In order to become fluent in French, you have to live French, breathe French, eat French food, sleep French, drink French.
Never fear, though! You can immerse yourself in French online without leaving your country (or your desk, for that matter).
Regardless of whether you’re having an immersive vacation abroad or a staycation at home, there are some things to keep in mind on your immersion journey.
- 1. Do Everyday Tasks in French
- 2. Listen to French-language Podcasts
- 3. Read French-language Magazines Online
- 4. Browse (or Procrastinate with) French-language Entertainment Sites
- 5. Watch French-language Videos
- 6. Chat with French Natives
- 7. Watch TV and Movies in French
- Basic Tips for French Immersion Online
1. Do Everyday Tasks in French
- Check the weather in French. Adding a useful website like Météo TV5 Monde to your daily reading list is a great way to start your day à la française (French style). This site allows you to check la météo (the weather report) for your local area or the French-speaking region where you’ll spend your next vacation. In no time, phrases like bien ensoleillé (very sunny) and ciel dégagé (clear sky) will make your heart skip a beat.
- Change the language of your devices. By switching the language of your phone, your tablet and your computer into French, you’ll quickly learn technology vocabulary like page d’accueil (home screen) and annuler (undo).
- Change the language of your social media. Who says Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have to be a waste of time? Don’t mind the haters! By changing your paramètres généraux du compte (general account settings) you can boost your French vocabulary and watch cat videos at the same time. Talk about a win-win situation. With all your notifications now in French, you’ll learn some phrases like so-and-so est votre ami désormais (is now your friend). Now that’s what I call vocabulary.
2. Listen to French-language Podcasts
Podcasts are a great way improve your listening comprehension, hear French vernacular (a.k.a., not that stuffy textbook French, though that’s totally useful too!).
- Affaires Sensibles — This podcast, hosted by Fabrice Drouelle is for you history buffs out there and delves into events that are significantly marked French history in the past 50 years.
- Arte Radio — Arte Radio, all about the art of storytelling, has something for everybody. Amateurs and professionals of all walks of life record snippets of their world: some record fiction, others humor, un peu de tout (a little bit of everything).
- Kultur Breakdown — This (now defunct) podcast is perfect for your inner pop culture junkie. In the 60-episode archive you’re sure to find a review of a movie, TV series or comic that you can’t miss.
- 2 Heures de perdues — This unpretentious podcast contains reviews of those movies we may consider guilty pleasure movies or those that are nothing special but are great to play in the background. Humorous and light, it’ll make you feel like you haven’t wasted any time at all.
- Une Série Française — This podcast hosted by Aurélie Charon is a space where young people’s voices are given center stage to talk about their convictions, dreams, political beliefs.
- Studio 404 — This (also defunct) monthly podcast, which calls itself l’emission de société numérique (the show of digital society) and is hosted by Sylvain Paley, Daz, Melissa Bounoua and Fibre Tigre, explores topics related to social media, video games and new technologies and debates the stakes of life in our high-tech 21st century. There’s plenty of material in the archives to make the treadmill less… boring.
3. Read French-language Magazines Online
Staying informed while improving your French reading comprehension is a win-win situation. Here are a few French-language web magazines worth checking out.
- FrenchWeb.fr — Here’s a little something for the techies. French Web is devoted to all things innovative as they relate to the automobile industry, agriculture, design, media and more. The site features in-depth interviews, articles, videos and even employment opportunities for those who are thinking about making the jump across the pond.
- Mediapart.fr — This is a great independent investigative and editorial magazine that was launched in 2008 by Edwy Plenel, who was once the editor-in-chief of Le Monde. The site contains both “straight reporting” by journalists as well as wiki-style entries by readers. A must-read for anyone interested in a critical take on current events, French society and politics.
- Slate.fr — A French version of the American magazine of the same name, this site provides coverage and commentary on economics, politics, film and television.
4. Browse (or Procrastinate with) French-language Entertainment Sites
Sure, the proliferation of des titres racoleurs (clickbait) in our day and age is getting a bit out of control, but there ain’t no shame in browsing fun internet content to give your brain a little break. Check out these French-language entertainment sites, great for the morning commute or when you need a bit of procrastination material. (We all do sometimes!)
