The Best Ways to Learn French On Your Own: 13 Methods to Teach Yourself French
Wondering how to learn French by yourself—or if you even can do that?
Yes, you can learn French by yourself.
Try out some of these ideas for how to learn French at home, and discover how solo studying can successfully take you to fluency!
- 1. Watch and Listen to French Content
- 2. Do Written French Exercises
- 3. Make and Use French Flashcards
- 5. Take French Dictations with Songs
- 6. Use Written French to Practice Grammar Points and Vocabulary
- 7. Keep Up with the News
- 8. Scroll Your Way Through French Social Media
- 9. Play Games to Strengthen Your French the Fun Way
- 10. Speak French With a Friend or Learning Partner
- 11. Read the French Classics and Contemporaries
- 12. Take a Self-Guided French Course
- 13. Eat, Drink and Live the French Way
- And one more thing...
1. Watch and Listen to French Content
Learning French from authentic content is incredibly effective as it allows you to see the language be used naturally by French speakers.
Even something as simple as kicking back in front of the TV or watching a movie can be helpful for your French language learning.
You can mix up your learning by trying to watch a French show with English subtitles, French subtitles or maybe no subtitles at all!
Focus on listening to the French words, grammar and pronunciation and be sure to note anything that you don’t recognize so you can study it later.
You can also try listening to podcasts that come with transcripts or listening to audiobooks while reading along to the text.
These resources expose you to a lot of new words that you might not come across in daily speech and train both your listening and reading skills at once.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
2. Do Written French Exercises
Written exercises are a great way to test your knowledge and practice grammar and vocabulary.
Written exercises tend to be the bane of many students’ French learning experiences, but don’t knock this useful practice tool. By honing your writing skills, you’ll also be reinforcing all those grammar rules you’ve been learning.
The first step to doing written exercises when you’re learning French by yourself is to find a way to check yourself! Doing exercises on your own is useless if you can’t check to make sure you’ve answered correctly.
That’s why I recommend either purchasing a French textbook with answers in the back or using a site that automatically lets you know if you’re on the right track.
You can also make your own writing exercises. Not only will it be more fun for you to choose your own exercises topic, but you can also ensure the topic is more applicable to your learning goals.
You can also try free-writing to tailor your practice to what you are learning.
The options for free writes are limitless and can include diary entries, news reports, letters and even fictional stories.
If you want to check your grammar or make sure your writing is solid, you can share your work on the /French subreddit or HiNative, both of which have native French speakers who would be happy to help you out.
3. Make and Use French Flashcards
Flashcards are an incredibly effective study technique for certain French skills.
Remember learning your algebra equations or periodic table with flashcards? There’s a reason this time-honored technique has been popular for generations—it works!
So when you’re looking for a way to learn French words and all those confusing irregular verb conjugations, don’t be afraid to go old school.
Flashcards are obviously not ideal for all aspects of learning French, but the simpler elements of the language can be effectively practiced using homemade flashcards.
You can either make the cards by hand or create digital flashcard on Anki or Flashcard Machine. Many flashcard apps like Memrise also have existing flashcard decks you can study.
Here are some tips for making your own flashcards:
- For vocabulary flashcards, write the French word on one side. On the other side, write the English word, a French definition, an image or example sentence.
- Focus on words that you use the most often. It’s much more useful to create flashcards with the words for food items, locations around a city and clothing than it is to create flashcards for extremely specific topics.
- Always include the grammatical gender with a definite or indefinite article (le/la — the; un/une — a). Since these words can’t be separated from their genders, it’s always better to practice both at the same time.
- For verb flashcards, simply write the infinitive of the verb on one side along with the tense you want to practice. On the other side, write the conjugation.
- Whenever you’re practicing your conjugations, be sure to include a subject pronoun. As with the genders of nouns, conjugated verbs in the French language can’t be separated from their subject pronouns. It’s always better to practice both together.
5. Take French Dictations with Songs
Listening to songs and writing the lyrics you hear helps you practice your listening skills in a fun way.
The dictée (dictation) is a common exercise for young French children in elementary school.
