7 Best Programs to Learn French: Tested and Reviewed
Searching the internet for the best and brightest French immersion software?
I know how time consuming it can be to find something that perfectly suits your language needs.
As a speaker of several languages, including French, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you and found the most complete, comprehensive and effective French immersion software offerings out there.
Each program is designed to help you with your language goals with as little as 30 minutes a day.
You’ll be on your way to French fluency in no time!
- 1. Best for Learning in the Target Language: Rosetta Stone
- 2. Best for Learning Through Authentic Content: FluentU
- 3. Best for Book-based and Audio Learning: Assimil
- 4. Best for Slower-paced Learning and Repetition: Pimsleur
- 5. Best for Classroom-style Audio Learning: Michel Thomas
- 6. Best for Flexible Learning Paths and Comprehensiveness : OUINO
- 7. Best Classroom-style Video Learning: Fluenz
- How to Choose a French Learning Program
1. Best for Learning in the Target Language: Rosetta Stone
Summary: Rosetta Stone offers immersive learning and has features such as stories, phrasebooks and downloadable lessons. There’s also the option of live lessons with language coaches.
Price: $299 for lifetime access, or 3-month/12-month subscriptions available with a one-time payment option.
Rosetta Stone is one of the most popular language immersion tools in the world.
The program works by using interactive software packed with images and sounds—giving you an experience that imitates the way in which a child learns their mother tongue.
This method means that there are no instructions or translations, just pure immersion. The learning process is broken down into units and levels. Within each level, there are numerous topics.
Rosetta Stone is also host to an online world of language learning experiences that use innovative methods to increase immersion. In the online branch of the program, there’s a variety of games, tools and resources.
There is even the option of live lessons with native-speaking language coaches.
Is Rosetta Stone for You?
If you’re a beginner and want to build a foundation in the language through immersion, Rosetta Stone is definitely for you.
For intermediate and advanced learners, Rosetta Stone has a program specifically for you, aiming to push you to a C1 level of proficiency.
Check out our full review of Rosetta Stone here.
2. Best for Learning Through Authentic Content: FluentU
Summary: FluentU turns authentic content made for native speakers, such as music videos and movie trailers, into language learning opportunities, with features such as interactive subtitles, personalized quizzes and flashcards.
Price: $239.99 ($19.99 per month) for annual subscription, $29.99 for monthly subscription.
FluentU is a language learning website and app that utilizes the power of authentic videos such as movie trailers, commercials and music videos for study purposes.
With the French edition, learners get access to a library of short French videos that span a range of topics and difficulty levels.
Each clip comes with interactive subtitles that provide vocabulary translations, grammar details, pronunciation and example sentences. Combined with the content you watch, you’ll be able to learn French in context.
For any vocabulary you learn, you can craft multimedia flashcards and organize them into decks. Words can also be reviewed with personalized quizzes that utilize spaced repetition to boost your memorization.
There are also “speaking questions” that let you practice your French pronunciation.
Is FluentU for You?
Those who prefer multimedia-based learning will enjoy learning with FluentU.
FluentU is primarily based on audio and video materials, but there are text-based tools for active learning available. The variety in formatting can make it easier to remember the French you’re learning.
3. Best for Book-based and Audio Learning: Assimil
Summary: Assimil audio lessons are entirely in the target language, but the book and additional materials provide translations. The learning focuses on dialogues and there are exercises in the book.
Price: Each book + audio set (MP3 download, USB or CD) begins at around $65
The course includes both audio and an accompanying book for a complete learning experience. The book pairs the audio lessons with activities to further reinforce your language learning.
The Assimil audio lessons are 100% in the target language so this is a huge bonus as it creates a total immersion experience. The book includes translations from French to English, so don’t worry about not understanding anything!
The method places great emphasis on learning sentences through dialogues, which facilitates the development of the French learner’s ability to approach grammar and vocabulary in the way it’ll come across in everyday situations.
Is Assimil for You?
The best thing about Assimil is that it comes in various series and the audio is just a few minutes long. Also, if you like a mix of audio and textbook activities, then Assimil is definitely worth checking out.
You can test out your knowledge by completing the practice exercises and follow your progress as you continue with the course.
Be aware that it might be more difficult to find these programs outside of Europe, so if you’re in the United States, your best bet might be trying to find the material on Amazon.
4. Best for Slower-paced Learning and Repetition: Pimsleur
Summary: Completely audio-based, Pimsleur teaches French through repetition and building up the knowledge of the target language, while utilizing English translations and explanations.
Price: $119.95 per level (5 levels total), bundle pricing is also available.
The Pimsleur approach focuses on teaching the core vocabulary of the language through context, conversation and spaced repetition.
All the words you learn will reappear at specific intervals to help your brain retain the new vocabulary in your long-term memory.
The course is audio-based and you’re presented with native speakers pronouncing a sentence or having a discussion. Then an English translation follows. As with the Assimil method, this facilitates the learning of language through sentences and situations, making it a much more well-rounded experience.
The software does come with a booklet for a few sessions that use reading. However, the emphasis is on learning through the audio provided.
Is Pimsleur for You?
