I was once at a restaurant with a friend, and he asked our waitress how the menu’s “sweet surprise ice cream” tasted.
Her response: “The sweet surprise ice cream is, uh… cold.”
To be fair, I’ve also had moments where the right words have magically disappeared from my mind, leaving me like a deer in the headlights.
Anytime I’m asked to describe myself, it’s like my brain’s hard drive is wiped clean and I’m left sounding like a disastrous eharmony profile.
“I— well, I… like long walks on the beach, and um… yeah.”
This especially seems to happen when I’m speaking in French, and I always curse my 17-year-old self for not trying harder during those high school vocabulary exercises.
But there’s hope!
If you’re like me and you wish you always had the right words on hand, you don’t need to lug around a massive thesaurus or spend several merciless hours memorizing the dictionary. Thanks to online French vocabulary exercises, you’ll develop a colorful, nuanced and accurate vocabulary, all the while having fun.
I know “fun” and “learning” aren’t two words that usually go in the same sentence together, but the websites and apps below make it easy.
Perks of French Vocabulary Exercises
- Instead of mindlessly agonizing over a lesson plan, vocabulary exercises offer a more engaging, interactive way of learning. With your phone and a Wi-Fi connection, you can even access them from anywhere.
- Since vocabulary exercises also test your reading comprehension, you’ll become a more confident reader, too. Many exercises also have pronunciation and listening features, which will help you improve in those aspects.
- They provide great brain/cognitive training, because it takes some mental power to memorize definitions.
- As your vocabulary expands, you’ll start noticing word patterns, which will help you deduce the meanings of unfamiliar words in the future. For example, you’ll become more acquainted with various suffixes and prefixes, which will help you understand new words.
Remember This When Using Vocabulary Exercises
- You probably won’t remember the definition of every word, and that’s okay. The goal is to enhance your vocabulary, not to be the next Sheldon Cooper.
- It might be helpful to take a screenshot of correct exercises, that way you’ll passively see the photos as you scroll through your camera roll.
- If you encounter a word you can’t pronounce and there’s no audio of how it sounds, go to YouTube and type “(Insert word) pronunciation” and you’ll probably find a brief video of someone saying it.
The Right Type of Workout: 7 Amazing French Vocabulary Exercises
If you’re just starting out with French but still want to practice, I have one answer: Quiz-Tree.
You’ll be given a French word or phrase and you just have to pick the correct English translation from a list. The questions are handily pronounced, so you can imitate to practice your own pronunciation at the same time.
The range of topics is quite broad. You’ll find exercises related to entertainment, food, nature and describing people, which serves as a good foundation to advance.
You’re still a beginner, but you know the difference between a and à (“has” and “to”), so what to do? Cue: wordPROF.
Even though this website is for beginners, its format will still challenge you because there aren’t any multiple choice questions. Instead, you’re given a French word or phrase and translate it yourself.
wordPROF’s categories are arranged by difficulty, not theme, but if you’re feeling extra zesty, why not try the “Whole Vocabulary” option? This one features every question on the website.
Some mornings, I wake up feeling like I could give a commencement speech in front of a massive crowd of Parisians… and then there are other times when my French feels more outdated than Blockbuster.
Bonjour de France is the perfect solution if you struggle with fluctuating proficiency levels: you can choose your appropriate level instead of being confined to one. For full interactivity, it features various types of exercises, such as “fill-in-the-blank” and picture associations.
Even better, it boasts several vocabulary categories, from shopping and anatomy to colors and vacations. So the next time your uvula is sore or you want to compliment your girlfriend’s magenta dress, why not say it in French?
If you’re on a runner’s high, the website also contains helpful links to online tests and music learning resources in the righthand sidebar.
FluentU is a double whammy. You’ll expand your vocabulary by first watching real French videos—like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring speeches and more—that are customized to your proficiency and learning needs.
Since this content is material that native French speakers actually watch regularly, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real French the way it’s spoken in modern life.
One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:
Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions guide you along the way, so you never miss a word.
Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video through word lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”
As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience.
To Learn French is serious about you learning French. It contains the mother-load of themed vocabulary options, and there’s also no shortage of exercise types. Whether you’re looking for an interactive game or classic multiple choice, you’ll find any and every vocabulary exercise format you want.
You can choose between three levels from beginner to advanced. For full freedom, you can use the search bar at the top of the site to better suit your exercise preferences.
Hard-to-pronounce name, easy-to-use vocabulary tool.
Quia is a massive compendium of more than 7,500 (yes, 7,500!) games and exercises, all covering different topics. Don’t know the difference between the imparfait and passé composé French past tenses? Need to spice up your speech with some new adjectives? Not to worry. No matter the dilemma, I’m sure one of Quia’s many exercises has a solution.
You’ll find all sorts of activities, including the classics and more elaborate games, like Battleship and scavenger hunts.
Too much of something can sometimes create problems (or, as The Notorious B.I.G. put it, “Mo’ money mo’ problems”), but Quia has a useful “refine search” feature to filter your options based on your learning needs.
Intermediate or advanced learners, you won’t miss out on the fun. Vokabel follows a similar format to wordPROF but you might find it more complicated because there aren’t any beginner categories. You also have to translate English-to-French, which demands a larger mental bank of French vocabulary.
Vokabel lets you choose specific word categories, but the “general” option is available for days when you’re living on the edge. Plus, check out the verb tenses and conjugation exercises if you need a verb refresh.
I hate exercise. I’m not proud, but the last time I worked out was during my mandatory high school gym class, when I was wheezing my way around the track. So when I stumbled on these online vocabulary exercises, it was like an epiphany: I could diminish any shame at my inactivity by “exercising” while simultaneously improving my French. So the next time you need to work out or just have some time to spare and want to be productive, why not occupy your time with these fun vocabulary exercises?
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.