Looking for the perfect French online course?
In this post you’ll learn exactly which French online courses we recommend for 2022, and how they’ll help you learn.
Rest assured, we’re no stranger to language learning—we’ve been in the game since 2011. Not only does our founder speak 4 languages fluently, but collectively we speak more than ten languages. Every sort of course, learning method or new trend: we’ve seen it all.
Here we’ll give you a run down of the most effective online courses you can begin today to fast track your French, whatever your learning needs.
Let’s get this started.
- 1. Best for Upper Beginners: FrenchClasses
- 2. Best Immersion-Based: FluentU
- 3. Best Practical: Babbel
- 4. Best for Pronunciation: Rocket Languages
- 5. Best for Speaking: The Michel Thomas Method
- 6. Best Contact with Natives: Busuu
- 7. Best Entertainment: Frantastique
- 8. Best Podcast-Based: Coffee Break French
- 9. Best University Courses: Athabasca University
- 10. Best Beginner University Course: Open Learning Initiative from Carnegie Mellon University
- 11. Best Free Academic: Alison
- 12. Best Formal: Alliance Française Toronto (Toronto French Alliance)
- 13. Best Story-Based Learning: The French Experiment
- 14. Best Budget: Learn French Online for Free
- 15. Best for Private or Group Classes: Lingoda
- 16. Best Straightforward: Loecsen
- 17. Best Time-Honored: French in Action
- 18. Best Audio: Language Transfer French
- 19. Best for Canadian French: Francolab (French Lab)
- 20. Lingoni French
- Additional Courses
- What Do I Need in a French Online Course?
- Should I Take a French Online Course?
- What Would I Learn in a French Online Course?
- How Much Would a French Online Course Cost?
1. Best for Upper Beginners: FrenchClasses
In summary: This program has a huge selection of audio—split into beginner, intermediate and advanced—which you can download as MP3 files, with accompanying grammar and vocabulary notes.
FrenchClasses offers three online courses for three levels of French: beginner, intermediate and advanced. However, the whole website is in French, so you will need to know the basics first.
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.
2. Best Immersion-Based: FluentU
In summary: FluentU is an immersive language learning program for every level, which teaches you French through authentic content. It exposes you to the language as it’s spoken by natives, so you pick up a natural way of speaking.
FluentU uses authentic French videos like music videos and TED talks to create immersive and engaging lessons.
The videos have interactive captions that can be toggled on or off depending on which set of captions (French and English) you want to see. You can focus solely on French and display only these captions, or turn them off altogether and work entirely on your listening skills.
You can use the captions to find out more about a word. Hover your mouse over a word to see an in-context definition, a related image and brief grammatical information about the word. You can dive in further by clicking on it for further examples of the word used in sentences in other videos, as well as an audio pronunciation.
You can save unknown words to flashcard decks and practice them through custom quizzes, which include speaking questions. FluentU also has a video dictionary, multimedia transcripts, a number of audio lessons and video content for everyone from the beginner to the advanced learner.
3. Best Practical: Babbel
In summary: If you’re looking for a well-structured course focused on practical, everyday scenarios, Babbel is worth checking out, so long as you’re not an advanced learner.
Read our full review here.
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. Best for Pronunciation: Rocket Languages
In summary: For beginner and intermediate learners not on a budget, Rocket Languages is an effective audio-based course with a focus on mastering French pronunciation.
Read our full review here.
This user friendly, classroom-style course can be accessed with a once-off (somewhat pricey) fee.
Unlike many programs, it has a focus on pronunciation—which is pretty ideal, as French pronunciation is notoriously challenging and often intimidating for French students. The system recognizes your voice and can provide feedback, as well as match pronunciation for thousands of words with that of a native speaker.
The lessons are audio-based and last roughly half an hour, structured like conversations between a learner (that’s you!) and a native. These conversations feel much less staged than other French conversations created for learners, and are more casual in nature.
While lessons can sometimes be repetitive, they break down grammar and vocabulary concepts and can be downloaded and used offline—a super handy feature.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for an advanced student or those on a budget, but the overall course and bonus of including culture is effective.
5. Best for Speaking: The Michel Thomas Method
In summary: For those who are after a practical, audio-based course that gets you speaking from the start and focuses on active practice, the Michel Thomas Method is a good choice. If you are looking for a free option however, you may want to look elsewhere.
The Michel Thomas Method is one of few programs that aim to teach you conversation from the very beginning—from day one, Michel explains how to compose sentences with essential French vocabulary.
The program is audio-based, so no paper, pens or highlighters required! You can listen on-the-go.
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew which French word you wanted to use, but couldn’t quite say it? The method helps you to avoid these situations by memorizing vocabulary through active use. Then, when you’re faced with a situation where you need a specific word, retrieval is much easier.
While on the pricey side for an audio course, the method teaches you French naturally, and in a way that is supposed to be less stressful than traditional methods.
6. Best Contact with Natives: Busuu
In summary: Busuu is a good all-round app with downloadable lessons, language learning tools and the opportunity to learn with native speakers.
Read our full review here.
This course manages to squeeze bite-sized lessons, language learning tools and a social community into one platform. With the premium version, you’ll have access to flashcards, quizzes and vocab training for 12 languages, although with the free version you’re limited to just one.
The lessons can be downloaded and taken at your own pace. One plus is that they encourage you to speak more so than many other programs—so take advantage of the speech recognition tool! Dialogues also play a role in the program, both in the course and the community.
The community feature puts you in touch with native French speakers, who you can engage with to exchange messages and get feedback.
You could say that Busuu is somewhat lacking in entertainment value however it does have redeeming points, including cultural tips that show you when and how to say something appropriately.
