“I can’t study French. I’m way too busy.”
Does that sound familiar?
Does it sound like something you’ve heard a colleague, friend or family member tell you?
Even worse, does it sound like something you’ve told yourself?
Well, listen here: You can learn French, even if you’re balancing work, family, healthy living and a social life.
First of all, learning a language, particularly French, may not be as difficult as it seems.
Well, what if I told you all you had to do to learn French was listen to it?
Too good to be true, right?
Actually, there are a ton of audio resources out there for learning French. Many of them are free or very affordable, most offer additional features or guidance and you can find some that are perfect for learning French at any level.
Why Are Audio Resources Useful for Learning French?
In the world of visual stimulation found on TV screens and computer screens, as well as in restaurants, nightclubs and even public transit, it’s easy to forget the value of speech and audio. In terms of learning a language, using audio is an invaluable method because, first and foremost, we learn a language to speak it, don’t we?
Obviously, then, using audio to learn helps you better understand and use spoken French, and it lets you hear the language in the form in which you intend to use it.
Further, audio resources allow learners to train their ears to the sounds and speed of French. It’s been widely reported that French tends to be spoken rather quickly (and, to some extent, that’s true). So what better way to train yourself to keep up with the speed of the language than to listen to it?
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, learning French through audio is hassle-free, quick and convenient. How often do we sit in our cars listening to the radio? How many times a week do you find yourself using your headphones to get through your workout or your laundry or your public transit trip?
If you’re like me, that answer is “plenty.” As French learners, we shouldn’t let that time be “dead time,” so to speak. Whether or not your hands are occupied, use your ears to help you master the French language!
Learn French Through Audio: The 14 Best Tools for Listening Your Way to Fluency
Get your ears ready, French learner. We’ve got the 14 best audio resources to help you listen your way to fluency.
Using a dictionary is a must, but French is a language of intricate spelling oddities and even more spelling exceptions. Need help pronouncing a word and its definition? Never fear—audio dictionaries are here!
Forvo is an online dictionary that features many languages, French included. You can use Forvo to look up any French word and hear exactly how it’s pronounced. For example, if you were to search the French word parler, you would see that it has the meaning of “to speak,” but you would also be able to listen to how the word is pronounced.
Better than that, though, each entry has multiple audio files for you to hear many speakers. This allows you to hear how words are pronounced by different genders, age groups and even people from different regions. The more, the merrier, right?
Further, there are also a number of sentences recorded for longer examples of spoken French that will pop up when you search for a word contained within them. This makes Forvo useful not just as a reference or for understanding spoken French but also for learning common French conversational phrases.
AudioFrench is another online French audio dictionary. Like Forvo, you can search up a word in French or English to get its translation and hear its pronunciation. Here, however, you can explore themed vocabulary lists and verb tables to hear how words and verb forms are pronounced.
Best of all, in my opinion, is that some words also have accompanying “Word Videos.” This can help speakers with the mouth formation of certain words, especially ones that feature the French “u” sound, as in sur (on). There are also a few dialogues and travel logs in audio format for further French practice. Download these and listen to French on the go!
What’s better than a French lesson in your car or on the train? Nothing. The answer is nothing.
Okay, so Duolingo isn’t 100% hands-free, but its audio components are still very useful, and it’s great for using in any situation where you can afford to look at a screen.
Chances are, you’ve already heard of Duolingo, but just in case you haven’t, while predominately an app-based flashcard course, Duolingo has a huge audio component. Speakers hear every single French word repeated in a native French accent. Every. Single. Word.
Topics range from very basic conversational phrases to animals to even politics and medicine. Part of the Duolingo French course also has you listening to French and writing out what you hear in French. Lastly, there’s also a task in the course that has you repeat French into your microphone to perfect pronunciation.
FluentU is another language learning course that uses visual components (in this case, videos), but because it comes with authentic videos and audio recordings that are context-based, you can make use of it on the app even when you can’t completely free up your eyes or your hands.
Every vocabulary word you find on FluentU is accompanied by audio, whether you’re hearing it spoken in a video, hovering over it for a definition in the captions or typing it into a blank in one of many quiz exercises used to test your knowledge.
Not only do you never have to guess at the pronunciation of a word, but you’re able to start learning French with interactive, real-world videos and audio right away regardless of your level—and with selections like movie trailers, music videos, news, vlogs and inspiring talks, you’re bound to find something that interests you!
For those who already have something of a base in French, Lawless French is here for you. It’s a little more useful for those who want to practice listening comprehension, because the website is a directory of French listening practice audio for learners at all levels. Download, sync to your device and practice French listening whenever headphones are available!
If/when your hands are free, definitely be sure to check out the transcripts. Each audio recording has a corresponding French transcript for you to read along. Best of all, each recording also has exercises to test understanding. I suggest ditching the transcript altogether and going right from listening a couple times to the tests to really challenge yourself.
