We can all agree that games are a fun way to learn something, right?
But you don’t have to be a video game lover to enjoy and benefit from online games.
That’s because there are small online games geared specifically for French learners!
That’s right: no registrations, no monthly payments, no fancy equipment. Just simple but surprisingly addicting text and flash games scattered all over the net.
Often overlooked by traditional language learners, online games are a no-strings-attached tool for learners at all levels—with surprising results.
What Do You Mean by Online French Games?
We’re not talking about any flash game made by French people. No, I’m talking about games for French learners.
How are these games structured?
Simplicity is the word. Often they’re text based, where you type in the correct answer, or they employ simple graphics like buttons to push. However, many of the games feature levels, animations and surprisingly high programming quality for online educational games.
Do I need a super fast computer to play them?
This ties into the above. The games’ simplicity means that you don’t need to invest in expensive equipment. It’s not like you’re signing up for World of Warcraft! You may be thinking, “When I think of interactive language learning, I think of big software packages like Rosetta Stone.” But don’t let the small size of online games discourage you; they have a huge potential to help you. Read on to find out.
Are they always free?
Ah, the million dollar, or should I say zero dollar, question! Most of the resources I’ll describe are free, but the internet is so huge, some games for French learners are bound to have a price. But there’s enough free material to go around!
Advantages of Playing French Games Online
You guessed it. I wouldn’t recommend something without a reason. If I had to learn French doing only one activity, I’d go crazy! Luckily, even something as simple as online games enhances your learning experience. So just how do these games help you?
Reinforced memorization through repetition
This works especially well for vocab. If I’m memorizing a list of vocab, I need repetition to actually commit the words to memory. Some people suggest miracle strategies and mnemonics, but for me at least, nothing beats repetitive guessing.
Being a techie, I program lists of vocab and cycle through them, but many free online games have their own vocab lists to memorize, usually subject based, like kitchen or office vocab. I recommend reviewing recently memorized vocab the next day before moving on to new words. You also might want to see how the vocab from the day before manifests in real-life settings, specifically with the help of FluentU.
Small time commitment compared to other learning methods
I frequently suggest learning French during your break time, and online games are another way to do that. In 10 minutes, you can play several different games and track noticeable improvement. My biggest problem is often finding the time to get my daily French practice in, but these games make it simple.
Most facets of written French are included
You can find online games dealing not only with vocab, but with grammar, spelling, gender and accent placement. A popular game format is fill in the blanks. You’re given a sentence and a list of possible words, and you have to choose the right one. This also works with spelling and grammar structures.
Do you need a better reason? Look at your choices for fast daily French practice: news clips, articles, flashcards? Those are great, but you’ll love to also include engaging games. Much like simple smartphone games, French online games can be addictive. Enjoy!
Game-ify Your French: 6 Sweet Sites for Online French Games
Here are six online games to totally boost your French!
1. Digital Dialects
This is probably the most easy-to-use resource I found. Digital Dialects specializes in free games for most major languages. In addition to your standard graphical games, audio games are also included, indicated by little megaphone icons. For example, clicking on “Food” takes you to a game where food vocab is pronounced, and you click on the item you hear.
Other French games here cover areas such as colors, greetings, numbers, telling time, basic phrases and more. There’s also an advanced section for veteran learners, with topics such as verbs and vocabulary builders.
I love how Digital Dialects makes it clear which games are for beginner, intermediate or advanced learners. Let’s say we wanted to learn how to tell time in French in French. Click on “Telling the Time” and then click either the “learn words,” “play only words,” “play with audio” or “different game” buttons.
When you’re done with the games, Digital Dialects also offers recommendations of several great French books and links.
French-games.net is huge! But hey, what do you expect from a website called “French Games”? The site guides you through finding games that work for you. Clicking “1. Start” lets you select your level of difficulty level and then a topic. Next you can either head to a lesson or straight to the games. It’s like a whole learning curriculum in one sitting.
