Learn French Writing from Your Phone: 5 Unique Apps for French Writing Practice
There are lots of unique French apps designed to improve your written grammar, sentence construction and vocabulary, all on your phone.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little good-old fashioned pen-to-paper practice—but sometimes you need to shake things up.
Here are five French writing apps that you can use to improve your written language from the palm of your hand.
- Dive into Dications with Dictado
- Go Beyond Dictionary Definitions with Linguee
- Meet New Pen Pals with HelloTalk
- Get Focused Writing Practice on italki
- And one more thing...
Dive into Dications with Dictado
I can’t tell you how many times I used dictations to teach English to my students in France. The exercise was initially met with groans 100% of the time, only to become the favorite activity of the day.
It’s the same in French. This is where you test your writing abilities against your comprehension. The trouble for most French learners is that they don’t have a native French speaker available to read out a long paragraph on a moment’s notice. Well, now you don’t need one.
Just download Dicatado, an app that’ll read any French text that you input. And because you are the one finding the text, this app is totally customizable to your level. French news sites are particularly useful (France24, Le Monde or Le Figaro are good starts, but there are a few more popular ones as well) because they’re relevant, engaging and the language is straightforward.
Copy and paste a section of any article you find interesting, insert the text into Dictado and start your dictation! You can even adjust the speed as you get more advanced.
When you’re finished, bust out that red pen and correct yourself like you would in any classroom. Remember, dictations seem like a chore at first, but they’re really an amazing exercise to improve your French writing. Dictado allows you to reap all the benefits of dictations and leaves you with no excuses to put it off!
Go Beyond Dictionary Definitions with Linguee
You may already be familiar with the web version of Linguee. It’s essentially a dictionary that gives word-for-word translations (sometimes even well-known idiomatic phrases). Linguee has one key advantage over similar apps, though: it provides context.
If you insert a word in English that you want to translate in your French writing, it’ll give you two columns. The first column will be a list of full-length English sentences that include the word you’re trying to translate. Then, you’ll have the corresponding French sentence on the other side. This is incredibly valuable!
For example, say you want to translate “a long time” into French. Some translators will simply give you the basic translation as longtemps or long moment. But this doesn’t take your context into account. With the Linguee app, you can see the difference in the phrases depuis longtemps (for a long time) and il prend beaucoup de temps (it takes a long time).
Seeing the context allows you to go beyond the word-for-word translation and figure out which context applies to what you’re writing. For grammar nerds, it allows you to break down how the same word can function as an adverb, noun or adjective and then use that word accordingly.
This handy app is sure to help you break through any vocabulary barriers in your French writing.
Meet New Pen Pals with HelloTalk
Okay, so now you’ve done your dictations and written your original French paragraphs, but you want to take your skills to the next test: writing with natives.
Check out HelloTalk, a social media platform that allows you to text message and chat with people from around the world. You can use this app to start live chats with real Frenchies, many of whom are more than happy to correct you when you’ve made a mistake. Plus, you can participate in the online discussion boards where there are loads of people trying to improve their writing just like you.
The best part? It’s totally free and very accessible. You can carry on writing messages to native francophones throughout the day at your convenience, just like you would text a friend.
This is very helpful because, as in English, there are two types of French writing: formal and informal. Chatting with natives will allow you to catch up with some of the more informal French lingo like MDR (mort de rire — LOL), BJR (bonjour — hello) or A+ (à plus tard — see/speak to you later!).
Some purists may say that this isn’t “true” French (again, like they do in English) but this type of writing is a very common part of everyday French life. Just keep in mind that if you’re trying to write like Jules Verne, you should probably avoid phrases like Mr6 (merci — thank you) in your stories.
Get Focused Writing Practice on italki
italki is another conversational app that allows you to speak with strangers but, from my experience, has some benefits over others like it. First, this is an app that allows you to find language professors around the world. That means that you’re connected with real human beings and you can set up paid lessons to help improve your French writing from anywhere on your schedule.
Like Antidote, this option may cost you a bit more in the short-term, but will be very helpful if you’re serious about improving your writing. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. There are thousands of qualified tutors you can choose from based on your budget, language needs and ratings from previous students. There are many specialized French tutors that can teach you French writing for specific contexts, like exam prep or the business world.
You can pay per lesson so there’s no major financial commitment before you’re ready.
But, you’re also more than welcome to make new friends and chat for free on italki. The discussion boards are very active and have a ton of interesting topics every day. Since you’re trying to improve your writing you should absolutely be contributing to these forums.
There’s even a Notebook feature where you can get your French writing corrected by native speakers in exchange for making corrections in your native language.
You have plenty of helpful language lovers who’ll correct you along the way with no judgments… after all, we’re all in the same boat here!
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Okay, you may never quite reach Victor Hugo status, but you can certainly improve your French writing skills from the convenience of your smartphone! The bottom line is that you’ll only improve so much as you consistently work toward your goal. And with these five French writing apps, you’ll be learning to write French the right way (and maybe even saving some trees in the process!).
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
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 learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally 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 the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)