“Here you are, Monsieur.”
You look up as the waiter approaches your table. Instead of the bowl of soup you were expecting, he hands you a slip of paper. There’s a French word on one side, an English one on the other.
“What is this? I ordered the soupe du jour (soup of the day). This isn’t soup!”
“Ah, vous ne comprenez pas,” the waiter insisted. “You don’t understand. This is so much better. This is le mot du jour—the word of the day. You can use these to order soup… or to follow a recipe to make it yourself. Or, if you collect enough of them, you could become fluent and attend the famous Cordon Bleu school in Paris!”
“Um… May I please just have my soup?”
The waiter sighed. “If you insist, Monsieur.”
Ten minutes later, as you finish off your bowl of bouillabaisse, it occurs to you that perhaps your waiter had a point. You’ve always wanted to become fluent in French… and, since you’re bound to learn something new every day anyway, why not learn a new French word every day?
So, Monsieur ou Madame (Sir or Madam), tuck your napkin under your chin and get ready to enjoy your French word of the day with six incredible sites where it’s on the menu.
Why Are French Word of the Day Tools so Useful?
You’ll establish a daily learning habit.
Getting yourself rolling with a word-of-the-day program will make learning new French words a daily habit. You’ll become used to learning a new French word every day and even look forward to it.
Soon, if you skip a day, it’ll seem like something’s missing.
It’s easy to underestimate the power of habit. It can be hard to see how tiny actions can build up to a big result. Yet daily habit is one of the secrets behind successful language learning, and something that language education professionals recommend.
If you can manage to practice your French word of the day at the same time daily, so much the better. This way, you’ll be training your brain to anticipate and be ready for the learning session.
You’ll keep learning even when you’re short on time or patience.
A word-of-the-day program is a great way to ease yourself into learning French, even if you’re feeling stressed or you don’t have a lot of time to devote to it.
Reading a chapter of a French book or completing a series of vocabulary and grammar exercises may seem intimidating if you’re on a time crunch. But studying a single word of the day takes about five minutes or less… and almost everyone can sneak in a quick learning task every day.
You’ll develop a conversational vocabulary faster.
By learning just one new French word every day, you’ll have learned 365 new words in a year.
Your proficiency in French can be gauged by roughly how many words you know. If you’re just starting out learning French, you could reach the “functional beginner” level of 200 to 500 words in a little over six months.
Or, if you’re already a bit beyond “conversational” level (over 3,500 words, for example), learning just one new word per day for a year could bump you nearly to the “advanced” level (which starts around 4,000 words mastered).
Don’t Just Memorize and Move On! How to Actually Use Your French Words of the Day
Notice your word of the day in different contexts.
As a kid, did you ever play “Punch Buggy” on long car trips? You had to look for a Volkswagen Beetle on the road, and your keen sense of observation would be rewarded with the privilege of punching your sibling or friend in the arm whenever you were the first to spot one.
Now you can make a game out of looking for new vocabulary—minus the physical violence you may have enjoyed as a child.
As you read, listen to music or watch videos in French, keep your eyes and ears peeled for your latest words of the day. Your reward will be an opportunity to practice your vocabulary words in a new context, which means you’ll have a much easier time remembering them.
Keep a running word list.
Maintain a list of your words of the day in a paper notebook or make a list in Evernote or a similar app.
Write an example sentence, however simple, for each word you learn.
Skim through your list when you have an odd moment, testing yourself on the words and using them in different contexts.
Review with flashcards.
Make a flashcard for each new word of the day. You could use paper or an app.
Pull out your flashcards for quick review whenever you have an idle moment. Try some of these bilingual flashcard games for children to keep your learning activities varied.
Jot your words of the day on your calendar.
Remember those boxed desk calendars with the tear-off pages? Cute cats, adorable puppies, jokes and obscure trivia all graced the pages of these popular year-end gifts.
The downside is that once you tear a page off of the calendar pad, it gets tossed into the recycling bin (or repurposed as scrap paper) and promptly forgotten, along with whatever little piece of information was on it.
Take a page from the boxed calendar concept, but make it memorable. Write each new word of the day in your regular paper or electronic calendar or agenda.
As you check your calendar for appointments during the course of the week, pick a word of the day at random and try to use it in a sentence. Challenge yourself more by combining several words of the day in your example sentences.
Periodically re-evaluate your learning level.
Whether you’re a beginner, nearly fluent or somewhere in between, there are word-of-the-day sources to suit your needs.
As you progress from one level to the next, make sure your word-of-the-day resources continue to match your level of learning. If you recognize your daily word after, say, five days in a row, it’s probably time to choose something more advanced.
Get Your Daily Dose of French! 6 Sites That Send You a French Word of the Day
Are you ready to seize the word of the day and use it to build your French vocabulary? Here are a half-dozen dynamic sources for French mots du jour.
