Looking for the perfect French online course?
Well, prepare yourself for some serious options.
You can have the support structure of a class and the freedom of independent study.
You can have textbook-like organization and the benefits of technology.
You can have convenience, quality and a French language learning program that suits your specific needs.
Yep, if you’re wondering how to learn French with an online course, the good news is that you can have it all.
Whether you’ve reached the end of your self-study materials and you’re looking for a next step, or you’re just jumping into online learning, you may need a little help choosing the right course for you.
Never fear. Solutions are here!
We’ll show you 20 of the highest quality sites for a French online course that you can start learning with today. And, as a bonus, many of them are beginner-friendly and free!
What Do I Need in a French Online Course?
Welcome to the online French course: fun, interactive and, best of all, easily accessible. However, not all French lessons online are created equal, and if you’re going to put time into a course, you want the best value possible, right?
So you’re going to want to sign up for the best and nothing but the best!
Regardless of level, you want a French course that’s about equal parts vocabulary and grammar. For those of us who really want to learn the language, a French “word a day” scenario isn’t going to be enough to give us the results we want. Make sure your online French course teaches you useful vocabulary while also giving you in-depth (yet easy-to-understand) grammar explanations.
Furthermore, good online French courses should also have ample exercises and activities built-in, so that students get a chance to practice the material they’ve been taught in the course. Remember: The best way to advance in a language is to practice it. What better way to practice newly-acquired words or grammar topics than by using them in activities and exercises that are specially intended for the material you just learned?
Ideally, an online course should have features that allow you to grow in the four language learning areas: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Of course, it can be understandably hard to find online courses that allow in-depth speaking practice in French, and that deficiency is something you can fill through other means. But at the very least, reading, writing and listening to French are musts!
The 20 Best Sites for Online French Courses
Keeping in mind what a good online French course needs, here are my top 20 sites to learn French online with the perfect course.
In case you don’t already know, FluentU French is a flexible online learning solution that lets you study the French language through the web’s best videos.
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.
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.
FrenchClasses offers three online courses for three levels of French: beginner, intermediate and advanced. No matter what level of French you’re at, FrenchClasses has an option for you.
The courses at FrenchClasses are primarily based around lessons that feature an audio conversation. Each audio conversation revolves around a particular topic pertinent to French learners. Accompanying notes focus on the grammar and vocabulary in the audio conversation to reinforce the concepts that were introduced in the lesson.
Best of all, each lesson is also followed by online exercises.
Each course on FrenchClasses has over 30 hours of audio that you can download as MP3 files, so you have access to them at any time.
Babbel is probably one of the most known and widely-used online language learning platforms worldwide. The courses on Babbel are paid courses, but instead of a set fee per course, there’s a monthly subscription fee that gives you access to a number of online courses.
Speaking of those online French courses, Babbel offers them to learners at the beginning of their French journey and at the intermediate level. In addition to those, Babbel has a number of courses that focus on advancing a learner in a specific French skill area such as listening and speaking, grammar or idioms.
In terms of the structure of Babbel’s lessons, the specific layout varies for each course, but most beginner and intermediate courses feature a dialogue with audio coupled with grammatical and vocabulary-building opportunities. As with the other courses described so far on this list, Babbel’s lessons are followed by exercises to reinforce learned concepts.
4. Athabasca University
Athabasca University is a real university in Alberta, Canada. Being primarily an online university, Athabasca offers a wide range of degrees and courses, and lucky for us, they typically have nearly 20 courses offered for French. And you guessed it, all of those courses are offered online.
While technically you’re paying a university-course price, you’re also technically getting a university course. That means that each course is set up like a real university course. Most include online interactive classes complete with lessons, exercises and quizzes as well as audio and speaking components. Furthermore, the courses offer students interaction with the professor and other students.
Athabasca’s advanced courses may be a little less interactive, but they focus on material that you might not find in other online French courses. For example, you can fine-tune specific French skills, like writing and reading, and even take courses in French literature or culture.
Best of all, if interested, students can continue to take courses at Athabasca in order to complete an actual degree in the French language. Talk about legit.
5. Government of Quebec
While there’s a pretty significant application process, the government of Quebec offers free online French courses for those who are living in Quebec or planning to live there.
But wait, what if you’re not planning on moving to Quebec anytime soon? You can still access a ton of free exercises and helpful materials that the Canadian government has made available to anyone.
Government courses and course materials are the best way to study a language academically apart from a university because they tend to teach standard language that learners will be able to use in functional, real-world environments.
There are courses and materials available here for many levels of French fluency, and each course offers listening, speaking, reading and writing opportunities, as well as quizzes and assignments.
The official courses are coupled with an online forum and an individual tutor for all your French language learning needs as well as a wide selection of online resources including dictionaries, verb conjugators and online grammar reference material.
6. Open Learning Initiative from Carnegie Mellon University
Note: The courses mentioned below are no longer being offered for free to students but are instead being distributed to educators for a fee. If you’re looking for an official course from a well-known institute that you can take for free online, check out MIT’s OpenCourseWare course for French beginners.
