Looking for French learning tools that’ll expand your linguistic horizons?
Eager to learn French online or offline, anytime, anywhere?
The best French learning tools make it easy and convenient to practice the language.
They include everything from innovative, unique French learning resources (ever heard of a dictaphone?) to tried-and-true materials you’re already familiar with.
We’ll show you our favorites in this article, plus strategic learning tips to get the most out of them—without adding tons of extra study time to your schedule.
7 Low-effort, High-value French Learning Tools That’ll Get You to Fluency Faster
1. DIY Flashcards
Flashcards are a time-honored French learning tool.
In fact, you probably remember using them to your advantage in school. But do you know how to make your own flashcards and use them efficiently for French learning?
The first thing to consider when you’re making your own French flashcards is what you want to learn. Vocabulary? A grammar point?
Let’s say you want to learn vocabulary words. It’s always best to keep all of your French study materials in French whenever possible, so instead of writing the French word on one side of the card and the English word on the other, try writing a French definition of the word on the opposite side of the card.
That way when you quiz yourself you’ll be practicing your French skills even more, whether you’re going from definition to word or the other way around.
You don’t want to train your brain to translate between English and French—you want to train it to thrive using 100% French.
A few things to bear in mind when making vocabulary flashcards to learn French:
- Note gender. Always include the gender of any noun in the form of the indefinite article (le or la). If the word begins with a vowel, write (m.) next to it for masculine, or (f.) next to it for feminine. Gender is an integral part of any French vocab word.
- Provide context. Try using each word in a sentence as you quiz yourself to get used to using it.
- Ensure accuracy. Be sure to double-check spelling while making your cards, so that you don’t memorize the wrong spelling by mistake!
Imagine, instead, that you want to learn grammar with your flashcards.
Verb conjugation rules are very easy to learn with flashcards, and you can do it in several ways:
- Provide all the pertinent details. If you’re just starting out, write a person (1, 2 or 3) a number (singular or plural), a tense and a verb on one side of the card. For example, “1, s., futur simple, parler.” Then on the other side, write je parle. Be sure to include the subject pronoun on the conjugated side—it’s an important part of the conjugation!
- Practice the entire conjugation. On one side, write the verb and the tense. On the other side, write the entire conjugation table out on the other side.
Flashcards are also helpful French learning resources for other aspects of the language. Use them to learn pronouns by writing out a sentence and underlining the word you want to replace.
Je donne un stylo à ma soeur. (I give a pen to my sister.)
On the opposite side, write the correct sentence with the pronoun:
Je lui donne un stylo. (I give her a pen.)
Make sure that you say the full sentence to yourself before flipping the card over to check!
And when you’re ready to explore similar French learning tools beyond flashcards, check this out.
One of the best ways to learn French is to hear the language the way native speakers really use it. But that’s not so easy to do unless you currently live in a French-speaking country—and even then, it’s so hard to understand those fast-talking French speakers!
The solution to this problem is FluentU. Say “au revoir” to spending hours browsing YouTube and scrolling through Netflix, and say “bonjour” to focusing on actually teaching yourself French.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
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 FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.
You'll receive video recommendations that suit your interests and current level of progress.
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.
3. A Dictaphone
If you don’t have a native French speaker available to help you with your pronunciation, a dictaphone can be a great way to practice. A dictaphone is essentially an old-school voice recorder.
Use a movie or a French TV show as your jumping off point with this French learning tool.
Record yourself repeating what the character says, then play it back to yourself and compare it with what you hear.
This technique has several benefits.
- It’s easier to hear the difference between what you say and what someone else says when it’s recorded.
- You can listen to it several times.
- You’ll be able to record and keep track of your pronunciation progress.
If you have a French teacher or native French speaker who can help you, try having them read a list of words or phrases into the dictaphone. Then play this back and practice repeating and copying the pronunciation.
Try to really listen for the differences between the sounds that you’re making and those that they’re making.
4. Your Smartphone
Nearly everyone has a smartphone these days—so put it to good use, and use it to help you practice your French!
The ways in which a smartphone can help you learn French are almost unlimited.
All you need to do is get a little creative. We’re sure that you’ll come up with tons of ideas on your own, but here are just a few to get you started:
- Connect with a French chat buddy using a website such as French Chat and chat with them while you’re on public transport.
- Make digital flashcards using the tips listed above and check them whenever you’re stuck in traffic. StudyBlue is a handy resource for digital flashcards.
- Download some awesome French translation apps to use when you’re at a loss for what to say.
- Instead of buying an old-fashioned dictaphone, let your smartphone do the work for you with a recording app. If you don’t have one pre-installed on your phone, try a voice recorder app such as Rev.
5. A Label Maker
Nope, label makers aren’t just for office assistants.
If you know how to use them, they can become incredible French learning tools.
First, think of your favorite hobby—something that you could do for hours without getting bored.
Next, you’ll need a French-English dictionary, some tape and some cards or a label maker.
Let’s imagine that your hobby is playing chess. Using an inexpensive board, look up the words for board, square, king, queen, bishop, etc. and print them out using your label maker. Attach them to the different pieces.
Be careful to double-check before you print! Some things (for example, the rook) won’t have an exact translation equivalent in French. Try to check a website in French devoted to your hobby to make sure you’re using the right words. Google.fr can help you there.
Now that the pieces are labeled, use them as you usually would. You’ll be reminded of the words every time you do.
This technique can be used for lots of hobbies:
- Playing video games
- Drawing or painting
Use your imagination! Tying French vocabulary to personal experiences that you enjoy will make the words more memorable and meaningful.
6. Your Shopping List
Want to really get inspired to learn French?
Then there’s no better way than adopting one of the most famous and beloved French cultural traditions: food!
We’ll admit it—it can be hard to get yourself motivated to think or work in French when you’re all by yourself.
By planning out your weekly menus and doing the grocery shopping in French, you’ll be transforming another entire section of your life to into a French learning resource.
How can you make this work?
Obviously, unless you live in a French-speaking area, the actual shopping won’t be in French. But you can start cooking and shopping like a French person!
First, get yourself a digital cooking scale—most French recipes are in grams, so you’ll be weighing your ingredients from now on.
Next, get yourself some French cookbooks or check out some French cooking sites like Marmiton. Choose your favorite recipes, and get writing… your shopping list that is! Get into the habit of writing up your whole list in French, even if you have to run to the dictionary.
By composing your list in French and then shopping with it, you’ll have even more opportunities to commit new vocab words to memory. (Just don’t forget your smartphone, in case you have trouble remembering one of the words!)
7. Your Household Chores
Chores and housework are never really fun, but you can turn them into a learning game if you learn the appropriate words in French.
Use some of the above techniques (such as making flashcards or labeling) to master a few key expressions. Here are some to get you started:
Passer un coup de balai — Sweeping
Faire la vaisselle — Do the dishes
Faire la lessive — Do the laundry
Ranger le linge propre — Putting away the clean clothes
Faire le lit — Making the bed
As you do the chores, whether you do them alone or with a partner or roommate, narrate what you’re doing.
Be sure to double check you’re getting it right—this is where that dictaphone might come in handy again! Record yourself as you’re working, and check your sentences against your textbook while you’re waiting for the dry cycle to finish.
We’re sure that these ideas are only the jumping off point for creating your perfect French learning tools. So, try to come up with your own ways to use everyday activities and objects to turn the entire world into your French classroom.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.