What’s France’s greatest contribution to society?
Is it their exquisite art?
Their world-famous cuisine?
While there are many possible answers, there’s no question that one of the most influential French creations has been film.
Several of the earliest movies were made in France.
And one of the first video cameras was created by French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière.
We don’t always have time to make popcorn and cuddle up with a great French movie. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn French with those amazing moving pictures.
Or videos, to be more accurate.
These days, we can easily find a trove of videos on YouTube, covering virtually every subject, many of which offer great material for French learners—whether you’re an advanced learner looking to expand your cultural knowledge or a beginner who wants to be guided through the language every step of the way.
From instructional tips to music to cute cat antics, we’ll walk you through how to maximize your French studies with the great invention that is the online video.
It’s the perfect marriage of effectiveness, convenience and just plain fun!
Why Learn French with Videos?
It may just be a natural human fascination with things that move or light up, but there’s just something about watching a video that tends to be more engaging than looking at a textbook all day.
And with all the options and access YouTube allows us, there’s no reason not to take advantage of online videos when learning French!
Speaking of options, with all the French videos out there, it’s possible for virtually every French learner to find something of interest to them.
For those who love a good laugh, there are French comedy channels.
For those who try to stay informed, there are French news outlets.
For those who would like an explanation of a certain grammar topic, there are many YouTube channels that cater to French learners.
Finally, it’s difficult to exaggerate the importance of listening to authentic French and speaking in French as much as possible.
Don’t stop reading the great French novels, though! It’s just that when you go to a French-speaking country and want to get around, you’re going to have to be able to speak, not just read signs.
Furthermore, always remember that children learn to speak a language before they can read or write it. You can do the same thing with French videos, or better yet, learn all of these skills at once!
What’s on Your Playlist? 21 Video Resources to Learn French
Getting Started: The Walkthrough
Whether it’s your first day of French or you’re a seasoned learner, sometimes, you just need someone to sit you down and actually explain French to you.
Most of us don’t have a French teacher on-demand. However, with YouTube, we can have someone teach some new words or elucidate a grammar concept right when we need it.
Which video(s) you actually watch depends, of course, on what you need help on, but here we’ll introduce you to several video resources that cover a wide range of areas, highlighting each one’s strengths.
FrenchPod101 hits many grammar areas and has videos that focus specifically on vocabulary. You can sign up on their website to gain access to more than a thousand video and audio lessons. But my favorite thing about them is their listening practice.
In each video, you’ll listen to a conversation and then there will be a question about what was said that you can answer. At the end, they play the conversation again and explain what the right answer was.
What makes these videos even easier to use is that they’re divided into four playlists based on level of difficulty: absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Here’s a YouTube channel hosted by a woman named Jennifer. If you like the idea of seeing a teacher explain something to you face-to-face, you may appreciate her physical presence in several of her videos.
For instance, in this helpful video on forming the passé composé (perfect tense), she stands in front of a whiteboard as she explains the topic, writing words on the board as necessary.
Every learner is different, but if you thrive in a traditional classroom setting, this may be an ideal resource for you.
FluentU French offers a unique, real-world approach to language learning. This means that you’ll be learning authentic French from the very beginning as you watch the videos native speakers enjoy—commercials, news, movie clips, music videos, vlogs, skits, comedy, interviews, speeches and more.
But there’s no need to feel overwhelmed! Each video has interactive subtitles to guide you, so if you miss something or don’t understand what’s being said, you can simply hover over that trouble word for the definition and examples in context.
You’ll be able to clearly see the role a word is playing in a sentence in terms of part of speech and conjugation, along with any additional grammar or culture explanations needed.
Furthermore, there are plenty of videos for every level, so any learner can find something to challenge them, but not intimidate them. For example, if you’re a complete beginner, you can learn the French names of savanna-dwelling animals with this cute cartoon, whereas if you’re more of an advanced learner you can brush up on your Pokémon Go skills in French.
In fact, FluentU has picked up content from some of the other authentic video resources mentioned later on in this list (we’ve got Stromae videos, Disney songs, Norman, Cyprien, Parole de chat and lots more), so it’s really a great way to consolidate all your language and culture learning.
FluentU’s Plus plan includes powerful additional features such as “learn mode,” in which you’re quizzed on vocabulary and grammar in the context of a selected video and given the opportunity to practice it.
In short, FluentU is a great opportunity to master French as it’s really spoken with all the guidance of a learning program.
