So that’s it. You’ve been seduced by the beauty of French.
And now, naturally, you want to speak French!
I’m thrilled you’ve made the decision—you won’t regret it!
But how do you even start?
Starting a language from scratch can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re here to help. There are lots of great resources for the beginning French learner out there!
French for Beginners: The Best Online and Offline Resources to Jump-start Your French Learning Journey
Beginner Resources for Practicing French Grammar
The best way to start your beginning French journey is through exercises that teach you grammar basics.
Sure, it’s not as exciting as taking a vacation to Paris. But these exercises form the basis of French fluency.
You can find good grammar exercises in many places, both online and offline. Let’s take a look at some of the best:
ToLearnFrench is one of the largest databases of free French lessons available online. You can choose lessons about any topic you want, and new lessons are frequently added. At ToLearnFrench, you can practice your reading and writing skills with lessons from fellow users and professionals. If you open an account, you’ll have access to additional features including penpals and forums.
Each lesson is rated by its difficulty, from one to three stars. You’ll also notice that certain lessons have A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 or C2 in their title. This corresponds to the European method of rating language skill, with A1 being the easiest and C2 the hardest. Each link in each topic is a complete lesson that includes a theoretical introduction, written examples, audio examples and exercises.
The government of Quebec offers its own database of French exercises for prospective immigrants to that province, but as a student you can also complete them.
These written exercises have the backing of the government of a French-speaking area, so you know they’re high quality. Here you can also see the particularities of Quebecois French.
Just head to the main page and click the “French exercises bases” button. Then, on the left side, click on the folder corresponding to your level, in this case débutants (beginners). Different categories will appear including grammar and verbs. Single-click on the folder you want, and lots of links to exercises will appear on the right-hand side.
“French in Action: A Beginning Course in Language and Culture” is currently one of the most popular textbooks for beginning French. The book uses a video-intensive method developed by author Pierre Capretz that’s well-known in the French teaching world.
“French in Action” is a great one-stop resource that covers grammar and pronunciation while introducing you to French and Francophone culture.
“French in Action” has been a popular textbook since the 1980’s. It can be described as a complete French course. It should be the only book a beginning French speaker needs. Make sure you do all the exercises, rather than skipping around, to get the full experience.
Beginner Resources for Working on French Pronunciation
You may be thinking that it’s hard to practice your speaking and pronunciation if you don’t have an actual teacher. Fortunately, this too can be learned and practiced independently if you get creative. Check out these resources!
FluentU is an amazing resource for beginner French learners who want to work on their pronunciation right from the get-go.
FluentU takes real-world French videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news clips and inspiring talks—and turns them into language-learning experiences. Each video features native French speakers, so you’ll hear correct pronunciation 100% of the time and learn how French is really spoken.
Each video also comes equipped with interactive subtitles in French and English, plus a full transcript and a vocabulary review list. Just click on any word while watching a video and you’ll instantly see a definition and example sentences. That means FluentU makes authentic French-language content accessible—even for absolute beginners.
After you watch a video, you can take a quiz to review what you’ve learned. Or, create your own customized flashcard decks to practice new words. Check out FluentU’s free trial—you’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn!
Beginner French learners who want to learn to speak like a native speaker have to check out italki.
It’s a website and app that connects French learners with native-speaker teachers at a variety of price points. Because students and teachers decide on the length and structure of their classes, you can get a French learning experience that’s totally curated to your needs and schedule. Plus, each class is designed to be one-on-one, so you’ll get tons of individualized attention on your pronunciation from someone who knows best.
If you don’t want to pay for lessons, you can also sign up for the italki language exchange program. Here, you trade your English skills (or other language skills) for someone else’s French expertise. It can be a great way to make international friends as well as practice your French skills on a budget.
EasyPronunciation.com is a site that offers several services to French learners who want to learn pronunciation. For example, their French Pronunciation Tool will pronounce anything that you input.
They also offer professional phonetic translation tools and, most importantly, pronunciation lessons. Note that some services are free and others require a subscription.
Too many students wait until well into their French studies to take a pronunciation course. That’s too bad, because French pronunciation is extremely important. You don’t want to develop bad habits.
“Pronounce It Perfectly in French” provides lots of audio examples that help with many of the hardest sounds for English speakers. Words are introduced with the phonetic alphabet so you can pronounce them without problems. Many pronunciation exercises are also provided.
Think of Forvo as a French-English dictionary for pronunciation. Just type in any word and several pronunciations will appear, recorded by native speakers with a variety of accents. In the right column, the word is also pronounced in an example sentence.
With Forvo at your fingertips, you’ll never have doubts about how to pronounce again. Forvo also has a section to learn useful travel phrases in French. Students who travel often get frustrated that French people can’t understand them despite studying for a long time. Forvo can help fix that problem.
Beyond Beginner Learning: How to Take the Next Step
Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can get creative about how to take your French to the next level.
Here are some ways to push yourself beyond the “beginner” level. Even if you’re an absolute beginner right now, look into these options. They’ll give you something to work toward as you pursue your French learning journey.
Look for College-level Courses
Hey, I totally get it. Studying independently is amazing. There’s nothing better than the satisfaction of learning a language by your own efforts, but sometimes you just get to a point where you can’t advance. At that point it’s great to take a college-level French class if you have the time.
In a real class, you have a teacher who can identify your mistakes in real time and correct them. This is a huge advantage when learning grammar and pronunciation.
You’ll also make friends who are also learning French. Even when the class is over, you can stay in touch with them and practice speaking or writing together. Languages were meant for communication!
Take Your French Learning Abroad
Even for a beginner, going abroad can be an incredibly useful experience. By going to a French-speaking country, you’re forced to interact in French.
Even if your French is still basic, going abroad is a great experience because you’ll realize how French is actually spoken. In the meantime, you’ll learn and retain tons of vocabulary words that you otherwise might never have encountered.
There are many ways you can go abroad besides being a tourist. For example, you could:
- Teach English in France temporarily. If you’re looking for something more long-term, you could even contact English schools in France and see if they’re hiring for permanent positions. Websites like GoAbroad are a great place to start finding information.
- Find temporary work through websites like Workaway or HelpX. If you want to learn French while also picking up another skill—anything from hotel management to beekeeping to sustainable farming—this is the option for you.
- Search for work as an au pair. This is a great option if you love kids. Check out AuPairWorld to get the ball rolling.
- Depending on where you’re from, consider applying for a French working holiday visa. This is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the day-to-day life of France.
No matter how you go to France and for how long, you have to avoid the tourist route where everything will be in English. Try to visit less touristy places and live like a French person. Do your shopping at local markets and interact with the locals as much as possible.
Make Immersion a Priority
You’ve surely heard that immersion is crucial to language learning. All this means is that you should try to incorporate French into every aspect of your life, wherever possible. During your commute, at work, while browsing on your phone—wherever.
The idea is to replicate the natural learning process of children who learn their native language by being surrounded by it. Remember how you learned English with seemingly no effort? Obviously children have advantages when learning languages, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t replicate their method.
There are several ways to do this. You can read books in French or watch TV in French. You can even start with small changes, like setting the language of your phone to French. The important part is to surround yourself with French as much as possible.
French is one of the most beautiful and useful languages on Earth. Learning French is sure to be an intellectual journey that broadens your horizons and opens doors to new adventures. When you learn a language, you learn not only new words but a new way of thinking.
Get excited, and happy learning!
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