Some days I think podcasts are taking over the world.
And I love it!
Because really, what better way to learn French than by listening to it during your commute, while working around the house or even while on vacation?
If you’re like me, podcasts are especially cool because they’re the one thing you can literally do everywhere, unlike reading or writing.
Since I spend so much time traveling both short distances and long ones, I’ve really come to depend on them.
There are a huge number of podcasts available now that focus on French culture. While lots of these cater to French learners, many others are really meant for native speakers. The good news is that both are especially valuable when you’re an intermediate learner.
In fact, now that you’ve moved beyond beginner level, it’s important to start diversifying your listening to include some podcasts intended for natives so that you begin hearing conversations that have not been significantly simplified for your consumption.
As an intermediate learner, incorporating podcasts by native speakers who are using vocabulary and sentence structure more common in the real world will help you put what you’ve already learned into the context of real life.
Sure, it will be more challenging than you’re used to, but that’s a good thing!
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, because really learning a language doesn’t happen if you don’t force yourself out of your comfort zone.
While of course it’s important to build confidence and reinforce the concepts we already know, listening to at least a couple podcasts directed at native speakers will help stretch your fabulous French skills in a way that you now need as an intermediate learner.
Besides, in a world where language and culture are so inextricably linked, it’s vital for you to begin to better understand the culture in which the French language lives.
This is especially true with French, because the French people are incredibly proud of their language and their culture. Using podcasts to learn about both will help you achieve greater success in your interactions during lessons, conversation exchanges or vacations abroad.
How Podcasts Can Improve Your Intermediate French and Cultural IQ at the Same Time
Podcasts are a great way of working on your language skills while expanding your cultural knowledge. They’re flexible enough that you can listen to them at your convenience during the day, and a great resource for learning about some of the latest cultural trends.
As an intermediate learner, podcasts can help you:
- Take yourself out of “textbook” mode and get used to hearing and understanding more conversational French. It’s a great step towards solidifying that theoretical knowledge you’ve already gained as an intermediate learner!
- Learn practical language and common grammatical constructions that you’re likely to hear in the real world. You’ll start to hear phrases that you can repeat in your conversations. Parroting common phrases used by native speakers is an ideal way to get more comfortable with the language, and is a trick commonly used by intermediate speakers. Living in Paris, I’m a huge fan of the parroting technique and employ it quite often (and have yet to say something terribly embarrassing!).
- Expand your knowledge of real French culture today, and not just the stereotypical French culture we so often hear about. Since you’re an intermediate learner, it’s more important than ever before that you begin to dive into true French society, beyond what’s sometimes presented in the media (think berets and baguettes).
- Become a stronger overall student by combining your language with your cultural understanding as you begin to see the inextricable link between French language and culture. Really connecting with the culture will help you excel in your language studies. You’ll learn about some of the more modern vocabulary that people are using today (which, as an aside, continues to incorporate more and more English words and expressions), how the language is generally evolving thanks to the culture and the interests and challenges facing French society today.
Midway French Pick-me-ups: 4 Intermediate-level Podcasts with Sweet Cultural Perks
The podcasts that I’ve included below for your listening pleasure are all super different, and are totally free resources for learning. From a traditional news program to overviews of key cultural topics, you’ll get a range of culture-related information no matter what mood you’re in.
Plus there’s something for every intermediate learner. So whether you’re just barely feeling comfortable calling yourself an intermediate student or you’re on your way into the advanced bracket, you’ll be able to get something out of each of these.
If you love learning French with more than a dash of authentic culture, you can also check out FluentU.
FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks.
Since this content is material that native French speakers actually watch regularly, 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 guide you along the way, so you 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 to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video through word 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.
The scoop: Talk in French covers a broad range of French systems (think education, etc.) and cultural issues. Especially great for those of you who are at a lower intermediate level (or would like to learn a lot about particular issues but fear you’ll get lost in an extended French podcast), this one is largely in English, but includes specific points and vocabulary in French to supplement your cultural learning.
The value: There’s no better way to learn French than from a native French teacher who specializes in teaching it to non-native speakers, and that’s exactly what you’ll get from Talk in French. You’ll learn lots of useful information about French culture and relevant vocabulary.
With his podcasts, Frédéric covers a range of fascinating and useful topics. Uniquely French holidays, weird French superstitions and regional French culture are among the themes you’ll hear about. You can even submit your own question for Frédéric to respond to during an upcoming podcast!
The commitment: Longer (30+ minutes)
The scoop: Native French Speech covers a tremendous variety of topics, like French regional information, food, sports, education and events. If there’s a particular topic you’re interested in exploring, this is the place to look. Each episode is in French and includes a transcript for easily following along or double-checking your understanding. (Tip: Subscribe for free to read the full script.)
The value: With such a wide variety of themes on life in France, you can discover useful information on the cultural topics most interesting and/or relevant to you, along with the vocabulary you need to discuss those topics with others.
Some recent highlights for me were the Native French Speech podcasts on lavender production in Provence, phrases with multiple meanings (always critical to know!), how to use indirect speech and drinking champagne in France.
All podcasts are short enough to easily consume during your day, but long enough that you’ve really learned a lot by the end. And if you’re ready for more, the site also offers online exercises and even tutoring.
The commitment: Shorter (less than 10 minutes)
3. French Etc
The scoop: From going to the barber to discussing the weather, French Etc covers a range of common expressions useful for everyday life. Accompanying content is available for most podcasts. The site offers many different podcasts, but the two I’d suggest you focus on are “Today’s French” and “Dictée.”
The value: Did you know un aoûtien / une aoûtienne is someone who takes their vacation in August? Well, you would if you listened to French Etc! This is hands down my favorite podcast for learning super useful (and frequently funny) French expressions. Use it to expand your knowledge of common expressions and learn about brief topics with easily consumable podcasts.
On the website, you’ll also find a “Learn French” section with vocabulary lists, grammar, tutorials and les devoirs (homework). The site is run by Anne Guével, a French native and highly experienced language instructor.
The commitment: Shorter (around 10 minutes)
The scoop: Géopolitique features politics-related news clips for native French speakers. With news stories from around the globe, it gives listeners a good sense of which news is most important to the French. Clips are accompanied by the transcript, so you can make sure you understand exactly what’s going on in the world without missing any key information.
The value: While this is definitely the most serious of all the podcasts listed, it provides really valuable insight into how French people often interpret world events. Topics cover events around the world, like protests in the Philippines, a corruption scandal in Brazil or the state of diplomacy between the U.S. and Cuba.
When you listen, you’ll benefit from learning a great deal of language related to politics and world events, which helps boost your ability to read and watch French news. After just a few days of listening to the podcasts and reading the accompanying transcript, I guarantee you’ll have a far easier time watching the French news, listening to French radio or reading a French newspaper.
The commitment: Short (4-8 minutes)
So there you have it, friends, a few to get you started.
Jamie Walters is a freelance writer and the owner of Pure Paris, a travel planning company that provides personalized daily itineraries to help travelers see Paris like a local. Originally from Seattle, she and her husband now live in Paris, where they have immersed themselves in la vie Parisienne.
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