You. Over there.
Yes, you. The one holding the magnifying glass up to that hunk of Roquefort.
Look, you’re really not going to learn about French culture that way.
May I make a suggestion?
And they’re not at all crumbly.
Why Should You Tune into These French Learning Channels?
Get ready for a triple treat: three compelling YouTube channels that will open up the world of French language and culture. (Snacks are optional, but recommended.)
Here’s why these channels are great additions to your study routine:
- Learn with pizazz. Each of these channels has its own memorable personality. No dull, dry lessons here! The witty and vibrant presentations hold your attention and keep you “tuned in” to the topics.
- Look, listen, learn. Many of these videos show the corresponding written French as vocabulary words are being pronounced. The audiovisual format helps you make the connection between the words you see and their pronunciation.
- You have the ability to pace yourself. Pause, slow down or speed up the video as needed. When you watch these channels, you’re in complete control of the presentation. You can repeat a difficult section, alter the playback speed or even pause the video to take notes for yourself.
- Control your level of immersion. In most cases, you can choose to turn subtitles on (if you want a little more help) or off (if you want more of a challenge). You can skip past the sections presented in English for a more immersive experience.
Without further ado, let’s get tuned in to our first channel.
3 YouTube Channels to Learn French Language and Culture
1. BookBox Inc.
It’s story time! Take yourself back to some of your earliest learning experiences as you absorb French through children’s books—with a twist. These charming tales are told in a “book meets cartoon” format with interactive features.
BookBox adds audio to the pages of these books—and then takes it a step farther with animated illustrations. The animation often provides context clues for the narration, which is particularly helpful if you’re unfamiliar with some of the words.
These video books have built-in French subtitles. As the narrator reads each word in the story, the subtitles gradually turn from green (unread words) to white (words that have been read). If you’ve ever sung karaoke, you’ll recognize the format immediately.
For a truly bilingual book experience, simply enable the English subtitles by clicking on the “cc” button in the lower right-hand corner of the video. The English subtitles nest just below the French ones.
For full French immersion, just switch the English subtitles back off.
Learning French grammar is essential to mastering French. Although these simple stories don’t directly teach grammar, you can still learn it subconsciously using the “Natural Approach” of communication in context…as you look, listen and follow along.
This is the playlist where all of this productive watching and reading can begin.
Unlike many of us, Azul doesn’t need coaxing to practice piano. In this tale, Azul learns how to play more than just notes—he discovers how to use the keyboard to free the music inside his heart.
Although the story is straightforward, it contains a few examples of more challenging French grammatical concepts. For instance, le subjonctif (the subjunctive) is used in the sentence, “Il fallait qu’Azul le sache.” (Azul just had to know.)
Also known as Symbiose (Symbiosis) for its central lesson of interdependence, “Zippo le zèbre” introduces a striped hero who is plagued by a flea infestation. He lands two new feathered friends, Pic and Poc, who find his predicament delectable. Pic and Poc are thrilled to feast on the fleas, freeing Zippo from the nuisance.
The animations work especially well to clarify the vocabulary in context, particularly during the sequence where Zippo attempts to eradicate the fleas himself.
Pierrot, a once-proud bucket, loses his purpose in life when he develops a hole. He’s kicked into a corner and rusts miserably, until a young girl comes along and gives him an important role in the garden: to nurture her prize rose.
As the story explores Pierrot’s changing emotional states, you’ll review the spectrum of French emotions—from la fierté (pride) to l’inutilité (uselessness) and from la tristesse (sadness) to la joie (joy).
2. So Frenchy
So Frenchy is a wacky, one-woman show that offers several panache-filled playlists, which appeal to French learners at several different levels.
With liberal use of wigs, mustaches, makeup and costumes, So Frenchy host Nathalie plays all the parts in the skits and dialogues—to great comic effect.
Nathalie covers French conversation, grammar and culture. Her energetic style and affable personality are a delight—and make the lessons unforgettable.
Playlist: French Conversations
Most of the videos in the French Conversations playlist are part of a series called Les potes (mates/buddies). The videos center around a colorful group of friends: David, Antoine, Laure, Claire, Jeanne and Karine.