The Open Learning Initiative offers two courses for beginners in the French language called Elementary French I and Elementary French II. For these courses, the Open Learning Initiative combines standard online courses with multimedia interactivity. What better a combination is there?
Lessons in both courses revolve around real-world videos shot in French-speaking regions like Quebec and France. The courses take you through basic skills such as introducing yourself and food, as well as French grammar. These topics get more and more advanced as you get further into the courses. At the end, you’ll be well-equipped to enter an intermediate online course or follow an intermediate French self-study program.
The courses here also have exercises and an exam at the end of each to reinforce the material.
Alison offers a number of courses for those wondering how to learn French, starting at the beginner stage and offering a few options for more advanced learners. The Basic French Language Skills for Everyday Life course has six modules for students to begin their French adventure. For more advanced learners, Alison offers Improving Your French Language Skills and even a Diploma in French Language Studies to prove your competency in basic French.
For each course, each module includes a video dealing with a specific topic. Afterward, the video leads to the exploration of a particular set of vocabulary or grammar explanations. Such grammar topics include the present, past and future tense in basic courses.
The online French lessons offered on Alison are fairly academic in nature. Each module includes an assessment, and learners need an 80% in all assessments to pass the course. You get more than one try, though, so fear not!
8. Alliance Française Toronto (Toronto French Alliance)
The Alliance Française is an international organization that promotes the French language and francophone cultures around the world. They have many local divisions in French-speaking and non-French-speaking cities alike, and many offer French courses for all levels of French.
Best of all, since the Alliance Française is such a well-known organization, its courses are recognized and accredited by the French Ministry for National Education. This allows the Alliance Française to offer courses that adequately prepare students to take the DELF and DALF exams. These exams are the official way for learners to measure French fluency, and they are often needed when applying for school or work in a French-speaking nation.
You can take online courses with the Alliance Française Toronto branch. The courses can be done completely remotely, and they offer courses for all levels from A1.1 (complete beginner) to C2.4 (high advanced). There are even courses on specialized topics such as art, literature and business French.
The online group classes are taught with immersive methods and with a native French teacher. The curriculums vary depending on which level of French you want to take.
9. Click on French
Click on French is a single course for beginners that’s available on the website or as an app for phones and tablets. Interactive lessons allow students to build vocabulary as well as see authentic French in natural settings through video and audio recordings. Each lesson also includes grammatical explanations with in-depth examples to help you understand the basic workings of the French language.
The best feature of this course is its interactivity. To help students speak French naturally, the course includes audio files as well as online teachers, so learners get immediate feedback. It’s also jam-packed with assessment tools such as tests. These tests are inspired directly by the DELF A1 exam, so once you finish, passing it should be a piece of cake!
Not a beginning learner? Don’t scroll past so fast: Click on French also offers a Pre-Intermediate e-class (note: this course is no longer available).
10. The French Experiment
The French Experiment is a website created by New Zealander Aletta who dedicated herself to teaching languages with fun cartoons after a soul-destroying job in marketing. This website uses stunning hand-crafted images and authentic audio to teach French through stories online—all completely for free.
This website’s story collection features classics such as “Petit Poulet” (Chicken Little) and “Les Trois Petits Cochons” (The Three Little Pigs). Each story comes with corresponding audio, French transcriptions and English translations.
In addition to these stories, there are also 15 free French lessons covering beginner topics. Lesson topics include numbers, negatives and possessions, and these lessons also include slow, clear audio for the French words and phrases.
11. Learn French Online for Free
Learn French Online for Free offers two courses for beginners that learners can follow chronologically to get a good basis in the French language. Each course includes 12 lessons, and there are two tests per course for learners to test their understanding.
The lessons themselves are based on the Foreign Service Institute’s (FSI) audio course developed by the United States government for military personnel and diplomats stationed in French-speaking countries or regions.
Lesson topics include the city, hotels and food, and there are in-depth explanations for all lessons explaining crucial grammatical information. Each lesson also has extensive practice drills based on the vocabulary and grammar.
Lingoda is a relatively new online service that offers courses in many languages such as Spanish, German and French. Lingoda strives to take the in-person learning experience and transfer it online as accurately as possible, and they do so quite effectively.
For starters, Lingoda offers French courses for virtually all levels of French whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced French learner. Each course follows a set curriculum that is broken down into units revolving around a particular subject as well as individual lessons. You have the option of taking the lessons one-on-one with a French native speaker teacher or in a group class with three to four other learners.
The lessons balance speaking, listening, reading and writing as well as grammar explanations and practice. Each lesson also comes with a downloadable PowerPoint presentation and homework to review and reinforce your learning.
Best of all, Lingoda periodically offers its “Language Sprint.” In short, Lingoda challenges participants to complete 90 French lessons in 90 days for a 100% refund of the course fees at the end of the Sprint.
Loecsen is a website that offers beginner courses for free in some 20 languages, French being one of their most popular. Loecsen courses are based on audio flashcards. These are not simple flashcards, however: they’re interactive activities.
There are 17 “themes” (lessons) that contain a certain amount of vocabulary words and sentences related to the lesson topics. Topics include transportation, feelings and family. Each flashcard contains one of these words or phrases with an English translation, a French audio recording and a helpful visual. After reviewing the flashcards, learners can take the lesson quiz, typically featuring matching activities, to solidify understanding.
