Until you hit the jackpot, free online French lessons will be there for you.
Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll win the lotto.
All the money in the world would be in your hands.
You could splurge on a private jet to travel the French-speaking world and private instructors to teach you all the rules and nuances of the language.
I know that’s what I’d do!
Unfortunately, I haven’t hit the lotto yet. Right now, I’m on a tight budget.
What do we do when we’re pinching our pennies? We opt for a resource that’s a lot more accessible than private jets and personal language training.
Where any French learner can find high-quality French lessons online, totally for free.
And I mean free! Even if you don’t have internet access at your home, you can walk to your local public library and use their Wi-Fi to learn French for free.
There are online resources that truly cost nothing. No excuses! Let’s hop online and learn French—c’est gratuit! (It’s free!)
Loecsen’s free online French lessons are split into 17 categories, starting with the most basic: “Essentials.” This section covers phrases from bonjour (hello) to à plus tard (see you later).
The website also includes several fun categories, such as French for the beach or the bar.
My favorites are the practical categories, such as “In case of trouble.” This section teaches you terms such as je suis perdu (I’m lost) and pouvez-vous appeler un médecin, s’il vous plaît? (Can you call a doctor, please?) If you’re planning to travel to a French-speaking region, you’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with these terms!
How It Works:
When you choose a category, you’ll see a list of phrases in English. Click on the phrase, and the French words appear in a larger font. At the same time, you’ll see an image corresponding to the words and hear a speaker say the term in French.
Once you’ve studied that lesson, switch from the “player” tab to the “quiz” tab and see how much you’ve learned!
Thanks to Loecsen’s use of multiple methods for teaching each French phrase, this website appeals to all types of learners. Even if you don’t find the written phrases helpful, seeing the picture may help you remember what the foreign words mean. Whether you’re an auditory or visual learner, you’ll benefit from using Loecsen.
Although Loecsen’s vocabulary remains foundational in terms of depth, it covers a lot of ground. So while you may not learn to discuss classic French literature through this site, you’ll be able to talk about the basics of many different topics.
2. The French Experiment
Levels: Beginner and Intermediate
The French Experiment has numerous free French lessons for beginner and intermediate students.
For those who are just starting out, you can learn, say, vocabulary related to the days of the week or counting to a million. Intermediate learners can move on to French idioms or conversation filler words.
If you need a break from studying vocabulary, The French Experiment also covers multiple grammar rules, such as how to make sentences negative and how to make nouns possessive.
How It Works:
It’s pretty simple, really.
Choose your category. Then you’ll find a list of translated words and expressions. You can also click on each phrase to hear the words spoken aloud. Try repeating after the audio cue to practice your pronunciation and accent!
Why The French Experiment?
Not only are there pages related to vocabulary and grammar, but to spice things up, The French Experiment also has children’s stories you can read in French.
If this seems a little daunting to you, don’t worry—they provide optional paragraph-by-paragraph translations!
3. BBC Languages: French
Levels: Beginner and Intermediate
The BBC has two video lesson series for beginners called “Talk French” and “The French Experience.”
Intermediate learners can take advantage of the BBC’s vast array of free online French lessons, including French news, video series and slang words.
How It Works:
If you’re a beginner, I definitely recommend starting with the two video lesson series. They both consist of 10 videos, covering everything from greetings, to hobbies, to shopping.
The BBC also provides a free post-beginner course called “Ma France,” (“My France”) which includes 24 video mini-lessons, and a seemingly endless list of vocabulary words sorted by letter, among other things.
While some of the “Ma France” content (like a weekly email) is no longer available, you still have access to the materials through the website.
Why BBC Languages?
The BBC’s three video lesson series provide a structure that some of the other sites on this list lack. If you find yourself needing a little more direction in order to learn as much French as possible, the BBC’s French lessons online might be the right choice for you.
Levels: Beginner and Intermediate
This website has two free online French courses, one for beginners and one for intermediate learners. Each course is composed of 12 lessons.
How It Works:
Of the websites on this list, elearningfrench’s courses most resemble typical classroom-style French lessons. Except I think they’re even better, because you can finish them on your own time, in the comfort of your living room—and, of course, they’re free!
Each individual lesson includes audio files for listening exercises, as well as new vocabulary lists and grammar explanations. The website also provides practice drills so that by the end of the lesson, you’ll be confident enough to move on to the next one.
