Just Press Play! 6 Fresh Sites to Learn French with Subtitles
For French learners, subtitles are a powerful ally.
They bring French content within reach and help you pick up new words in an entertaining way.
In this post, I’ll highlight six fresh resources to learn French with subtitles, each of which is worth the time. I’ll also explain what makes each one unique and how to know if it’s helpful to your level.
- Animated Stories with French Subtitles
- Real French Entertainment with Subtitles
- Guided French Dialogues
Animated Stories with French Subtitles
Audio stories or contes (tales) can be a great way to test your listening comprehension. Although the short stories here were originally intended for children, they make engaging content for all students of French.
This also means that the vocabulary is simpler and more common. You probably aren’t going to need to know obscure political or legal terms to enjoy these.
BookBox French on YouTube
BookBox features brief animated stories with subtitles available in many languages. They have a couple dozen French videos, each of which is about four to six minutes long.
They all have built-in French subtitles. They’re particularly helpful for listening and pronunciation because the individual words are highlighted as they’re spoken, much like a karaoke machine.
You can also turn English subtitles on or off in the video settings (click the gear icon).
The stories are told at moderate speed (not overly slow, but not at all like a French news report). The animations help you grasp what’s going on, even if you aren’t sure what each word means.
One story to get started with is this one about two birds who help a zebra that’s infested with fleas:
Real French Entertainment with Subtitles
I love killing two birds with one stone. I’m not a bird-hater, but why not get two things done at the same time?
Luckily, that’s definitely possible with entertainment and French learning. Not only can your French practice be entertaining, but your entertainment can be your French practice.
We’ll only cover a couple possibilities here, but don’t forget other stellar authentic French diversions like comedians and even webcomics.
Parole de Chat
Parole de Chat (roughly, Word of Cats) is one of my favorite French learning treasures.
If you thought you loved cat videos in English, just wait until you see what happens when cats (and many other animals) start speaking French in the middle of their latest antics.
This is a prime resource for beginners, as every video is accompanied by English subtitles and lasts two to five minutes on average.
As addictive as this YouTube channel may be, you need to start somewhere! One of their most popular and most humorous videos is La Peur (Fear), which is a narrated compilation of cats being scared by a grand variety of quotidian items, my personal favorite of which is les petits pois de l’enfer (the peas from Hell).
This program gives you a diverse selection of authentic French videos with interactive captions to learn from.
Hover over any word in the French subtitles, and the video will automatically pause to show you a definition, memorable picture and native pronunciation. Click on the word, and you’ll also see other videos that use the word in the same context. Plus, there are English captions you can toggle on or off depending on your level.
Once you’re done watching, FluentU has flashcards and personalized quizzes tailor-made for every video, to help you remember the new words you’ve learned. You can also turn any word into a flashcard as you watch, and organize them into custom flashcard decks.
The videos are organized by genre, format and level so you can choose to study with content that’s relevant and interesting to you.
Music Videos with Lyrics
One of the most versatile, amusing and helpful French learning tools is music. From traditional ballad singers such as Édith Piaf to modern Belgian stars like Stromae, the francophone world has contributed much to music.
As catchy as a song may be, it’s often difficult to catch the actual words, especially if you’re a beginner. When words are sung, the voice rises and falls more frequently and is more emotive, making comprehension a different challenge than with plain, spoken French.
Also, all syllables in French are pronounced when sung—even the ones that would be silent in regular, spoken French. This is another reason why listening to French music is different than listening to a French dialogue.
This is where subtitles come in. The 400+ videos on this playlist have on-screen lyrics:
Following along with the words will help you connect the written word with the spoken word. It’s a great way to practice both listening comprehension and the French accent.
Killing more birds with one stone… I have a heart, I promise.
Check out this article for more on learning with French music videos.
Guided French Dialogues
French audio dialogues are surely some of the most immediately practical French learning tools. These resources will give you confidence with doing daily tasks in French (ordering at a restaurant, asking for help).
However, they don’t contribute much if you feel like you’re lost in the words.
And this, of course, is where subtitles (or in this case, a transcript) come in. Once again, they help fill any loopholes in your understanding and reinforce your learning through combined visual and auditory content.
Might as well end with a bang! As overwhelming as this video may be, it’s a treasure trove of French dialogue practice.
Don’t be a hero. There’s no need to listen to all four hours at once! In fact, the individual dialogues are no more than a few minutes each. Very manageable to add to your French routine!
Not only does this resource offer ample material (did I say four hours?) to learners, but most of the content covers exactly the kinds of practical situations that make dialogues an essential tool for students of French.
Whether you’re looking to make a hotel reservation or (for over-achievers) discuss poetry, this video has you covered.
Let’s not forget the subtitles, either. Each dialogue is accompanied by a clear, on-screen transcript.
One more thing to keep in mind for this one: the level of difficulty generally increases as the video goes on, so if you want to be a show-off (or you really are a more advanced learner), feel free to skip ahead to what’s most helpful to you.
FrenchPod101 on YouTube
FrenchPod101’s YouTube channel offers similar dialogues, along with comprehension questions that ensure you’re paying attention.
The way it works is that each video covers one conversation.
You’re asked a question and listen to a dialogue. Then, you’re given the question and dialogue again, this time with subtitles (French and English). Finally, the correct answer is given.
Each dialogue is accompanied by an image that offers the choices for answering the question.
For example, in this video about looking at apartments, we’re given four floor plans and are asked to determine which corresponds to the apartment the speakers decide to visit:
There’s a playlist for absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Each playlist features 13 to 20 videos.
If you love these video dialogues, you’ll definitely want to check out the full FrenchPod101 learning program. They have more than 1,000 video and audio podcasts that teach you the language and culture in a relaxed way.
Whether you’re new to the world of French subtitles or a subtitle regular, these sources will provide you with fresh material that’s effective and engaging.
You might even get to kill two (or more) birds with one stone.