Each lesson also includes a “read aloud” activity of real French audio or written clip such as a song or a poem. After listening to each line, learners are prompted to record their own audio to practice pronunciation.
14. French in Action
French in Action is a video course from the 1980s that’s now available online for free. The course contains 52 half-hour lessons aimed at giving learners a complete beginner’s basis in the French language.
Each video revolves around a certain topic such as getting acquainted, employment and entertainment. The videos use conversations and short scenes to teach the French language in natural settings. Videos include slow, authentic French, and they’re in French with English explanations.
15. France Bienvenue (Welcome France)
France Bienvenue is completely in French. Because of that, I recommend these lessons to be for upper-beginner learners or those who have a basis in the French language.
France Bienvenue teaches the French language using real conversations. These conversations are typically done interview-style with the host talking about topical things such as “On reste à la maison” (We Stay at Home) or “À la recherche des aurores boréales” (Searching for the Aurora Borealis).
Each lesson has a transcript, vocabulary explanations and practice exercises. The practice exercises consist of short- and long-answer questions that get you using the language fluidly.
16. Language Transfer French
Language Transfer offers a pretty unique way to learn French. For starters, the course is completely auditory, meaning there’s nothing to write down and there are no written materials. Instead, you listen along to the host and the student, participating in the lesson yourself.
In fact, it’s almost as if you’re part of a French learning conversation. The host introduces words and structures and then implores the listener to use these words and structures to create coherent French thoughts. After a couple of moments, these prompts are confirmed by the French student who is also in the podcast.
At first, this type of instruction may seem odd to French learners, mostly because of the seemingly informal nature and the lack of academic, grammatical information that normally accompanies French courses. However, the listener is encouraged to relax and participate. By the end of the lesson, the learner is surprised to uncover that all the pieces introduced during the lesson are part of a larger puzzle, and the host has bypassed a lot of the unnecessary extras in order to help the learner communicate quickly and easily in French.
Best of all, the learner doesn’t just learn how to speak French. Language Transfer is also teaching what it calls the “Thinking Method”: in other words, learners are also learning how to learn French. That means that the learner is also setting themselves up for self-studying French once the course is complete.
Language Transfer’s French courses includes 40 audio French lessons. Each is about 10 to 20 minutes long. All 40 lessons can be downloaded to the learner’s computer or phone, or they can be accessed on the website, on SoundCloud or on YouTube.
17. Francolab (French Lab)
Francolab is an initiative created by TV5 Québec (a television station in Québec, Canada). As such, the language used in the materials is Canadian (Québecois) French.
Francolab has various free courses and activities available for learners. Each course is based on a different video or video course. The courses have five to eight medium-length videos, and they revolve around topics such as “Les règles de l’art” (The Rules of Art). Other videos are stories based on Québecois folklore such as “La dame blanche” (The White Woman).
Each lesson comes with teaching notes that include grammar and vocabulary explanations as well as quizzes.
Keep in mind that these videos are completely in French, so it is recommended to have at least a high beginner level in the language.
18. Français Interactif (Interactive French)
Français Interactif is an online resource developed by the University of Texas’ French department. While it’s meant to complement existing French language courses offered by the University of Texas, it can stand alone as its own French course.
This course is structured like an interactive online textbook. There are 13 chapters available with vocabulary lists, videos, songs and grammar lessons. The topics of the “chapters” are for beginners and include things like la ville (the city) and la maison (the house). The grammar lessons include short dialogues, descriptions and practice exercises.
19. BBC French
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) offers four online courses of lessons for beginners and “beyond beginners.” These courses are no longer updated by the BBC, but they’ve stood the test of time, and they’re quite good for building a basis in the language.
Each lesson is based around a short video scene in French or a video explanation. Afterward, learners test their comprehension with a variety of interactive activities.
In addition to the courses, the BBC also offers grammar explanations and places to access authentic French media online.
20. Lingoni French
Lingoni French is a sister program to its German counterpart, Lingoni German, which itself is the brainchild of language enthusiast and online German teacher, Jen Madison (formerly known as “German with Jenny”).
In short, Lingoni French is a full-service French course offered on YouTube. Lingoni French offers dozens of videos on YouTube that are completely free. These videos are also sorted into playlists. At the time of writing this (February 2021), Lingoni French offers multiple playlists for learners from the A1 (complete beginner) to the B2 (high intermediate) level. They also offer playlists based on different learning skills such as listening.
While the videos on YouTube are free, the real value in Lingoni French comes from their paid course add-ons. On the Lingoni French website, paying subscribers can access worksheets and exercises for grammar and vocabulary practice, podcasts, listening comprehensions and additional video content to enhance your French.
With the above sites, you can basically attend a French class without leaving your home, but how much that class resembles a traditional one is entirely up to you.
So click away, and say hello to the best French courses the internet has to offer!
Michael Cristiano is a Canadian writer and language enthusiast. His latest ramblings on foreign languages and language learning can be found on his YouTube channel, The Polyglot Files.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.