I hear you’ve been wearing some haute couture (high fashion) and eating some haute cuisine (fancy meals)…
But are your French learning tools of haute qualité (high quality)?
We all know that learning French effectively requires total dedication. However, you can dedicate yourself to learning French without dedicating all your free time, too.
In fact, with a set of high-quality French learning tools, you can optimize your French study time. You’ll learn French in a way that’s strategic, effective and fast.
So, don’t settle for second-rate, hand-me-down French learning tools. Fill your toolbox with the best French resources, and progress quickly to French fluency!
17 Highly Practical French Learning Tools You Need in Your Toolbox in 2020
To increase your high-quality study time, check out these 17 French learning tools!
Spaced Repetition Tools
Spaced Repetition Software (SRS) is often spoken about in the French- and language-learning community, but its usefulness can be overlooked if learners get intimidated by the science-y aspect of it all.
At its core, SRS uses neurological science to maximize your memory power to review information. For vocabulary in particular, SRS helps to transition words from passive knowledge (i.e. simple recognition and recall) to active knowledge (i.e. ability to produce spontaneously in written or oral communication). This makes it easier to access words when you need them in real-life situations.
How do Spaced Repetition tools accomplish this apparent French sorcery? Well, they help you review vocabulary at crucial and regular intervals. In fact, the algorithm bases your review periods on how easy it is for you to recall vocabulary and adjusts your review periods accordingly to help you get the most out of your vocabulary review.
Anki is a program that has a free download for PC and Mac. It’s a pretty basic Spaced Repetition system, but its simplicity is its strength.
Anki allows for both pre-made and custom-made flashcard decks. This means that you can download Anki and then browse a huge selection of pre-made French decks. Once you’ve found one you like, download it and work away. Anki will take care of the rest.
As mentioned, learners can also use Anki to create their own custom decks. Simply create a deck and add cards to it as you come across new words in other French material such as textbooks, online learning programs or French news and media.
FluentU also uses a Spaced Repetition system to review vocabulary. But with FluentU, you’re not just drilling words by rote. You’re learning words in-context from the internet’s best authentic French videos.
FluentU has real French movie trailers, music videos, inspiring speeches and more—which have all been transformed into personalized French learning tools.
With each video, you get interactive subtitles. Click on any word for an instant definition and grammar info. This way, you’re immersing yourself in French the way native speakers really use it, without ever worrying about missing a word.
FluentU’s “Learn Mode” is where the SRS kicks in. When you’re done watching a video, you can take fun quizzes and review flashcards from the video content. Having trouble with a word or phrase? Just add it to your FluentU flashcard decks for SRS review.
With these flashcards, you’ll see how French words are use in different videos throughout the site, along with the definition and grammar info. FluentU’s robust SRS algorithm will make sure that you review them at just the right moment to solidify them in your long-term memory.
You can also import your own vocabulary words and get all the same flashcard features.
This is all packaged in a smooth feature that tracks your history and provides new and different video clip prompts based on what you’ve already learned. It’s the perfect marriage of spaced repetition and learning through context and personalization.
Like Anki, Duolingo’s Tinycards is an SRS system that allows you to create your own decks based on your own learning materials. However, I think that Tinycard’s strength comes from its link to Duolingo’s other programs.
If you use Duolingo’s original “five minutes a day” model to study French, you can find decks that directly review vocabulary used in the lessons. Further, if you also use Duolingo Stories to read French stories online and learn French, the vocabulary you select for translation in each story becomes a Tiny Card for you to review later via SRS.
French Learning Podcasts
With podcasts, you can learn specific French grammar topics, vocabulary or idioms presented by native French speakers and teachers. They can also be used to review previously learned topics from a course or textbook. Did I mention they’re perfect for French listening practice?
But what makes podcasts really great as French learning tools is that many of them also have corresponding transcripts and exercises to enhance understanding of the topic presented in the episode. You can also adjust the playback speed on most podcast apps—doing this gives you more control of the material and the freedom to listen at a speed that’s best for your current level of French.