FrenchPod101’s French Word of the Day
Learning level: Beginner to intermediate
Formats: Web-based and email
Plant a seed for steady vocabulary growth with FrenchPod101’s French word of the day program.
Each word of the day is illustrated with a small photo. Click on the speaker icon right below the image to hear the word pronounced.
If the word of the day is a noun, its gender will be displayed immediately below its English translation.
One or more phrases or sentences show you how to use the word of the day in context. The paired audio files provide pronunciations for both the French phrases and their English translations.
Never worry about missing a word! FrenchPod101 lets you travel through time—no DeLorean or TARDIS needed. Find offerings from weeks, months or even years ago simply by selecting the blue “Choose a different date” button (midway down the main French Word of the Day page).
Plus, FrenchPod101 offers a lot more than the word of the day. You can get their full video and audio French podcast lessons here—there are over a thousand and more being added all the time.
Transparent Language’s French Word of the Day
Learning level: Intermediate
Formats: Web-based, email and RSS feed
Are you a mid-level French learner looking for a simple, effective vocabulary-building strategy? Clearly, you should try the French Word of the Day from Transparent Language.
It highlights a French word or phrase and the English translation. Each entry identifies the word’s part of speech, rounding out the experience with an example sentence and MP3 files to aid pronunciation.
If you want to peek back at words you may have missed, just click on the calendar icon next to the current word, or use the arrows underneath it to navigate back and forth in time.
Transparent offers a widget that finds its word of the day on Twitter, letting you see how the word or phrase is used casually, in everyday contexts like social media. Tap the blue tweety-bird icon underneath the calendar square on the right to search the latest tweets.
Learning levels: Beginner to advanced
Formats: Web, iOS app and Android app
One problem with typical word of the day resources is that you’re picking up new words in isolation, which can make them harder to remember. However, with FluentU, you can create a personalized word of the day flashcard set by pulling words from authentic, entertaining French videos (the kind native speakers actually watch!).
FluentU is the home of an ever-expanding library of French videos that have been supercharged for language learners.
All videos have built-in clickable subtitles, vocabulary lists, fun quizzes and more.
While you’re getting your daily dose of language learning on FluentU, just pop into the “Vocab” tab below any video summary. Use the checkboxes to select the word you’d like to learn that day, and add it to your “Word of the Day” flashcard list. (If you don’t have a list like that already, simply click where it says “+ New Flashcard Set” under Add to create one.)
Then watch the video to see how the words are actually used by native speakers. You can click on any word in the subtitles for an instant definition and you’ll see other videos that have the word, too, so you know how to use it in any context.
As you continue practicing with FluentU, the program uses a spaced repetition algorithm to automatically prompt you when it’s time to review the vocabulary that’s most difficult for you.
With the varied, up-to-date word sources that FluentU provides, you’ll be sure to have a well-rounded and cutting-edge vocabulary!
“365 Days of French Expressions”
Learning level: Intermediate
Formats: audiobook, Kindle e-book, ePub or PDF e-book (available through the link above)
“365 Days of French Expressions” teaches you many colloquial phrases that are often not covered in formal courses. This is particularly good for the intermediate level learner, who has enough of a foundation in French to leave the shallow end of the pool and start swimming in deeper waters of everyday, idiomatic conversation.
To reveal the trains of thought that created these expressions, Bibard presents the literal translation of the French phrase, along with a more figurative rendering to help you better understand the meaning.
This book includes weekly quizzes, so you can regularly test your retention of the phrases.
The e-book versions provide access to MP3 files of the pronunciations. If you purchase this book through the website, you get a bonus podcast and a free e-book of French proverbs.
Mot du Jour
Learning levels: Intermediate to advanced
Formats: iOS and Android
Put the word of the day in the palm of your hand with the Mot du Jour app. Each entry includes an example of the word in context, and also identifies its part of speech: nom (noun), verbe (verb), adjectif (adjective), etc.
You can make a list of your favorite words—and share interesting words with your friends using popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
Look at words from different dates or select au hasard to get a random word. Hear the words pronounced by playing the accompanying audio files.
All the definitions are in French, which makes this app more challenging than those with English translations.
Learning level: Advanced
Formats: Blog, Android app, Twitter, Facebook and Google+
LeMotDuJour.info is designed for French native speakers. Word definitions are only given in French, and the words are definitely advanced-level vocabulary that would likely be used in a scholarly setting.
To deepen your understanding, LeMotDuJour.info provides etymologies and cites word history sources for those who wish to research further.
Example sentences are often drawn from literary sources, with quotes from luminaries like Honoré de Balzac, Émile Zola, Romain Rolland and François-Auguste-René de Chateaubriand.
If your French learning routine needs a little shaking up, stir the pot with these resources for finding a new French word of the day every day. Soon, you’ll be bubbling over with tasty and satisfying French vocabulary.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.