Shhh, can you hear it?
Really focus on the sound—can you hear it now?
Smooth, gorgeous French rolling off tongues of natives, landing warmly in our ears—an instant reminder of why we’re working to hard to learn this incredible language.
Oh wait, you really can’t hear that?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to send you off on some ridiculous hunt with puzzling clues and an outdated map.
I’ll share my treasure with you: the best french audio resources for intermediate learners, plus how to use them.
These resources are a true pile of gold for you French learners, because listening is where it’s at.
How Listening Will Improve Your French
When I first started learning French I underestimated the power of listening. I would focus on using textbooks to learn, picking up from the learning habits I developed at school. I worked hard and although I memorized a lot of vocabulary, I didn’t see much progress in my speaking level.
Listening helps you to understand what you and others say, and it also helps you imitate sounds and intonation. This makes listening arguably the most important skill to master when learning a language.
As soon as I started really listening, I started improving. Even if you don’t understand everything that you hear at first, it’s not going to be an obstacle in your learning journey. The more you listen, the more you will understand and the faster you will progress.
When we learn to speak our native language we listen and repeat what we hear before understanding all the grammar and vocabulary. You must do the same with French, so start with listening and go from there!
How to Choose the Right French Audio Tool
So you want to do some listening, but not sure where to start? There are a number of different audio tools that you can use to improve your French, but you should choose your tool based on your goal.
First decide what your goal is (what you want to improve), and then select your audio tool.
Speaking: If your goal is to improve your speaking level in French, you should be using an audio tool that focuses on pronunciation and phonetics. These kind of tools will help you improve your accent as well as your general understanding of French sounds.
Comprehension: Does your comprehension level need a boost? If the answer is yes, try using audio tools that tell a story. You can find a number of magazines that have audio versions online or short stories with audio in French that are easy to follow. You can even listen to French music! The most important thing is to find something that interests you, because when you want to improve your comprehension you need to enjoy it.
Grammar: In any language grammar is one of the most difficult things to master. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible! To improve your grammar level you should be using audiobooks, such as “Les Portes Tordues.” This story recounts the mysterious adventures of a girl and boy trapped in a scary house and is illustrated with black-and-white pictures. It is specifically designed to help you with grammar, as within each chapter of the book you have:
- The passage from the book, in French and English
- The audio of the French passage
- A list of difficult vocabulary
- A grammar lesson (mainly verbs and idiomatic expressions)
- A grammar quiz
It is also very useful for improving your vocabulary.
Vocabulary: Are words your weak spot? To polish your vocabulary skills there are a number of audio options you can use. All of the above methods will help you with vocabulary, as you will learn new words constantly while studying, but some resources are more helpful for vocab. For example, FluentU—which we’ll learn about down in the resources section—is really great for this because words are learned from authentic usage in real-world videos.
Writing: Many people think that the only way to perfect your writing is to write. It’s not true! You can also use audio tools to refine your writing. You should choose an audio recording that speaks very slowly so you can practice listening and writing down what you hear at the same time.
How to Use French Audio
Now you know your goal and you are ready to start. But what’s the best way to use the French audio you’ll choose?
You need to choose something that you already enjoy listening to in your native language. Personally, I never listen to the radio and much prefer to watch television, so I chose to watch French TV. I had fun watching the TV shows, and as a result found that I quickly improved my listening skills. Being interested in what you’re listening to is so important!
Set a weekly objective
You should set a specific weekly objective for yourself. For example, I will listen to the radio three times a week for 10 minutes. If you want to improve your French you need to practice on a regular basis, yet you also have to be realistic. Listening to audio should be fun, not a chore, so set an objective based on your schedule and make sure you stick to it.
How can you stick to your objective?
1. Write down your goal on post-its and place several around the house in places you will see them.
2. Bookmark links so you can easily find them when you are looking for an audio tool.
3. Set a reminder on your phone or write it on your calendar, that way you’re sure not to forget!
4. Set up a reward scheme. For example, if you complete your listening objective for the month, reward yourself by going to see a French movie at the cinema or online!
Listen to the same audio clip at least three times
Whatever you decide to listen to, listen to the audio piece several times—at least three. You must also concentrate, avoid distractions and focus only on what you are listening to. You can do this by closing your eyes while listening or listening through headphones to block out any surrounding sound.
Ideally you should listen to shorter sections of an audio tool. If it’s a movie, choose one specific scene and watch it three times, leaving at least five minutes between each listening exercise. Take the five-minute break so your brain can digest what it heard. If you listen three times consecutively you won’t listen efficiently.
There is also the possibility of using transcripts or reading subtitles while listening. I would advise you not to do this the first time you listen, because otherwise you will focus solely on what you are seeing and not what you are hearing. The best way to use visual aids effectively is to listen the first three times without them, and then use them to check that you understood. The key is to use them last, never first.