French Today offers audiobooks for beginner and intermediate learners that give you hours of audio you can listen to at different speeds, along with lessons that work towards specific goals. Their method is built around the idea that you should learn how French people actually talk as you’re learning the language.
“À Moi Paris” uses an actual story with characters to guide you through the earlier stages of French. Levels 1 and 2 of “À Moi Paris” are designed for French beginners. Levels 3 and 4 of the same series are intended for low intermediates and build on the knowledge from the previous levels. Level 5, for intermediate learners, focuses specifically on helping you learn the past and future tenses. Each level comes with a supporting “audio novel” and study guide.
“French Verb Drills” gives you a whole 35 more hours of conjugation drills and enables you to learn “real street pronunciation” as you’re mastering conjugations.
Unlike Lawless French, DontSpeakFrench.com offers beginner courses for learners of French. If you have absolutely no knowledge of French, this is a perfect, stress-free place to start.
In addition to lessons on grammar and vocabulary, there are also a number of audio resources perfect for the beginner learner on the go. Under the “Listening Practice” tab, there are 10 recordings based off of grammar topics such as articles, adverbs and interrogative forms. Download these and audio learning will follow!
Once you have a base in French, there are 10 French dialogues spanning topics such as “At the Doctor,” “Taxi” and “Bus Station” to get you listening to French anywhere, anytime.
101 Languages offers 100 free lessons in French, all with accompanying audio. Topics include preparing for a trip, the past tense and even subordinate clauses. While the website doesn’t include much in the way of explanations, these lessons go perfectly with another audio course to really help you learn vocabulary fast and easily. Transcripts also allow you to read a given sentence in French, then listen to its accompanying audio to fine-tune pronunciation.
Perhaps the most accessible way to listen to French is through French media. This includes TV, radio and even movies. Why not keep up with world events and keep up with French at the same time?
News in Slow French is a real online news website for learners of French. Each day a new audio news report is uploaded, normally under 10 minutes long. The best part? The report has been recorded with learners in mind, so the French used is slow and clear and perfect for those who find that French is spoken too quickly for them to understand. This is perfect for those who want to start the journey of understanding French at its native speed.
In addition to daily uploads, each report also has an accompanying French transcript as well as in-text English translations for some words in the text. I suggest doing a listen with the transcript but then getting rid of the transcript during a second listen to see how much you can follow without it.
Ever wanted to move to a French-speaking country just so you could have ample access to its French-language learning resources? Well, now you can.
ListenLive.eu offers a list of radio stations all through Europe for many major languages, French included. You can listen to a station from France or other French-speaking nations such as Belgium and Switzerland. While there are no accompanying transcripts, radio stations vary in topic, ranging from Top 40 to news radio. This resource is recommended for those who have a strong base in French or maybe started with News in Slow French and are ready for the real thing.
Sorry, I was having a patriotic moment.
For those interested in listening to French from my native land, check out Radio-Canada. Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Company (the CBC, as it’s known in Canada) are government-sponsored news agencies. As such, you can listen to the radio as well as watch TV and read articles in both French and English.
While there are some dialectal differences in French-Canadian speech, mostly in accent and in some common vocabulary, advanced learners of standard French should have no problem following along after a few listens.
At Radio-Canada, you can listen to all their radio stations (they change depending on the city you choose), and you can check out their horaire (schedule) to find a show that interests you. You can often find accompanying audio for articles available on Radio-Canada’s website, so you can listen and read news reports at the same time.
French Audiobooks & Audio-readings
What’s better than reading a French book? Listening to a French book!
LanguageGuide.org offers 16 readings ranging from beginner to advanced, all with accompanying audio. Most are fiction stories by the best French writers, but there’s even a section on French jokes to tickle your funny bone. You can listen to the stories and read along with the accompanying transcripts, or just download a story or two to entertain you while you trek through your commute, workout or the laundry.
Two Canadian resources in one list? You would think I was Canadian or something, eh?
Hosted by the University of Toronto, the French Audio Gazette has a number of readings with corresponding audio. Topics include articles from Canada, France and Africa as well as miscellaneous articles about topics such as Chinese astrology, elephants and ecological cities.
Aside from just the audio recordings, the site also suggests doing dictées (dictations) with the articles to practice oral comprehension. I say, do them!
You say you like books, huh? Well, hold onto your armchair, fellow reader.
Litteratureaudio.com is a website that has an archive of almost 6,000 free audiobooks to download. Categories range from contemporary novels to fantasy novels to even books of poetry. For example, you can listen to “Le tour du monde en 80 jours” (Around the World in 80 Days) by Jules Verne.
Better yet, you can also download the accompanying text of books to read along. These audiobooks are perfect for listening in the car or in the train, and you’ll get a great story as well as perfect French pronunciation along the way!
So, here we are, French learner.
It’s time to face the music …or, uh, whatever other audio you’ve chosen.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.