Both of the podcasts listed below are for the B1 (low-intermediate) level, but there are dozens more available online. If you’re looking for more advanced content, check out these advanced French podcasts.
Français Authentique (Authentic French) offers podcasts in slow French. Johann, its creator, delivers a two-tiered approach for French learners.
The first is French podcasts that focus on specific aspects of French grammar and vocabulary geared to intermediate learners. The second type of podcast is fairly informal, focusing on topics such as personal development, travel, books and learning languages.
This second type of podcast is part of his Marchez avec Johan (Walk with Johan) series where he records the podcast while he walks around his community.
In addition to the podcasts themselves, Français Authentique offers supplementary learning resources with each podcast including courses, books and mobile apps. Further, you can download the Français Authentique app for Apple or Android for truly on-the-go French learning.
InnerFrench also offers podcasts for French learners. The podcasts are considerably longer, normally clocking in at around 30 minutes or so. While InnerFrench focuses less on teaching grammar and vocabulary, the topics are engaging for intermediate learners nonetheless.
These include real-world subjects such as le transhumanisme (transhumanism) and le revenu universel (universal income). He also often talks about current happenings, politics and travel, and he even recounted an abridged version of the popular French supernatural short story “Le Horla” by Guy de Maupassant.
These topics will allow you to become more versatile in your French communication because you’ll be able to talk about topics that aren’t related to tired French course or textbook material.
While learning French, it’s crucial to work on pronunciation because it can be vastly different than English pronunciation (I’m looking at you, French nasal sounds). Text-to-speech programs make excellent French learning tools to improve your pronunciation—especially if your learning regimen is primarily based in a textbook or online text course.
While it often gets a bad rap in the language learning community, Google Translate offers a handy pronunciation tool that you can use to hear French words and even whole sentences.
You can simply type in a French phrase and click the speaker icon under the text box. However if you’re translating from English or another language to French, just be careful with the translation itself. Google Translate isn’t always accurate. I recommend getting your French sentence perfected first and then plugging it into the Google Translate tool for pronunciation.
Want to easily hear the pronunciation for something you’re reading in French online? Install the Read Aloud browser extension (Chrome or Firefox) to get text-to-speech audio at a click. The extension covers 40+ languages including French.
French learners can install the app, find something to read on any website and Read Aloud will recite it to you. This is great for matching reading practice with listening progress as you can train your ear to French while you read along.
LingQ is a great French learning tool that also offers text-to-speech capabilities. Its system is focused on a dual reading and listening approach, and most texts available in the program are accompanied by an audio track that’s spoken in clear, native French.
Simply pick something to read on LingQ according to your level, whether it’s a news article, a personal blog or an actual French story, and click on the play button to listen while you read along.
Best of all, the speed of the audio can also be adjusted for each recording, and an in-program dictionary allows you to click any word and get an instant translation. These words are then turned into “lingqs” that act as flashcards for vocabulary review.
French Song Lyric Databases
Music isn’t just an integral part of our lives, it’s also a great way to learn French. Don’t just listen, however: get the lyrics using one of the song databases below, read them carefully and sing along. This transforms fun French music into an active learning tool.
Paroles.net (Lyrics.net) offers lyrics to hit French songs from the past and the current top hits. You can browse for love songs, rap and even getting “in the mood.” While it may not have the lyrics for every song ever created, their library is always expanding and they definitely have the classics down.
Once you find the lyrics for the song you’re listening to, use them to memorize the song and sing along. Keep in mind, though, that Paroles.net doesn’t have English translations.
LyricsTranslate has about 100,000 translations of songs to and from the French language. Simply search for the French song you want to know the lyrics for and find translations into English or into other languages.
The website allows you to see the translations side-by-side, but you can also toggle off the translation from French if you want the lyrics only in French.
Don’t see lyrics you want? You can also use the tool to request the translation if the song isn’t on the site.