It ensures that they learn how to write in French correctly—and it can be just as effective for learning French as a second language! All it takes is a text and someone to read it to you.
Usually, a dictée involves copying down what the teacher reads out loud, making sure that all of your spelling, verb conjugation and adjective agreement is correct.
When you’re learning alone, you can still do a dictée by listening to some of your favorite French songs.
Copy down everything you hear. Then, get your hands on a copy of the lyrics and see how you did!
If you’re a beginner, you might want to start these dictées by just filling in blanks. Print out a copy of the song lyrics and blank out words or phrases with white-out. Then, try to fill them back in correctly while listening to the song.
As you get more advanced, you can write down the lyrics from scratch as well and then translate them into English.
You could also try listening to an audiobook and dictating what is said then reading what the texts says after.
6. Use Written French to Practice Grammar Points and Vocabulary
By writing in French, you’ll practice applying what you know on your own.
One of the most difficult things to accomplish when you’re learning French by yourself is development of your writing skills.
The key is writing with a specific goal in mind, such as practicing the simple future or the different uses of the conditional—which is really how French teachers in lower and intermediate levels function as well.
“Assign” yourself one grammar point or vocabulary list. Write a paragraph or a page showing what you know without looking at your book or notes. Then check your work for that particular element of French grammar against your textbook, correcting any errors.
There are also several online French grammar checkers that can find mistakes you might have missed on your own.
I suggest typing out your work and then pasting it into a website like BonPatron. And don’t forget your old friends on Reddit and HiNative from the first step!
7. Keep Up with the News
Watching French news is great for practicing reading and listening while staying up to date on the happenings of the world.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn French while keeping up with the headlines? Well, you can!
Here are some of the top French news sources:
- News in Slow French. These 30-minute podcasts consist of slowly spoken news stories in simple French. With a subscription, listeners can get access to a full French transcript, a PDF with translations and flashcards.
- Radio France Internationale (Radio France International) or RFI also offers a short, daily podcast called Journal en Français Facile (News in Easy French) that is completely free and includes transcripts.
- Mon Quotidien (My Daily Newspaper) is a written newspaper geared toward children that has easy-to-understand articles as well as discussion questions to practice writing in French.
- Mary Glasgow is a magazine for children. While the full magazine requires a subscription, learners can access four articles for free.
- For more advanced French learners, check out Le Monde and Le Parisien.
- For watching the news online, France 24 and Euro News have stories on their YouTube channels.
To get the most out of the news, try making flashcards of words you don’t know or writing summaries of the stories you read or hear.
8. Scroll Your Way Through French Social Media
We all spend lots of time scrolling through social media, so why not make that scrolling more French?
If you like YouTube, there’s plenty of channels that are geared towards French learners.
Some of the best include Learn French with Alexa and Learn French with Vincent, two YouTube channels that offer grammatical tutorials, vocabulary explanations and easy dialogues in French.
For YouTube channels linked to smartphone apps, I recommend FrenchPod101, a multi-faceted online French learning program for all levels of French, and Lingoni French, an app that focuses on listening comprehension and interactive exercises.
You can treat these YouTube channels like real French classes. Take notes, engage in the comment sections (in French) and do any exercises or activities that the YouTubers suggest for practice.
You can also change your language settings on pretty much any social media platform and instantly start exposing yourself to more French.
Once you change your language, you’ll probably start seeing lots of recommendations for French posts and content.
I also recommend following the #French or #français hashtag on Instagram for great French-language posts.
Do you like the fluff news pieces, listicles and quizzes on Buzzfeed? Well, you can also pass some time on Topito, the French equivalent.
There are also loads of subreddits where you can read and practice French. If you enjoy your experience on /r/French, you might also like /r/France for news and conversations pertaining to France. Keep in mind that the latter subreddit is completely in French.
9. Play Games to Strengthen Your French the Fun Way
At the end of a long day at work or school, playing games is a fun way to relax—and learn some French.
As I’m sure you know, there are many gamified apps online that strive to teach the French language in a game-like format.
One of the most well-known of these is Duolingo, which turns French learning into a fun experience through mini-games, levels and learning streaks.