- BuzzFeed.fr — Sometimes you can’t resist a good quiz and questions like, “Savez-vous manger du beurre ?” (Do you know how to eat butter?) seem really pressing. Might as well kill two birds with one stone.
- SensCritique.com — True to its name, this site is for all your critical reviews of movies, tv shows, video games, comics and music.
- Ubergizmo — This frequently-updated blog is a virtually endless store of content for those who have FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to the world of high-tech (or should I say haute-technologie?) or digital lifestyle.
5. Watch French-language Videos
- Bref — Originally aired on Canal+ (basically the French version of HBO), this was created by and starred French comedian Kyan Khojandi. It follows an anxious, socially awkward, single, unemployed 30-something Parisian as he dates, goes to parties, goes on job interviews, tries to cook pasta… Bref (in short), is hilarious.
The episodes are chock-full of slang and they’re all quite short (about a minute-and-a-half long) which means that the narrator talks rather fast. Don’t get too discouraged if you can only pick up a few words here and there in the beginning. When you do get it, you’ll be in stitches.
- FluentU — FluentU is an immersive language program that teaches French through authentic videos. Videos are equipped with French and English subtitles that can give you the definition of any word as you watch. You can study new words in context with the help of multimedia flashcards and personalized quizzes.
- Le Fossoyeur de Films — Le Fossoyeur de Films (the grave-digger of films) is the alter-ego of a certain François Theurel, a cinephile to the core. He “excavates” lesser-known films and unpretentiously reviews them with a good balance of humor and serious analysis.
- Pilote: la chronique série — Frenchie Nicolas, the host and creator of this channel, is a serious TV series junkie with a particularly strong penchant for American shows.
- What the Cut — For those of you who can’t get enough of the internet’s endless store of weird videos, Antoine Daniel’s channel is perfect for you.
6. Chat with French Natives
Speaking with real-life native speakers is essential if you wanna speak French with personality: you’ll get the 411 on French slang as well as commonly used French phrases. Furthermore, chatting online will provide the opportunity to learn internet lingo.
- HelloTalk — Part language learning app, part social media platform, HelloTalk encourages not only the exchange of culturally-specific language skills (French spoken in Cameroon differs from the French spoken in Canada) by either text or voice, but also culturally-specific ways of life. There’s even a mobile version available. HelloTalk is also a great way to connect with other French learners.
- SharedLingo — SharedLingo is a simple language learning platform that allows you to instantly chat with native French speakers. There’s also a mobile version of SharedLingo and language games.
7. Watch TV and Movies in French
Watching TV and movies in French is a perfect way to kick back and relax while learning a thing or two.
- Check out English-language TV shows available on US Netflix with French subtitles and audio for those times you want to watch an American show… but in French. There’s also a list of movies not originally in French but with French subtitles and audio.
- Arte TV — Arte TV is a French-German TV network. On their website, you can stream a wide range of documentaries, live recordings, reports and magazine shows, all for free.
- France24 — France24’s website allows you to live-stream les informations (the news, les infos for short), or what’s being broadcasted on French airwaves. There’s also print content available for your informational reading pleasure.
Basic Tips for French Immersion Online
First, we’ll give you a couple of tips for your ‘tude:
- Be consistent. You know what they say: Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same goes with your French language skills. Working your French a little bit every day is better than a long stretch from time to time.
- Be patient. As a beginning French learner, your progress will be both quick and exponential. Once you’ve got the basics down (though French gender rules will always be funky regardless of your level) and you approach the immediate level, you’ll start wading through the nitty gritty of French grammar (like the subjunctive and all of that fun stuff) and your progress may feel a bit slower. But don’t give up! Slow and steady wins the race. Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare (or in French, “Le Lièvre et La Tortue”)? Keep that in mind as you study.
As for more practical, hands-on tips:
- Download a dictionary app. When you’re immersing yourself in a foreign language, you’ll quickly begin to discern the meaning of words contextually. Nonetheless, it’s still helpful to have a dictionary to look up words you come across but whose meaning you’re still unsure of. Check out this post for a list of my favorite dictionary apps.
- Download a flashcard app. As you add more and more words to your vocabulary arsenal, you’ll need a way to make the new words stick. Flashcard apps are great for this because you brush up while you wait in the dentist’s office, in the check-out line, on the bus…
Well, that should keep you occupied and immersed for a good long while. Bon courage (good luck) and happy staycation!