Sites That Teach French Through Cooking
Everyone cooks, so do it in French. A great way to learn food and cooking vocabulary is through getting some hands-on experience with actual French recipes. Besides, who doesn’t love a tasty meal or snack after a great French study session?
Cooking in French is great immersive practice by itself, but the cool thing is that there are actually online French learning tools that actively teach you the language through cooking. Here are our favorites.
French recipes allow you to cook and learn French simultaneously, and Cook en French gives you just that. Each written recipe includes side-by-side English translations for a practical guide to cooking great French dishes.
Further, the recipes even include worksheets for comprehension and practice after you’ve studied the vocabulary and made your delectable dish. Hundreds of recipes include ideas for le pétit déjeuner (breakfast), les goûters (snacks) and even les boissons (drinks).
Cuisinez-vous le français? (Do you cook French?)
Through video, Cuisinez-vous le français? allows you to cook French cuisine and learn French at the same time. Each video recipe includes a corresponding text and in-video subtitles, and the video itself is great for mirroring how exactly to make the dish in the recipe.
In addition to cooking, videos from Cuisinez-vous le français? cover grammar points and basic vocabulary related to topics inside and outside of the realm of cooking.
Exercise Videos in French
Exercise may not be the most enjoyable (at least not for me), but if you do it in French, exercise becomes a fantastic French learning tool. Primarily, you can learn vocabulary for fitness and the human body from exercise material, and you can get familiar with native French speech as well as grammar concepts such as the imperative (command) forms of verbs.
Gym Direct is one of the biggest YouTube channels for online guided exercise routines. There are four different routines uploaded weekly: le renforcement musculaire (muscle strengthening), Zen (Yoga-focused), Danse Fitness (Dance Fitness) and Sport Intense (Intense Exercise).
Each video runs about 25 to 30 minutes, so it’s not only a great workout, but it’s up to a half hour of dedicated French study time.
If you’re less about intense cardio and muscle-building and more into a fun exercise routine, Doctissimo is the YouTube channel for you. It’s a fitness channel targeted to females, but that doesn’t mean that all French learners can’t exercise with it and learn French.
Doctissimo offers guided fitness and yoga routines for all levels of fitness, and they also create videos about well-being, food and beauty. These are done in an instructional or vlog-style format, making it perfect to learn vocabulary and expressions related to these subject areas.
French Social Media Sites
Wait, social media as a French learning tool? Isn’t social media used to simply waste time?
Not if you use it intentionally. If you access social media in French, it’s a great French learning tool that can expose you to informal French and slang and even engage you in a written or oral conversation with a native French speaker.
While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are popular in France, there are some French-specific social media sites, too. If you’re interested in using your current social media obsessions for learning French, non-French focused sites can also be used to improve French such as Tumblr and reddit.
Talk about a throwback: Skyrock is a Myspace-esque social networking site where users create profile pages and connect with other users based on their interests in music, movies, books and popular culture.
Further, Skyrock is used for sharing posts and photos in French, and sometimes these posts can include longer-form written entries such as stories and blog posts.
French Comedy Shows
Humor is a great French learning tool. It not only lets us experience French in informal and pressure-free ways, but it can also teach us vocabulary related to love and everyday life situations. Don’t just take my word for it, though: there’s a huge selection of French jokes and French comedians you need to check out.
For written French satire, check out Le top de l’humeur (Top Humor). Articles include hilarious takes on the modern world and trends.
Be careful, however: the language can be a little colorful and the content can be offensive because it draws on subject matter from current political hotspots.
“SNL Québec” was a short-lived show from Canada based on the wildly popular American comedy show. In the same format as its American counterpart, you can watch a variety of sketches about politics, lifestyle and culture. Some videos don’t have subtitles, so it’s advisable to have at least a B1 (low-intermediate) level of French to watch.
With so many great French learning tools, it looks like your French fluency de haute qualité (of high quality) isn’t far away! Load up on these French resources and make even the tightest schedule brimming with great French study time.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.