7. Best Entertainment: Frantastique
In summary: This immersive program provides short, daily lessons and exercises which are tailored to your level. However, the sink-or-swim approach and monthly fee may be off-putting for some.
Read our full review here.
The Frantastique program sends daily emails containing an entertaining immersive French lesson (entirely in French) with a corresponding exercise, which takes around 15 minutes to complete. If you’re not about studying on the weekend, don’t worry—they only get sent during weekdays!
The exercises, based around grammar and vocabulary, are revised by Artificial Intelligence which feeds back your score and also provides you with explanations. With these results, Frantastique can then tailor lessons to suit how you’re going.
The program could definitely improve in the price department: with a limit on the number of lessons per week, the monthly payments (even the lowest tier) may not be worth it for some learners.
8. Best Podcast-Based: Coffee Break French
In summary: The short but effective lessons in this audio course are both comprehensive and entertaining—they’re also completely free.
Coffee Break French is a podcast-based French course, broken down into digestible 5 to 20 minute episodes—uncoincidentally, the length of time it might take you to have a coffee break.
While listening and speaking seems to be the main focus, the award-winning resource also offers a comprehensive look into grammar, vocabulary and other parts of the French language.
Importantly, it’s also highly enjoyable to listen to! Mark, the founder of Coffee Break Languages, is an entertaining Scottish guy who presents in a relaxed way.
There are four seasons available which correspond to different levels, and they can be found for free on iTunes and Spotify. If you’d like access to scripts, lesson notes and exercises from the Reading Club, you’ll need to switch to premium.
9. Best University Courses: Athabasca University
In summary: If you don’t mind the university price tag, these interactive university courses come with different learning tools to practice various French skills.
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.
10. Best Beginner University Course: Open Learning Initiative from Carnegie Mellon University
In summary: The lessons in these university courses are based on authentic videos, and combine standard courses with multimedia interactivity. The courses also come with exercises and a final exam.
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.
11. Best Free Academic: Alison
In summary: Alison provides a handful of free academic French courses. For those who enjoy testing themselves, each module is based around a specific video and includes an assessment.
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 French for Beginners course has three 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!
12. Best Formal: Alliance Française Toronto (Toronto French Alliance)
In summary: If budget isn’t a constraint, these French courses are able to get you all the way to fluency and even prepare you for DELF and DALF exams.
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.
13. Best Story-Based Learning: The French Experiment
In summary: If you enjoy a less formal way of learning, this website teaches various elements of French through stories, each which comes with authentic audio and dual transcriptions.
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.
14. Best Budget: Learn French Online for Free
In summary: This course is based around the US government’s Foreign Service Institute’s audio course, and provides a good base of the language if you don’t mind the simple interface.
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.
15. Best for Private or Group Classes: Lingoda
In summary: No matter where you’re at on your French journey, you’ll find a course here. Courses are broken down into subjects, with the option to take one-on-one lessons or group classes with a native French speaker.
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.
16. Best Straightforward: Loecsen
In summary: For straightforward learning, these French courses are based around simple, interactive flashcards covering a range of practical topics.
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.
17. Best Time-Honored: French in Action
In summary: This comprehensive—albeit rather old—course is based around short videos for beginners.
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.
18. Best Audio: Language Transfer French
In summary: An alternative, audio-based approach to learning French, Language Transfer is a great introduction for beginners. And it’s free!
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.
19. Best for Canadian French: Francolab (French Lab)
In summary: For those learning Canadian French, these video courses come with activities and teaching notes. They’re free, but good base of French is needed.
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.
20. Lingoni French
In summary: If you enjoy watching YouTube videos, you might like these free beginner and intermediate French courses, sorted into playlists on YouTube. And if you don’t mind paying, you’ll also get access to extra learning aids.
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.
Just incase you’re really thirsty for more, here are a few more options for French online courses which we no longer include in our top recommendations for various reasons.
Nonetheless, feel free to give them a go if they call your attention!
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.
Why we no longer recommend: the strict entry criteria makes it inaccessible for most learners.
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.
Why we no longer recommend: this resource is more for French practice, as opposed to an actual course.
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.
Why we no longer recommend: the interface is outdated, and there are better options for similar content.
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.
Why we no longer recommend: the courses are archived and no longer updated.
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!
Should I Take a French Online Course?
If you’re learning French, you’ll most likely benefit from an online course! However there are a few things to consider. For example, some people tend to work better in a structured classroom, while others may thrive doing their own thing and flitting between different resources.
The majority of people will find that French online courses are super helpful: they provide direction, support and motivation to varying degrees.
There are many different kinds of courses adapted to different styles of learning (and reasons for learning!), so you’re bound to find something appropriate for you.
What Would I Learn in a French Online Course?
Not all French online courses are made equal, and so there is no set answer to this question—it depends on the course you choose!
You could go for a complete, comprehensive course that takes you all the way from zero to fluent, or hone in on a specific skillset like French pronunciation.
Most courses include reading, writing and listening skill practice, and teach things like basic grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary words and phrases. Just make sure you do your research before committing to a specific course, and you’ll be good to go.
How Much Would a French Online Course Cost?
This is another question which doesn’t have a set answer. How long is a piece of string?
There are many high quality courses that are absolutely free, which we’ve seen in this post—and by the same token, there are also lots of high quality courses that you really need to dig into your bank account for!
Often the course cost comes down its content, so the more comprehensive (or specialized) the course, the more you might pay more for it. Intensive courses and courses with lots of tutor support will be on the pricier end of the scale, while more older and more superficial courses are usually on the cheaper end.
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.