Have you ever sat down at a restaurant feeling incredibly hungry, and everything on the menu seemed great?
Then the waiter came by and told you all the specials, and those sounded amazing too.
Finally, it was time to give your order—and you were paralyzed by the choices.
But still hungry.
Okay, now a scenario that’s even more familiar. Have you ever gone online and searched for French learning resources? What happened?
Well, today, I unfortunately won’t be able to review every French resource on the menu, but I can at least give you some insight into one very popular one that you might be considering: FrenchPod101.
In this FrenchPod101 review, I’ll share my first impressions of the program, the value I found for French learners, the pitfalls I noticed and my overall takeaways after a week of using it.
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FrenchPod101 Review: A Candid Look at This Popular App
First Impressions After Signing Up (Try Not to Judge a Book by Its Cover…)
I need to be totally honest here. When I initially visited FrenchPod101, I had mixed feelings. I’ll begin with what made me skeptical and work my way to what won me over.
When I hit the homepage, I quickly felt like I was being put into a sales funnel rather than getting to freely explore the content. There was an introductory video (which I was pleased to see was guided by a native French speaker) as well as several pop ups, each with various offers ($1 for 60 days, 30% off a specific program, French word-of-the-day freebies, etc.).
In short, it all felt a bit “too much” for my taste. I kept thinking, “If the program is so great, why are you working so hard to give it away cheaper?”
On the other hand, I quickly reminded myself that these impressions had nothing to do with the actual content and that I should, at the very least, give it a shot.
So that’s what I did.
How Much Does FrenchPod101 Cost?
From the outset, I should mention that there are three types of memberships you can choose from: Basic, Premium and Premium Plus.
- The Basic plan is $4/month with a two-year membership and includes audio access, multiple device access (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.), printable lesson notes and lesson downloads.
- The Premium plan is $10/month with a two-year membership and includes everything in the Basic plan as well as line-by-line audio transcripts, bonus lessons, interactive quizzes, flashcards and more.
- The Premium Plus plan is $23/month with a two-year membership and includes all these features but personalizes the lessons for you and gives you the option of 1-on-1 instruction.
I chose the premium plan because it came with a free seven-day trial—so I can’t speak specifically to the merits of Premium Plus.
Right away, I was encouraged to choose my level (only Premium Plus comes with a level assessment) so I chose intermediate to get an idea of the content and how it’s rated. However, you’re able to change levels at any time if you find the lessons too easy or too hard, which is nice.
What Do You Learn with FrenchPod101’s Lessons?
A typical FrenchPod101 lesson is broken down into a series of “mini-lessons,” which include audio, video and text for roughly two to five minutes. These lessons are designed to help you improve your listening and reading abilities.
Listening Lessons and Exercises
The listening portions come with small videos or audio clips along with transcripts below that allow you to hear native French speakers pronounce certain phrases. Also, there’s a ton of reinforcement—which is crucial for successful learning—via small quizzes, slowing down the speech and allowing you to replay certain phrases from the transcript.
Honestly, I was really impressed with both the quality and quantity of exercises like this. But since they’re all roughly in the same format (meaning the actual audio changes but the structure of the exercises stays roughly the same), I couldn’t envision myself sitting down with lessons for longer than 20 to 30 minutes without wanting to try something new.
Thus, this type of content is, at least for me, perfect for small, daily exercises or morning warm-ups.
Reading Lessons and Exercises
The French reading sections actually feel oddly similar to the listening lessons because they also incorporate video and audio components. The big difference, however, is that the audio/visuals serve to complement the text, rather than the other way around.
Plus, the content is so specific that it can be helpful for real-life situations. For instance, in one lesson, you can learn how to claim a lost item at a train station. The text is taken from forms you would typically see in a real-life scenario and vocabulary is broken down to help you read it. Then, the audio/visual portions reinforce that information and allow you to read with more fluency.
I could see these lessons being extremely valuable for people who’ll be visiting a French-speaking country and want to get more familiar with identifying basic personal information (name, address, descriptions of personal items, etc.). That said, I was a bit surprised to see this type of lesson classified as “intermediate” as most of the information is relatively preliminary in learning French.
In fact, this was (and still is) one of my biggest hesitations with FrenchPod101: the level of the content doesn’t seem to fit real-life definitions of “beginner, intermediate and advanced.” To test this, I switched my account level to “advanced” and noticed that even the audio was slower than a normal speaking rate. Also, the vocabulary was still simpler than I would’ve expected, which was surprising due to FrenchPod101’s extensive vocabulary building exercises.
Which brings us to…
Vocabulary is definitely one of FrenchPod101’s biggest strengths. There are flashcards, quizzes, words-of-the-day, word lists, word banks… pretty much anything with “words” and they’ve got it.
In the flashcards, you have tons of word lists that people can contribute to so you’ll never be at a loss for new terms. They’re also broken down by section (pretty specifically, too) making it easy to bundle vocabulary by topic—always helpful!
As I was going through the new vocabulary lists and the quizzes, I understood how someone who struggled with building their vocabulary could really thrive using this tool. It would be excellent for pulling out pre-made flashcard lists on the morning bus commute or while waiting in line at the DMV.
Out of everything I saw, FrenchPod101’s vocabulary sections were the most impressive aspect of the program!
Is FrenchPod101 Worth the Investment?
Now the real question is, “Would you suggest paying between $4 and $23 a month for this type of service?” The answer is, unfortunately, pretty anticlimactic:
It depends on what you’re looking for.
There are three types of French learners who I think would really benefit from this service:
- People visiting a French-speaking country who want to get more comfortable in very specific situations
- People who want to build their French vocabulary
- People looking for short daily warm-ups
- People feeling stuck in their French learning routine who want a new way to study
I wouldn’t be able to honestly say this program would bring me to total fluency on its own. Which is why my ultimate review comes down to this: try it out for a week, but explore other resources before committing to payment.
The reason I say this isn’t because I think FrenchPod101 is “bad”—quite the opposite. I just don’t think it’s the “best” for French learners who wish to become an advanced speaker.
So What Are the Alternatives?
One alternative that I would definitely recommend if you’re looking to become an advanced speaker is FluentU. You’ll find many of the same elements as FrenchPod101 such as flashcards, videos, audio lessons and comprehension exercises, but the content is varied in a way that allows you to study for larger chunks of time.
FluentU provides authentic French videos—like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring speeches and more—that’ve been transformed into personalized French lessons. There are hundreds of videos for beginner through advanced learners, easily organized by topic and level so you can find the ones that work for you.
But FluentU also keeps track of what you’re learning and suggests new content based on that information, always pushing you towards fluency.
Each video comes with interactive subtitles, so you can click on any word for an instant definition while you watch. Then, you get flashcards and fun quizzes from the video content to reinforce everything you’ve learned. These include matching quizzes, fill-in-the-blanks, spelling drills and more.
In short, it’s an entertaining and immersive way to learn French the way native speakers use it in real life.
Just like going to a restaurant, the amount of French learning resources out there can be overwhelming. And while it’s nice to ask for the waiter’s suggested dish, all they—and I—can do is say what worked and what didn’t for us personally. So while I think FrenchPod101 is worth considering, I would highly recommend trying out a few other items on the menu as well—like tonight’s special: FluentU.
After all, unlike the restaurant, trying out these French learning resources is free!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.