These courses also include quizzes and tests so even though you don’t have a teacher or classmates, you can still assess your skills and progress.
Maybe you actually like classroom-style learning. You think materials, exercises and tests are helpful. You just don’t want to spend the money on a course or textbooks right now. elearningfrench is a great substitute for a traditional course.
You won’t have the classroom atmosphere, but you’ll benefit from the classroom-level quality in your lessons.
5. French in Action
Yes, here are free French lessons that are valuable even for advanced French students!
This website contains 52 videos, each around a half-hour in length. You can go through each video or skip ahead, depending on your skill level.
How It Works:
While French in Action is a free instructional video series, it does have corresponding materials you can purchase online. Sorry, only the videos are free! Still, over 25 hours of free video lessons ain’t nothing to sneeze at.
The 52 videos are split into 17 categories like “Geography and Tourism” and “Entertainment.”
Why French in Action?
These free online French lessons were developed at Yale University, so you can count on their quality.
If you like methodical, cognitive lessons, French in Action is for you. These videos are instructional, while also mixing things up with short skits and dialogues.
Much like E-Learning French, French in Action is beneficial for people who like structured classroom-level lessons.
ielanguages stands for “Indo-European languages,” and as its name suggests, it offers tutorials on multiple Indo-European languages such as Italian, Spanish and, of course, French.
What started off as a smaller idea from a single writer has grown into a multitude of tutorial-style language courses, spanning all major Indo-European languages as well as minor ones such as Icelandic and Afrikaans.
How It Works:
ielanguages is divided into bite-sized tutorials that offer quick and easy-to-follow lessons on grammar and vocabulary topics. The lessons follow a chronological order, meaning that each lesson builds on the skill of the previous one.
In fact, the tutorials cover basically all the topics in the French language, so you could logically start using ielanguages as a beginner and continue to use it when you become an intermediate and advanced learner of French.
The tutorial lessons are pretty short, generally introducing a new list of vocabulary or a short grammar explanation. This is followed by French audio as well as loads of example sentences to see the new vocabulary or grammar topic in context.
There are six levels of French tutorials that span more than 100 topics.
If you’re pressed for time and want to learn a lot of French in a short amount of time, ielanguages is for you. Each tutorial can be learned in less than 15 minutes!
Further, ielanguages is extensive in the sense that it covers a lot of French topics across multiple levels.
There’s also authentic French audio as well as loads of bonus materials outside of the original French tutorials. Such bonus material includes tutorials on French slang, listening resources, flashcards and exercises.
7. Français Authentique (Authentic French)
Levels: Intermediate to Advanced
Français authentique is a YouTube channel that’s run by native French speaker Johan. Johan is a French teacher but he’s also studied and mastered a few languages in his own right.
As such, this channel is aimed at helping people master the French language the way Johan believes we learn best: by being immersed!
How It Works:
Being a YouTube channel, the structure of Français authentique isn’t as linear as some other courses on this list. However, that’s what makes this course so accessible!
Learners can choose any video they please and begin learning. All the videos are in French with French and English subtitles. Because of this, I recommend having a basis in the French language before tuning into a Français authentique video.
The videos focus on topics related to vocabulary and grammar, often explaining a grammar topic in-depth with examples or giving a list of common vocabulary related to a specific topic.
Many of the videos are sorted into playlists, grouping together certain topics such as French expressions, learning tips and even personal development. While a personal development course may not be what you’re after, this playlist course is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the French language.
Why Français authentique?
Immersion works! Johan knows this, and he has created videos in clear, slow French to help learners be immersed in the French language without being overwhelmed.
Français authentique also has a sister website that holds a wealth of materials for viewers of the YouTube channel. Learners can access transcripts, practice exercises and even a podcast that you can take with you on the go!
8. Français avec Pierre (French with Pierre)
Like Français authentique, Français avec Pierre is a YouTube channel that teaches the French language to intermediate and advanced learners.
Unlike Français authentique, the content is organized into more easy-to-follow playlists, making it simple to choose what content to study next.
How It Works:
As previously mentioned, this channel has playlists focused on specific levels of French. These include two video courses for beginners, a course for intermediate and advanced learners, a course on French expressions and a video course on French grammar.
Each course has various lessons on different topics. Each starts with an explanation of the topic as well as authentic French examples of the French in the video. Pierre, the teacher, is a native French teacher, and his accent is perfect for listening to real French.
