the beginning, your first lesson is Bonjour, and you learn phrases such as, Je m’appelle… (My name is…) and Je suis… (I am…).
By the end of the intermediate level, you learn to talk about marriage, both on a personal and legal level. Yep, you’ll know how to say things such as, Monsieur V. Jean, consentez-vous à prendre pour épouse Mademoiselle T. Marie, ici présente? (Mr. V. Jean, do you agree to take Miss T. Marie, here present, as your wife?)
I think it’s hilarious that you can learn how to legally conduct a wedding ceremony by the end of 150 lessons. But it’s also kind of awesome. More realistically, you can attend a French wedding and be able to follow along.
The advanced level focuses less on vocabulary lists and more on dissecting cultural texts. You’ll learn how to deconstruct the meanings behind poetry, literature and famous songs.
Daily Communication: Rocket Languages
Why Rocket Languages?
Rocket Languages’ free lessons provide helpful vocabulary and phrases for beginners who want to learn how to hold a conversation. This isn’t just about learning numbers one through 100 or how to say “Happy Birthday.”
No, it’s about carrying on a conversation so you can form real relationships with francophones. This will take you beyond “classroom” French and into the world of native speakers.
Rocket Languages teaches you how to describe yourself and your family, which can be handy-dandy when you first meet someone or start dating French people.
You’ll also learn how to discuss health issues, from your mood to what to say if you ever have to go to the doctor’s office in a French-speaking region.
And you’ll pick up a ton of shopping lingo. Because if you’re in France, there’s no way you’ll make it out alive without first hitting les magasins (the shops).
How it works:
Open a lesson and see a list of French vocabulary and phrases related to the class’s theme, followed by the English translation.
The theme is broken down into subcategories. If you want to take it slow, only study one subcategory per day. Or even one per week, depending on your schedule.
Click the audio recording to hear a francophone say the words. Then turn on your computer’s microphone to record yourself saying the phrase and play it back. Does your accent match the French speaker’s?
At the end of each lesson, there’s a test so you can check your writing, pronunciation and comprehension skills.
If you enjoy these lessons, you can easily keep your momentum going by graduating to Rocket Languages’ full French program. It offers hours and hours of audio lessons covering French language and culture topics. There are also cool features like a progress tracking tool to make sure you’re steadily progressing towards fluency.
Pronunciation: The French Tutorial
Why The French Tutorial?
Although French pronunciation isn’t as difficult as it initially seems… it can definitely seem daunting when you’re first studying the language.
Thankfully, The French Tutorial breaks down the French accent bit by bit.
The website is ideal for students who are just starting to learn French and aren’t familiar with the pronunciation rules yet. It’s also helpful for students who are further along in their studies and may excel in vocabulary or reading, but they struggle with pronunciation.
The French Tutorial does provide lessons involving vocabulary and more complex French conversation topics. However, the emphasis on pronunciation is what sets the website apart from the others on this list.
How it works:
The program starts with the alphabet, providing audio recordings of each letter individually so you can listen to ones you’re struggling with.
After that, the site addresses the multitude of silent letters in the lexicon. Then the pronunciation of certain vowel combinations, such as ou and oi.
The list goes on.
Not only can you listen to pronunciation, but The French Tutorial thoroughly explains the rules, which can clarify any confusion you might have.
OpenLearn offers numerous French courses that are both free and insanely valuable.
All the courses focus on vocabulary related to cultural experiences. The lessons are two-fold. Not only do you learn various phrases, but you learn about French culture in the process.
The knowledge gained in these classes will be helpful if you want to travel to or work in France.
How it works:
Beginners can choose between two classes, Food and Drink or A Trip to Avignon, which teaches you how to navigate and explore when visiting a new French-speaking place.
Intermediate learners can enroll in Le quatorze juillet (The 14th of July), a course about France’s Independence Day. Or you might want to take Holiday Plans, a course about planning and describing personal vacations. Or if you want to train your ear, you might like the Improve Your Understanding of Spoken French class.
People who are a little more advanced should check out the Cultures class, which looks at French music’s influence on culture, or At the Science Museum in Paris.
OpenLearn’s lessons include a variety of exercises, from writing and spelling, to reading comprehension, to audio clips.
You don’t have to settle for a subpar French education just because you’re on a budget.
There are free resources that can teach you about every aspect of the language, from saying bonjour (hello) to talking in-depth about science. Why drop hundreds of dollars on a course when you have these free French lessons at your fingertips?
Laura Grace Tarpley is an editor at FluentU. She loves tinkering with crossword puzzles and playing with her puppy, Tuna. Follow her on Twitter @lgtarpley.
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