A good friend of mine often says, “Nothing’s ever free.”
He usually says this when I’m trying to use all my reward points to get a free vacation. Or when I try to negotiate at the thrift store to pay $1.50 on a new shirt instead of the full $3.00.
It’s true—there almost always seems to be a hidden cost.
But guess what? That’s not true about learning French!
That’s right, my thrifty friends—it’s possible to learn French online without paying a dime. All it takes is some discipline and ingenuity and you’ll be communicating in no time.
In this blog post, I’m going to tell you how to learn French for free by forming a successful strategy, trying out effective activities and using seven high-quality free resources.
Let’s dive in!
5 Tips to Learn French for Free Online
You might feel overwhelmed at the idea of learning French on your own, but no worries! Here are some tips to keep you focused and grounded.
Set Clear Goals for Tracking Progress
What’s your motivation for learning French?
Are you planning a trip? Do you wish to communicate with a friend or family member in their mother tongue? Or is it just for fun?
Once you know why you’re learning, you can set some concrete goals.
Whatever your goals are, it helps to write them down. This gives you a direction for your studies so you’re not just floundering.
Figure Out Your Learning Style
How do you learn best? Are you an auditory or visual learner? Perhaps you’re a kinesthetic learner who needs hands-on activities and movement.
You’ll advance much faster if you choose learning activities that best fit your learning style.
For example, if you’re an auditory learner, listening to audio flashcards might be the best tool for learning vocabulary. If you’re a visual learner, you might need to see pictures or videos to learn them.
Get a Good Foundation in French Grammar
Of course, grammar on its own is not enough to master a language.
But it gives you a structure to follow when forming sentences so you’re not simply listing off French words in no particular order.
It’s a little like the foundation of a house. On its own, it’s not useful, but it gives shape to everything else.
Watch Out for “False Friends”
Some of them truly are your friends.
Others are just pretending.
We’re not talking about middle school, although it sounds like it.
Some examples? Assister doesn’t mean “to assist.” It means “to attend” or “to go to” (as in assister au concert — to attend a concert).
Of course, it’s helpful to remember that there are some real cognates that make French much easier to learn. Le restaurant (the restaurant), l’autobus (the bus) and almost all the months of the year are great examples of this.
Switch the Language for Wikipedia and Other Platforms to French
All you need to do is go into your settings for an individual app to set the main language to French.
How does this help?
Because if it’s an app you use often, you’re already familiar with many of the words and phrases in the menu, making it easy to learn the French words for them.
Not only that, but it connects you with authentic reading and listening materials in the language.
Learn French for Free Online: 13 Must-try Activities and Resource
5 Fun Activities to Learn French for Free Online
So what kind of activities will help you the most if you’re learning French on your own?
Here are some things you might try, depending on your learning style.
Kick Back and Relax with French Podcasts
If you’re an auditory learner, podcasts can be great fun. You can take them with you wherever you go, such as on your commuting to work or while you’re cooking dinner. The best podcasts include not only information about the language, but valuable cultural knowledge, too. It’s like enjoying a cup of coffee with a native speaker!
Have Fun with Entertaining Video Lessons
Like podcasts, a good video lesson lets you hear the French language as it’s spoken by native speakers. This allows you to naturally develop your accent and pronunciation. A great perk is that video lessons (at least the good ones) will include captions and subtitles, which make the vocabulary sink in better. If you want to make learning through videos and other entertaining content your primary resource for learning French, FluentU is a great place to start.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news clips and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences. This means you get to learn French by watching the same videos native French speakers love to enjoy.
Each video is turned into a valuable French lesson and includes interactive subtitles and a quiz at the end, as well as flashcards to review what you’ve learned!
And since we’re talking about learning French for free here, why not sign up for a free trial?
Supplement Your Learning with Textbooks
Textbooks have been overused in the past and, as a result, have fallen out of favor (for many good reasons). However, a good French textbook can provide you with structure and support, especially when used alongside other resources–and some are even available to browse online!
Play Games with Language Apps
Nowadays, we use apps for just about everything, from ordering take-out to scheduling appointments to meeting new friends. And thanks to all the great language apps out there, we can use apps to learn French, too! It’s tough to beat the convenience of practicing with flashcards while waiting in line at the grocery store or playing a quiz game while riding the subway to work. And with so much variety, there’s an app for every learning style!
Watch Fun Vloggers and YouTubers
The culture of vlogging and YouTubing has taken the world by storm. And though it’s not quite as popular in France as in other places (like the United States), there are still some great French vloggers out there.
As you advance in your learning, you might find that these vlogs and videos give you a deeper understanding of the language and culture. They talk about topics that are more or less of universal interest—school, work, relationships and wry cultural observations.
7 Stupendous Resources to Learn French Online
This handy pronunciation dictionary functions as a searchable database of over a million words in hundreds of different languages.
All you have to do is type a French word into the search bar to hear it pronounced.
Another fun feature: it also lists the translation of the word into a variety of other languages! So, if English isn’t your first language, you can translate French words (and some phrases) into your native language for an even better understanding.
“Cloze” activities have been a popular tool in language learning for decades. These are exercises in which words or phrases are omitted from a passage of text and the learner must fill in the missing parts by listening or through contextual clues.
Clozemaster takes the traditional “cloze” to a new level by gamifying it. Essentially, it’s a fun quiz game where you choose the best option for completing a sentence.
It’s a great way to practice vocabulary and sentence structure in a context that makes sense.
Every day, you’ll look forward to your “coffee break” listening to hosts Mark and Anna in this free French podcast collection.
With four different seasons currently available, you’ll certainly never get bored.
This is probably the most popular and well-known app on this list, and with good reason.
Duolingo is unique in the way that it tracks your progress, allows you to “test out” of levels you’ve already attained and provides meaningful feedback on your progress.
Goal setting for your language learning is an intrinsic part of this program. You have the opportunity to advance based on the goals you set within it!
Not to mention, it’s fun, engaging and even a little addictive.
If you’re just starting out on your French learning adventure, Memrise is a great place to set out on the journey.
It offers beginning language instruction using flashcards as well as a variety of exercises and simple grammar explanations.
Memrise is different from other apps on this list in that it provides user-generated content. The advantage of this is that you have access to native French speakers to help you along the way.
It’s true: Google Translate has had a bad rep in the past as a language learning tool. But it’s made many improvements over the years.
Have you ever struggled to pronounce a French word but felt too embarrassed to ask for help? Google Translate gives you the correct pronunciation!
It can also help you familiarize yourself with French sentence structure. For example, if you enter several different sentences with a similar pattern, you can see how that pattern works differently in French.
It’s an easy way to see differences like noun-adjective word order, direct and indirect object placement and even the structure of the past tense. Plus, you can even point your camera to some French text for an instant translation from a sign, book or other physical media.
One caveat: Google Translate shouldn’t be used as your sole means of learning the language. It’s best to pair it with a good textbook or with one of the other resources mentioned here.
This site provides a series of audio and video lessons hosted by native speakers, which are customized to your level and needs.
First, you choose a level. These range from Absolute Beginner to Advanced.
Next, you can personalize your learning by choosing a “Pathway.” There are eight to 10 of these within each level depending on your goals. Once you’ve chosen a pathway, the lessons are structured around it and your chosen level.
With all these great resources, you’ll be speaking like a native in no time… and with your budget still intact!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.