You can also play many online games that are aimed at teaching French including Digital Dialects, Frenchgames.net or Sam Amuse (Sam Amuses).
These games are perfect for beginners looking to practice common vocabulary topics or grammar constructions such as verb conjugations.
I also recommend “Ici” radio Canada (“Here” Canada Radio). Developed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), this website has games that are geared toward native French-speaking children.
For example, you can solve a crime mystery or adventure in the Canadian Arctic. I recommend these games for intermediate learners.
If you’re a serious gamer, I recommend trying to play your game of choice in French.
Simply change your language setting to French, and voilà (there you go). You can also play online games with actual native French speakers, by checking out French-language discords.
10. Speak French With a Friend or Learning Partner
To properly develop your French skills, you need to be able to practice speaking with people.
If you know any French speakers, try to practice speaking with them as much as possible. If you don’t know any French speakers, there are plenty of ways you can get in touch with a language learning partner:
- Travel to a French-speaking place. You can plan your own trip to France or another French-speaking country and immediately be immersed in the language.
- Find French-owned establishments in your area and even French social gatherings that you might be able to attend.
- Look at the social gathering website, Meetup. There are many Meetup groups that come together regularly and speak or practice French.
- Find a language exchange partner. Websites like mylanguageexchange.com and italki specialize in connecting French learners with native French speakers.
Once you find a language partner, you can practice your conversation with them and be instantly corrected and given feedback.
A great tactic is to actually try teaching your partner a topic that you want to work on as if they are learning French for the first time.
This will solidify your understanding of concepts and allow them to see how well you are grasping things and correct any gaps in your learning.
11. Read the French Classics and Contemporaries
Reading is a vital skill to exercise when learning French, and lucky for you, French literature is some of the most respected across the world.
The classic French books associated with the French language span many different time periods and genres.
Some of the most studied novels in Western society were first written in French such as Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables,” Alexandre Dumas’ “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo” (The Count of Monte Cristo) and Albert Camus’s “L’étranger” (The Stranger).
If the classics aren’t really your vibe, you’re guaranteed to find a book you love in contemporary French literature.
Whatever you read, keep a dictionary and a notebook nearby.
As you come across words you don’t know in French, write them down. I don’t recommend writing down every single unknown French word; rather, you should only mine for the ones that you see most often or ones that are vital to the understanding of the section of text.
Once you’ve written these words down, you need to use them actively. This could mean creating sentences for context, recordings of you using these words in speech or creating flashcards.
12. Take a Self-Guided French Course
French self-guided courses can give you a bit more structure in your learning while allowing you to take things at your own pace.
No matter what level, a self-guided French course can be a great way to learn French grammar and vocabulary in a systematic way.
It can also give you more opportunities to speak, listen to, read and write the French language at a level that’ll be most useful for your current skills.
Here are some great online French courses you can look into:
- ielanguages.com has French tutorials that span six levels and cover topics such as verb tenses, lists of common vocabulary and even advanced topics such as the subjunctive mood.
- TV5Monde (TV5World) and ToLearnFrench have lessons structured around the progression of learning French skills and include videos and audio recordings, reading and listening comprehensions as well as an array of exercises.
- Lingoda is an online language school that specializes in learning French at any time of the day, with hundreds of small group French classes being offered every week by a native French teacher.
- MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are high-quality offerings from universities around the world, often completely for free. They’re usually structured more like traditional courses with lectures, interactive exercises and, on occasion, even on-call teachers or tutors.
13. Eat, Drink and Live the French Way
Practicing parts of French culture yourself is a great way to passively practice French.
How can you incorporate French immersion into your life without actually moving to a French-speaking region?
It’s easy, anything you do everyday you can add a French element.
Try cooking French recipes, dressing in a French style, listening to French music and finding other ways to incorporate French culture into your own life.
There are plenty of books and resources out there that go into detail on how to make your lifestyle more French, so give it a try!
Learning French alone only becomes easier when you take advantage of all the resources that are around you.
Use this list of ideas for how to learn French by yourself as a jumping-off point. If you want to get creative, the sky’s the limit!
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 FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.