Avoid the holiday rush and check out this droll gem now! Catch up with all les potes (the mates) as you learn about their festive plans and their love lives.
The video is divided into three parts: listening, step by step and a then repeat of the dialogue. In the first section (listening), the conversations are completely in French, with no subtitles or clues available.
During the second part (step by step), the dialogue is broken down into its component parts, interspersing English translations of the words and phrases after each speaker delivers a line. Nathalie also reviews difficult sounds, such as the “œu” in sœur (sister), cœur (heart) and œuf (egg).
The conversations are played again a third time. Key vocabulary words are also displayed on yellow note paper near the speakers’ faces. At this point, you have the option to enable English or French subtitles.
This video takes the learning at a slower pace, breaking down the dialogue as soon as it’s presented. Each segment is glossed with the written French, as well as the English translation. The spoken French is repeated very slowly, making it much easier to grasp the new words and phrases.
As you watch this simple dialogue, you’ll learn or review basic travel terms and phrases such as les horaires (timetables/schedules), un aller-retour (round trip ticket) and oblitérer le billet (to stamp the ticket).
There’s also a section on telling the time in French—a critical skill for travelers!
Although the set decoration is minimal, the map from the national train system, or the SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer), lends a nice touch. Look for it on the wall behind the agent au guichet (at the ticket office).
France is widely known as the birthplace of the modern restaurant. Frenchy makes sure you don’t miss out on the basics of a typical French restaurant experience, with a side order of dinner conversation.
After each character speaks, a summary and transcript of the conversation is served up on a table cloth, flanked by flatware.
The video ends with an illustrated, narrated vocabulary list and un bêtisier bref (a brief blooper) for dessert.
Playlist: French Basics: One Theme, One Verb
Perfect for beginners, this playlist pairs collections of vocabulary words with the present tense conjugation of an appropriate verb. You’ll expand your fundamental French vocabulary while getting a better idea of the verbs most commonly used in certain contexts, such as wearing clothes or talking about the weather.
The first half of this video will whet your appetite! Nathalie takes you through a list of basic food words, illustrated with vivid color photos.
You’ll then practice conjugating the verb aimer (to like)—and you’ll be ready to talk about your favorite foods. (You’ll also find out how to keep not-so-favorite foods off your plate by using aimer in the negative.)
It may seem strange to native English speakers that the verb faire (to make or to do) is used to talk about weather conditions. Frenchy includes the conjugation of faire with a list of seasonal and weather-related vocabulary, so you can make the connection between the concepts.
With multiple costume changes, a windstorm, an indoor “rain” shower—plus special effects such as le brouillard (the fog)—you’ll always remember how to weather the weather…whatever the weather…in French.
Add some glamour to your French word wardrobe with this creative video that uses French celebrities to model clothing vocabulary.
At the end of the video, practice the present-tense conjugation of the verb porter (to wear). You’ll always be runway-ready et prêt à porter n’importe quoi (and ready to wear anything).
Playlist: French Culture
Enjoy the quintessential je ne sais quoi (I don’t know what) of French civilization as you learn more about regional cooking, French cinema, francophone music and even variations on standard French.
From Bretagne (Brittany), a historically Celtic region in the west of France, comes this traditional dessert that looks like a cheesecake-flan hybrid. Although the cooking directions are given in English, there’s a good dollop of French vocab when the ingredients and quantities are introduced.
Jaunty Breton music makes you feel like dancing from the measuring and mixing of the ingredients all the way through to the cutting of the first slice.
Follow Gérard Depardieu and Pierre Richard through amusing misadventures as they attempt to find a lost heiress.
Nathalie presents her spirited review in English, then in French. The plot summary is fairly detailed, so watch the film first if you want to avoid spoilers!
You have the option to turn on French captions during the French portion, which may help with any unfamiliar words. To make the experience more challenging, try watching the French portion first—then watch the English version to check your comprehension.
Take a trip around the francophone world with this video. Find out where French is spoken all across the globe. Maps, images and sound effects bring your linguistic journey to life.
You’ll also learn a little bit about the regional accent differences within France itself, particularly between the south and the north.