Pascal’s videos, with their heavy emphasis on animation, are engaging to watch.
This lesson on colloquial expressions in French (which is so helpful to know for informal conversation!) is a prime example. Vocabulary words are on screen in creative font and an animated man explains each one.
Indeed, if les Simpson (the Simpsons) have taught us anything, it’s that animation isn’t just for kids!
This channel is similar to Love Learning Languages in that most videos feature a physical person who will guide you through the lesson.
Language City emphasizes vocabulary, and has several videos related to a particular topic, such as this one on business terms in French.
Vocabulary-based videos are helpful for learning pronunciation and accent. For instance, in the business vocabulary video, the host says each word slowly and repeats it.
Remember, it’s always much easier to learn something the right way in the first place than to fix it later!
Français Avec Pierre (French with Pierre) is great for intermediate and advanced learners, because he explains things in French.
In my upper-level French classes in high school, our teacher didn’t want us to look up an unfamiliar word in a French-English dictionary; she wanted us to use an actual French dictionary so that we could get the definition in French.
Learning French in French is the best route for more experienced learners because it helps your brain think directly in French, as opposed to simply translating everything in your mind.
This is the ideal place for more advanced learners to go to review some of the choppier waters of French grammar or to get practical tips, such as with this encouraging video about how to improve your spoken French.
Being able to follow and participate in a conversation is perhaps the most practical skill to master in learning a language.
If your goal is to be able to speak French smoothly, being comfortable with spoken French is key. Talking won’t get you very far if you don’t know how to respond to what someone might say.
Listening to French dialogues helps strengthen your French listening skills while preparing your mind for you to speak yourself.
By listening, you’re soaking up accent, expressions and word order. The more you listen, the more confident you’ll feel in the language.
Fortunately, you don’t have to travel to France to hear French dialogue examples! Here we’ll share just a few ways to get conversation practice right on YouTube.
This is a true marvel of French listening practice. Don’t be intimidated by the title!
Yes, this four-hour video does contain 239 conversations in French, but that doesn’t mean that you have to (or even should) listen to all of them at once.
Furthermore, each dialogue comes with a transcript in French.
Level of difficulty increases as the video continues, so feel free to start at the beginning or skip ahead as desired!
This channel, the name of which translates to “80 dialogues in French,” is a good place to start if “239 French Dialogues” still kind of scares you.
Again, feel free to listen to a few at a time. You should challenge yourself somewhat, but if you overtax your brain, you’ll only become discouraged. So relax and have fun!
This channel, which translates as “French method with transcripts,” is similar to the two above, but is only 22 minutes long and actually has people acting out the dialogue.
It probably won’t be your new favorite web series, but seeing, as well as hearing, brief situations helps make this one engaging.
“French in dialogue” is ideal if you like to take things one step at a time. This YouTube channel features dozens of French dialogues, most of which are only a few minutes long. Several are even under a minute!
This channel does the same thing that the longer videos do, but you may find this format more helpful if you prefer to focus on one thing at a time.
Music—one of the best and most effective ways to learn a language. Music is downright enjoyable, and with the variety out there, you can definitely find something that piques your interest while growing your French!
Furthermore, neuroscience has confirmed what many students have intrinsically learned: music is a powerful memory aid.
And music videos don’t just help with the language! Music is also a key form of cultural expression. Not only will you get a taste of France, but you can enjoy Francophone artists from Belgium, Senegal and more.
In order to get the most out of a French music video, listen to it all the way through once to see what you can understand on your own. Then, listen to it along with the lyrics. Use a dictionary to look up words you don’t know.
You can also listen to French music in the background as you work, walk or do other tasks. This is a great way to review songs you’ve already studied, and have your brain work on French subconsciously.
Below are just a few of my favorite French music videos and music video resources.
“Papaoutai” by Stromae
This song by Stromae (a Belgian musical artist) is probably one of the most well-known songs in French. But I think it deserves the reputation.
You can find the lyrics here, but it’s fascinating how the video itself tells the story. The focus is on the importance of a father figure in a child’s life (the title stands for papa où t’es, meaning “dad, where are you?”).
“On dirait” (It Seems) by Amir
This is another catchy song with an engaging video that tells the story.
This song emphasizes the difference a person can make and the video follows a few scenarios involving a mysterious person who does a series of good deeds. Find the lyrics here.
“La complainte des nazis” (The Nazis’ Lament)
This is definitely a more obscure song, but is fascinating for history buffs. As the title implies, it was written shortly after France was liberated from Nazi occupation in 1944.