Learners who thrive with interactive audio-learning methods are sure to benefit from the methods of Pimsleur.
With each lesson being up to 30 minutes long, it’s easy to slot into your daily schedule. And since it focuses on core vocabulary, you can rest assured that you’re learning efficiently.
Check out our full review of Pimsleur here.
5. Best for Classroom-style Audio Learning: Michel Thomas
Summary: Michel Thomas uses entirely audio-based lessons with explanations in English. The lessons are meant to be stress-free and classroom-style and are well-suited for learners who enjoy having a teacher.
Price: between $50 and $100 per level, full bundle for $273.
The Michel Thomas Method is entirely audio-based rather than using books and memorization techniques.
Thomas believed that by creating a relaxing environment and combining it with exciting and enjoyable classes, any language student could naturally retain more information.
The course follows Michel Thomas himself and two students as he teaches them sentence structure, verbs and vocabulary. Like the other audio-based immersion software, grammar is presented in conversation practice rather than through long-winded explanations.
The method allows the listener to feel as if they’re a part of a classroom and encourages the student to repeat the words and recall certain things touched upon before.
Thanks to this, there’s no need to force yourself to memorize anything—you’ll naturally learn and remember the content.
Is Michel Thomas for You?
If you’re a beginner, then Michel Thomas may provide you with the helping hand you need, as these lessons have you speaking from track 1.
Each lesson is under 10 minutes long, so there’s no reason you can’t pop the CD into your car on the way to work or download the files onto your phone to learn French during your daily run!
6. Best for Flexible Learning Paths and Comprehensiveness : OUINO
Summary: OUINO is a comprehensive program that covers listening, writing, speaking and reading. There are suggested learning paths, but it offers a lot of freedom and flexibility for those who feel stifled by rigid learning programs.
Price: $95.76 for lifetime access, 3-month/6-month/12-month subscriptions with one-time payments also available.
OUINO doesn’t employ a linear-based approach to learning. It runs with the idea that learners may not enjoy learning based on a level system, since the whole matter can be quite subjective.
With OUINO, there’s no strict order to your French lessons. You can learn in whichever order you want, but you have the choice of taking up OUINO’s “recommended learning path” which gives you a flexible map of where you may want to start and end.
OUINO’s primary method of teaching relies on audio and visual content. You can expect most of your lessons to encourage you to practice French reading, listening and speaking.
Is OUINO for You?
OUINO can be a good choice if you find that you learn best when you create your own lesson plan, or if you typically feel stifled with a pre-planned study agenda.
The program’s lack of a linear approach can be liberating, and includes adjustable settings that let you further customize your lessons, such as changing voice playback options or switching on and off subtitles.
Plus, OUINO does have a lot to offer (over 440 lessons and 1,200 exercises) to French learners.
7. Best Classroom-style Video Learning: Fluenz
Summary: Fluenz is a great option for those who learn best with an actual person explaining things to them. The program features pre-recorded videos of a tutor taking the learner down a sequential learning path and offers lots of practice exercises.
Price: $187 per level (5 levels available), bundle pricing is also available.
Fluenz is primarily video-based and is split up into different levels. Each level provides an arranged agenda of lessons taught by a dedicated instructor.
Once you learn the concepts from the video tutorials, you can then immediately start on some review exercises (called “workouts”) that test you on your French writing, reading, listening and speaking.
Repetition is also a big focus of this program. Any new material you learn will be repeated often, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to ingrain your learning deep into your memory.
The program also has extra resources for learners who want to slip in more practice throughout their day, such as flashcards and supplementary audio lessons.
Is Fluenz for You?
Fluenz works best for beginner learners who want to learn the material they expect to use right away. It’s also good for those who enjoy having a teacher explain things.
Much of the material is topic-based, meaning that the French taught in each session hones in on a certain context. Each level consists of about 30 sessions, and a lesson can last about 45 minutes.
How to Choose a French Learning Program
There are many French language programs on the market, so you won’t be wanting for choice. Here are some things to keep in mind before making your decision.
Most immersion software programs come with a price tag, so figure out early on how much you’re willing to pay for your learning.
While many programs just require a one-time payment for full access, others may have separate prices for different items. A learning program may offer individual products for different levels or topics of the French language, and each can be priced differently.
Different programs will have different time expectations from learners. Some may have lessons that expect you to dedicate a set amount of time, while others may let you start and end your learning whenever you’d like with no time commitment.
Gauge how much you can fully commit to your French studies before you make your choice of a learning program. Think of when you’d like to get your learning done. You’ll want a program that conforms to your schedule and study habits.
Take some time to research and find the French learning program that addresses most of your needs. Also, take advantage of any free trials if they’re available!
Some learning programs may have certain requirements, such as an internet connection, an account or downloaded content. Other programs may not even need you to be online and can be used anywhere.
Make sure that the French learning program you choose is one that won’t have any technical hindrances for you.
For example, maybe you won’t always have a reliable internet connection. In that case, you’d want a program that has offline capabilities and is lightweight, or perhaps has an app version you can download to your phone.
That’s all for now—get out there and enjoy learning French!