Relax, you won’t understand every word
When you listen to some audio there will definitely be words that you don’t understand. You don’t need to worry! It’s not necessary to understand every single word to understand what you’re hearing.
Take notes if you want, but not too many
You shouldn’t take too many notes when you are doing a listening exercise because it will take your attention away from listening. You can write down some vocabulary, but try to understand the audio as a whole, without looking up too many words in the dictionary.
Jot words down and look them up if the word stops you from understanding—you might translate the title, for example.
Where to Find French Audio Resources for Intermediate Learners
Online French Audio Resources
- FluentU: FluentU is an online immersion platform and app. FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks. You can browse videos by difficulty (beginner to native), topic (arts and entertainment, health and lifestyle, etc.) and format (video blog, news, shows, etc.). Since this video content is stuff that native French speakers actually watch on the regular, 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 will guide you along the way, so you’ll 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’s learn mode to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video with vocabulary 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. Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.
- BBC: The BBC gives you access to a number of different audio resources. There are audio resources specifically for French phrases, French vocabulary and French grammar, as well as complete French lessons. If sports are one of your hobbies, you can even listen to a rugby section in French with Jonny Wilkinson! There are also crosswords available with audio and interactive videos.
- FrenchAssistant.com: French Assistant offers over 150,000 audio resources to help you learn French. With such a huge amount of audio resources, it’s a great site to practice with. You can follow lessons, test your knowledge and even review your progress online.
- Tex’s French Grammar: This site was created by the University of Texas and offers users a comical love story to entertain and engage its audience! Learn grammar in a fun way with Tex and Tammy, the loved up armadillos!
- YouTube: If you are looking for a challenge you can subscribe to the young French comedians Norman and/or Cyprien on YouTube. They both discuss many different subjects and are guaranteed to make you laugh!
French TV Audio Resources
On the television you can watch channels such as:
- TV5MONDE: TV5MONDE promotes the French language and the culture of the countries where it’s spoken. Its website is particularly useful because it has the “re-watch” option on its daily videos, so even if you missed it on TV you can watch it online. It offers a lot of news related videos as well as documentaries.
- Euronews: Euronews provides you with 24-hour news updates in French, and offers you the choice between Euronews radio and Euronews live. The audio resources are generally centered around news reports, but they are also separated into categories such as Business, European Affairs, Cinema, High-Tech, Music etc. Euronews is available on its website, SKY, freesat and Virgin Media or via the radio.
- Arte TV: This TV channel and website is an arts and documentary channel that offers short clips of its programs. One of the great features of Arte TV is that you can access a list of all the programs that will be shown weekly, so you are able to choose the programs that interest you. Arte TV is also split into categories such as Info, Future, Creative, Concert and many more. It’s therefore very easy to navigate and find what you want to watch.
- France 5: France 5 offers clips and full editions of some of its programs. Like TV5 Monde, you have the option to re-watch shows that have already been shown. France 5 offers mainly documentaries but you also have the French version of the daily show (La Quotidienne) available to watch!
If you’re not in a French-speaking country, chances are you’re going to have to access French TV online. No worries, though, because here’s our fantastic guide to watching French TV online.
If you’re looking for some of the best French TV series for French learners, look no further.
French Radio Resources
There are a number of radio stations to choose from when learning French, no matter what your interests are. Here are some great tips to using French radio to learn the language, and here are some listening options to get you started:
- Radio France Internationale: This radio station covers many different news subjects and includes transcripts in simple French. It’s great if you are someone who likes a large number of subjects and enjoys listening to the news. The easiest way to locate the audio resources is to click directly on the videos link, or simply listen to the radio by clicking on “À l’écoute” (listen now).
- Déjà Vu: A radio play about a bilingual love affair, this play was recorded in different scenes so you can listen to four scenes at a time. There are 22 scenes in total and you can download all of the scenes as mp3 tracks. The transcripts are also available in a mix of French and English, and all the complicated vocabulary is explained in a separate vocabulary section.
- French Radio London: Known as the “French voice of London,” this radio station provides a cultural link for the French-speaking community in London. The station plays 80% French pop music, but also offers a large range of cultural, sports, economic and news shows.
- French Connection: This radio station offers you a mix of French and English music all day long. It also has its own podcasts and videos—which are all in French—focused on one thing: music. If you love music, this is the radio station for you.
- La Vie en Creuse: This resource offers audio interviews recorded in Limousin in the southwest of France. There are ten interviews to listen to, and they’re all based on different subjects—from food and hotels to hiking! There is a wide range of topics so you are bound to find something that interests you.
If you’re most interested in French talk radio, here are our top five recommendations of the best French talk radio shows.
So you can see that the possibilities are endless. Whatever your level or your interests, there is sure to be something for you. Audio resources are abundant and they are ready and waiting for you to try them out!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.