Sporting her trademark heart-shaped glasses, French Possum introduces you to “the French way of life” through a series of informative videos.
Possum’s placid manner eases you into French culture while improving your listening skills. Rather than presenting a mixture of spoken French and English, French Possum gives French-language lectures with English subtitles. The omnipresent subtitles will gloss over words you may not know. (To further test your French audio comprehension, keep your focus on the upper portion of the video.)
French Possum offers full bilingual transcripts of her YouTube videos on her website. You can use the search box to find a particular video transcript, or you can browse through her posts to find topics of interest.
Playlist: French Traditions
Learn about the modern and age-old customs that help define French culture and character.
French is the language of love, so what could be more romantic than a French-inspired Valentine’s Day?
First, Possum briefly covers the history of Valentine’s Day in France. Then she offers several suggestions for gifts, which should be accompanied by love letters. She guides you through planning the perfect evening for you and your special someone. She even serenades viewers with snippets of classic French love songs from Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel.
Walk down le tapis rouge (the red carpet) and claim your virtual ticket for the prestigious César Awards, France’s answer to the Oscars.
French Possum explains the basics of the French award ceremony, and then contrasts it with the American Academy Awards.
If you’d like to see some of the César Awards for yourself, Canal+ lets you stream “best of” footage from previous years, as well as red carpet moments. You can even go en coulisse (behind the scenes)!
April Fools’ Day isn’t just pour les enfants (for children) in France. Even the media and public figures get in on the act, planting outlandish tales as news stories.
If you want a better understanding of what’s so fishy about le premier avril (April 1st), be sure to watch this video.
Playlist: French History
This playlist spans centuries of history, up through recent years. French Possum weighs in on some of the best-known events and historic personages.
Le quatorze juillet (the 14th of July) may never be the same after you watch this video explaining Bastille Day in under three minutes. You’ll understand why the Bastille was stormed and destroyed, and how the holiday also commemorates a day of unification for the French people.
French Possum skillfully summarizes the history that led to the annual observance of la Fête nationale française (the French National Celebration)—all in less time than it takes to make a large bag of microwave popcorn.
After more than three centuries, the identity of L’homme au masque de fer (the man in the iron mask) remains a mystery.
There are over fifty theories about who he might have been. French Possum regales us with the most popular of these theories, and gives her own opinion near the end of the video.
An intriguing legend that has inspired many books and films, the story continues to live in popular culture. Even famous French writers such as Alexandre Dumas wove the tale into their own works.
The Man in the Iron Mask was not the only historical personage to feature in Alexandre Dumas’ writings. Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan was a member of the French Guard who became the model for the d’Artagnan of the Three Musketeers fame.
Dumas retained many of the historical details for his famous work of fiction, although he altered some of the dates.
This enlightening video from French Possum reminds us of the eventful and fascinating real-life story that spawned the iconic character.
Playlist: The French Way of Life
Somewhere in the intersection of French tradition, culture and history we find the French way of life: the distinctive characteristics that help define the French way of being.
French Possum takes on many fascinating topics in this playlist, from history to pop culture to current events.
Uncork the secret of the world-famous tiny bubbles that give this renowned French wine its sparkle.
French Possum leads us through the history and production of champagne. She explains the different varieties—and which foods they best complement. She also gives us tips for opening the bottle and serving and storing this special wine.
The most iconic symbol of France was ironically considered an eyesore when it was first built in Paris. Erected for the Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) of 1889, it was destined to be torn down by the city of Paris in 1909.
Yet it’s become an enduring symbol, and one with a much more intriguing history than a mere tourist attraction.
Discover its secrets, and learn French Possum’s tips for the ideal visit.
Nearly as old as the Eiffel Tower, the Tour de France is a grueling bicycle race that has captured the attention of a worldwide audience.
The scenic routes through breathtaking landscapes have made it a favorite sporting event of millions. French Possum explores many aspects of the race’s history and popularity and how it fits into French culture.
With these three YouTube channels, you can learn all about the diversity of French culture and language. Customize the experience to fit your learning style.
And save that cheese for a nice, crusty baguette.
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