It’s nice that this site gives you an optional lesson (written or audio) to learn the material first. And once you’ve completed the games, the fourth step consists of test—either multiple choice or writing. All of the games have nice animations and audio. I recommend following the four-step tutorial found at the top of the site (1. Start, 2. Lessons, 3. Games, 4. Tests) because it relates the games to standard learning methods.
French-games.net recommends scoring an 8+ in a test before moving on to a new topic, and to retake tests 2 weeks after you originally passed them. Doing one full lesson a day will help you make great strides!
3. Hello World
Although it’s geared towards children, Hello World offers a large array of games and activities that can be used by all levels and ages. The point-and-click games are simple and colorful, coving many topics that you won’t find on other French game sites—such as science, puzzles, culture, songs and even Fontaine fables!
Granted, many of these resources aren’t technically “games” but they offer diverse learning opportunities with strong visual and audio components. I especially like the logic puzzles!
In fact, let’s try Les filles et les chapeaux (The girls and the hats) in the “Logic Puzzles” section. Click the green “play” button in the top left to listen to three French sentences. Based on what you hear, click and drag on the items above to give each of the girls a hat and an object. Clicking on any object will show its name in French and play clear audio of the word being spoken. When you’re finished assigning objects to the girls, you can check your work by clicking the red check mark (to the right of the green play button). What a creative game!
For an even more immersive experience, change your language to French in the pull-down “My language is:” field on the left-hand menu.
4. Polly Lingual
Polly Lingual offers an easy-to-use format: First you choose your difficulty level and then you’re taken to an array of lessons, mostly dealing with real-life situations. This is an especially great resource for people who will be traveling in France.
The lesson on “Meeting People,” for example, has the buttons “Start Lesson,” “Hangman” and “Download PDF” up top, with sound bytes below to click on from the phrase list.
Different lessons come with different games and types of information. For example, the “How Are You?” lesson has a brief grammar explanation up top, followed by vocab and phrases (with translations and audio) and finally a video explanation of the difference between tu and vous (you). In addition to the “Start Lesson” button, this particular topic has “Memorama,” “Alphabet Soup,” Whack-a-Word” and “Hangman.”
After finishing each lesson (multiple-choice quiz), you can scroll down to see “You had trouble with these words,” followed by a list of the words or phrases you had the most difficulty with.
The beginner French course has the highest number of free lessons. Otherwise, if there’s a blue passport icon in the top right corner of the lesson, that means it requires a Polly Passport subscription—which costs a modest $2.99/month or $9.96/year. So if you like the format of Polly Lingual but want access to all of the lessons, you can always subscribe for a Polly Passport.
5. Quia French
Quia French is unique in that the games are all custom-made submissions from users. Simply choose a subcategory from the pull-down field in the search box, and games will appear in the results below. The site has a no-frills format (perfect for older computers) and hosts an enormous number of French games: 7,402! Quia French has something for all difficulty levels.
In this case, let’s say we want to try something very specific: a jumbled word game featuring vocab for advanced learners. We would then choose “Jumbled words” as the activity type, “Advanced vocabulary” for the subcategory and click “Submit.” And lo and behold, someone made a game that matches exactly what we were looking for. Quia is great if you have some very specific lessons in mind.
6. Massive Trivia Quiz
Lastly, here’s a treat for you intermediate and advanced learners: a trivia game completely in French. This one isn’t made for learners, though, but that means there are lots of opportunities to learn authentic language and culture.
Click “Accueil” to choose a category (hint: you might want to begin with “Facile,” aka “easy”), and then click the orange “Rejoins la partie” button to “join the game” and you’re in! There are 15 questions per game, and you’ll have 18 seconds per question. Correct answers are worth two points, and incorrect (or no) answers will lose you a point.
There’s even a “Communauté” forum to interact with other players on the site. Bonus: If you like this authentic French trivia, you might also like the site Quizity.
Now Start Playing!
This is the best time ever to learn languages because so many resources are literally at your fingertips. Although you can’t learn French exclusively through games, they definitely add some zest to your curriculum.
The games above have ideal mixtures of easy navigation, varying difficulty levels and diverse, relevant topics. Have fun playing these games as you take your French to the next level!
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 FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.