Lyrics are conveniently found in the description section for this video (do note that this song came out in 1944 and so there’s not really an accompanying video—just audio of the song).
Even if you have the linguistic prowess to fully understand the lyrics, knowledge of World War II (particularly life in France during World War II) would be very helpful in getting the most out of this one—and this song in turn can give you insight into an important part of France’s history.
It might also be helpful to learn a bit about Pierre Dac, who wrote the lyrics. He worked with Radio Londres (Radio London), as radios in France were controlled by the Nazis at the time and couldn’t be trusted.
Chansons des Grands Classiques Disney (Great Classic Disney Songs)
This is a great YouTube playlist featuring familiar and catchy Disney songs in French.
Listening to a song you’re already comfortable with can be encouraging, especially for beginners. Since you already have an idea of what to expect, you might have more confidence trying to catch what individual words you’re able to.
And besides, doesn’t Belle sound even more beautiful in her native tongue?
French music videos are quite a broad area! The ones highlighted here barely scratch the surface of your options.
If you’d like to discover even more French hits, check out this massive playlist, which contains one hundred French music videos and includes some other songs from the same artists listed here.
Or, to learn more about French-language artists, go to this blog, which organizes artists by genre. From there, you’ll be directed to recommended albums, songs and videos. Do keep in mind that this site focuses on contemporary French music, however. No Édith Piaf here!
We all need a good laugh sometimes. Perhaps you have a favorite meme or video that consistently raises your mood. But have you ever thought of seizing your need for humor as a language learning opportunity?
The French may have a bad reputation for being depressing or overly serious, but checking out some of the following French comedy channels will have you seriously re-thinking that stereotype.
Not only do you get hilarious language practice, but humor offers deep cultural insight as well. Just think of how much American humor derives from American culture, national events and just daily life.
French humor is similar. For example, one channel highlighted here, Le Rire Jaune, did a satirical video about who would be the ideal president of France.
This channel, which translates as “Word of a cat,” is truly one of the gems of French learning. Did you know your cat can teach you French?
This YouTube channel features hilarious cat videos with French voice-overs so it looks like the cats (and sometimes other animals) are speaking French!
Plus, all their videos have English subtitles, so even beginners can enjoy the fun!
One of their most popular and hilarious videos is La Peur (Fear), which shows several cats reacting to things that, for some reason, scare them—everything from an electric toothbrush to a lizard.
If you thought American cat videos were funny, just wait until you experience Parole de chat.
“Norman Makes Videos” is without doubt one of the hottest comedy channels in France. I even saw his face on the cover of a magazine when I was in France recently.
Keep in mind that he talks somewhat quickly, and his videos don’t normally have subtitles, so this channel is probably best for intermediate or advanced learners.
Cyprien is a similar comedian who finds humor in unassuming places. He has several videos about entertainment like video games or cartoons, and another of his videos is about museums. He actually did this one with Norman, the comedian mentioned above.
Another similarity is that his videos don’t normally have subtitles on YouTube. The effort is definitely worth it, but don’t push yourself so hard that you only become discouraged and exhausted!
La Rousse (the Redhead) is a less-known French comedian and she thus has far fewer videos than some of the others listed here. However, she does have a significant following and is certainly worth giving a try.
No, I didn’t feature her just because she’s a fellow redhead! However, “redheadedness” is one source of her humor, as in Ce qu’il ne faut pas dire à un roux (What not to say to a redhead).
This channel, which literally means “yellow laugh” (but is used metaphorically to denote a forced laugh) is yet another popular French comedy channel.
This comedian seems to, in general, speak more quickly than some of the others featured here. If you’re an advanced learner or looking for a challenge, enjoy!
One good one he did is Le Meilleur Président (The Best President), which was linked earlier in this article.
Another amusing one is Être Insomniaque (Being Insomniac), which pokes fun at the struggle for sleep. It may not be funny when you’re dealing with it, but can lighten the mood during the daylight hours.
Whew! That should be a good introduction into the world of learning French with videos. There are so many methods and resources to explore, many more than could possibly be listed here.
The resources above are a starting point. It’s up to you to explore and discover what works best with your interests and learning style.
À bientôt ! (See you later!)
Rachel Larsen is a lifelong francophile and freelance writer who dreams of living in France one day. She’s currently a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. To learn more, visit her LinkedIn page.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.