Even the beginner videos are conducted in French, so you’re immersed in French right away. Each video comes with English and French subtitles.
Why Français avec Pierre?
The wealth of videos related to the French language with Français avec Pierre is unmatched, and that’s why this channel is one of the most subscribed French-learning channels on YouTube.
Further, each video features authentic French. Not only is Pierre a native French speaker, but he shares his videos with his wife, who learned French later in life.
There are also playlists that differ from traditional lesson-style videos. These include real French vlogs, interviews and even cooking tutorials completely in French. This is invaluable for seeing French used in real situations.
Memrise is a wildly successful website and smartphone application that teaches languages at a variety of levels. In fact, it’s an established idea in the language learning community that Duolingo and Memrise compete for the top spot as the best app for learning a new language.
While the competition is mostly lighthearted—and the companies themselves hold no animosity between each other—Memrise is a natural competitor to Duolingo because of its quality, scope and reputation.
How It Works:
The idea behind Memrise is simple yet highly effective: flashcards.
But these aren’t your grandpa’s flashcards. Memrise’s digital French flashcards include authentic French words and phrases and English translations as well as real French audio and videos.
As you master new words and phrases in French, the flashcard transforms from a “seed” to a full “flower,” indicating how well you’ve mastered a word. But like any good flower, you need to water it from time to time to keep it alive.
Enter Spaced Repetition System (SRS) technology.
SRS is an algorithm that taps into the natural memory processes of our brains to help use remember new French words. Once a flower flashcard blooms, the SRS algorithm with have you review the flashcard at strategic intervals to help you always remember the word or phrase.
Well, in short, numerous studies prove that SRS works as a way to memorize information.
Further, Memrise has seven French courses that increase in level as you progress. On top of that, Memrise hosts user-created courses for anyone to use. These also include fully functional flashcards. There are dozens if not hundreds of French courses created by users, and new courses are being added all the time.
Which Is the Best Free Online French Lesson?
Now that we’ve looked at the nine best free French lessons available online, which is the best one of them all?
Well, truth be told, only you can decide that.
There’s no authority on which French lessons are the best, so you need to determine what the best French course is for you.
To do so, you should take multiple factors into account. For example, what are your goals? How much time can you spend learning French per day or per week? How do you learn best?
The answers to these questions will vary by person, but knowing the answers that make sense for you will help you narrow down the best online French course for your journey.
To assist you, we’ve created a handy list of which French courses you should use to meet certain learning goals or study regimens. Check it out!
- Best for Beginners: BBC Languages: French
- Best for Reading Practice: The French Experiment
- Best for Vocabulary Building: Loecsen
- Best for Classroom-Style Lessons: elearningfrench
- Best for Video Lessons: French in Action
- Best for Bite-sized Learning: ielanguages
- Best for Intermediate & Advanced Learners: Français authentique
- Best for Immersive French Lessons: Français avec Pierre
- Best for On-the-go Learning: Memrise
Can You Really Learn French for Free Online?
I know, it almost seems too good to be true. Can you really learn French from your own home without spending a penny?
Oui, bien sûr! (Yes, of course!)
But it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Learning a language, no matter how you do it, requires time and hard work. Before you dive into the list of free French lessons below, consider when and how you’ll be using them.
Will you take time for a lesson each morning before getting ready for work? Will you commit to completing one course within a certain timeframe? Think about how language studies will fit into your lifestyle, and then make a plan to hold yourself accountable.
The good news is that 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 find that you get hooked on online French learning and want to graduate from beyond just free French lessons.
If that’s the case, the first tool to check out is FluentU. This innovative platform will take you beyond your initial online French lessons into a world of authentic French speech, vocabulary and culture.
Each video comes with clickable captions you can use to get 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 for iOS or Android.
Ready to find out what other great French lessons online are available to you?
Which one of these free websites best suits your needs and preferences? Do you thrive in the classroom? Do you like playing language games?
Regardless of your learning style, there are numerous ways to learn French for free, thanks to the internet. Even more importantly, regardless of your budget, you can learn French online!
Laura Grace Tarpley is a writer based in Athens, Georgia. She has spent the past four years living in and exploring France, New Zealand and China. She runs the blog Let’s Go Tarpley!, where she writes city guides and budget travel tips. Check her out on Twitter!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.