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French Radio for Beginners: 5 Popular Stations

Learning French with radio is an incredibly fun and useful way to learn French, and you just have to tune in to get started.

Listening to popular French radio stations and talk radio is valuable because it exposes you to some French culture and the variety of French accents that exist.

In this French radio for beginners guide, we’ve gathered the best French radio stations for learners—whether you’re looking for music or on-air talk—plus some useful tips to make sure it doesn’t all just go in one ear and out the other.


1. RTL + RTL2: Best for Pop and Rock Melophiles

RTL and RTL2 are sister stations that are great for uncovering your favorite French pop and rock songs.

The stations are some of the most popular in France, and they play a lot of good mainstream music.

The only disadvantage with these stations is the popularity of American music in France!

For every French song you hear, you’ll hear an American one as well.

But the quick-talking announcers are sure to keep you on your toes, and you’ll discover a lot of French classic rock like Jean-Jacques Goldman and Serge Gainsbourg, as well as some more modern singers.

With these stations, you’re sure to be at the forefront of what’s popular in French music.

2. Nostalgie: Best for Classical Connoisseurs

learn french radioTo discover the music your parents’ French pen pals may have listened to, Nostalgie is the way to go.

Nostalgie, much like RTL, plays a mix of French and English classics that were popular way back when—with the classic Nostalgie station, you’re likely to hear just as much English as French.

But Nostalgie has a further advantage: the station offers a host of web radios, including a special station devoted entirely to the best of French music.

If you’re into the oldies, Nostalgie is absolutely the station for you.

3. Chante France: Best for Old-School French Music

learn french radioSpeaking of old-school French music, Chante France offers a host of French classics, both old and new.

Pop, top 40’s and hip hop all feature, with a special emphasis on including only French language music.

If you don’t want to be bothered by familiar American songs, you may benefit from listening to Chante France.

Be aware that you’ll be hearing a lot of the same songs over and over again, but that will only help you get to know them!

4. France Inter: Best for News Junkies

learn french radioIf you’d rather that your music be interspersed with news stories and other talk radio, try France Inter.

France Inter is filled with enough émissions (shows) to keep you occupied for days.

From cooking shows to book programs, hosts of France Inter bring the most successful artists and entrepreneurs onto their shows to discuss art and business.

Other times, they talk about the latest art and business amongst themselves, and either situation brings a wonderful hour of fascinating and engaging radio.

Here are some of the most popular France Inter programs you can listen to:

  • Le masque et la plume. The host, Jérôme Garcin, and a group of critics all talk about, analyze and criticize recent artistic and cultural events, including movies and books that have recently been released. This show is great because not only does it work your basic listening skills, but it also tests how strong they are.
    For each book or movie discussed, every critic says something—and sometimes they disagree. This is when it starts to get difficult, because they all talk over each other, making it hard to distinguish one argument from another. So it’s a fantastic way to practice listening carefully and distinguishing voices from one another. Plus, you find out what new French movie you should go see next!
  • L’humeur vagabonde. Kathleen Evin brings onto L’humeur vagabonde the men and women who have become successful because of their originality, and they talk about their dreams, their mistakes and their successes throughout the show’s hour.
    I love this program because it introduces me to some of the most interesting and successful people in France, and I love getting to know how they started and where they are now. It’s a show that provides a full profile of a well-known French figure. This show is perfect for practice following a story of someone’s life, and is also a chance to see if you’re able to retell that story back to a friend after listening to the program.
  • On va déguster. If you’re a foodie (and in France, how can you not be?) then this show is for you. Elvira Masson and Dominique Hutin talk about everything and anything you can eat, bringing chefs and bakers and artisans onto the show to talk about food and drink.
    There are many advantages to this show—you get to learn about the newest tricks of the trade in the food world, meet some of the best artisans and chefs in the business, practice listening and writing down these tricks and recipes to use later.

  • La bande originale. Hosted by Nagui, La bande originale brings a single guest to a table of standard commentators, and they talk about the guest’s most recent project or endeavor.
    Just like Le masque et la plume, it’s a great way to practice listening to people talking over each other and distinguishing different accents. And also like L’humeur vagabonde, you’re able to follow a story throughout the show.

  • La Tête au Carré. If you love science, this one’s for you. Mathieu Vidard hosts a show focused solely on the latest research in science.
    He interviews researchers and scientists from all over the world about their latest findings, and each program has a theme (a recent one focusing on comets, another on antibiotics). It’s a combination of good journalism, the greatest new science discoveries and intelligent, well-spoken scientists.

5. Rire et Chansons: Best for Comedy Lovers

learn french radioIf you’d rather your music be interspersed with jokes as you learn French with radio, try Rire et Chansons.

Humor is famously one of the toughest things to integrate in a foreign language, so don’t worry if you feel a bit lost at the beginning.

Soon enough, you’ll be picking up on some of the jokes that the comedians on this station tell.

Bear in mind that much of French humor is based on references to general culture and word play, so listening to France Inter may help you understand this station even better!

Why Learn French with the Radio?

  • There is a great diversity of French music available on the radio. For every taste in French music, there is a radio channel that can be streamed internationally. Have you explored all the diverse sounds and rhythms of traditional and modern French music?
    This could be a great opportunity for you to listen to mixes of music you might otherwise have never listened to—giving you fantastic lessons in both French language and culture.
  • The DJ will take care of everything. The only thing you have to do is ask your friends, “Comment elle s’appelle déjà, cette chanson ?” (“What’s the name of that song again?”) before that awesome tune stops playing and you lose it forever. If you are streaming French radio on your computer, you can usually just check out the en direct (live) line and jot down the name of the song.
    Either way, the DJ’s got you taken care of. A professional in France is creating mixes of music that they think people will enjoy. You’ll probably find out about tons of songs that you may never have been exposed to on YouTube. You may discover you really love a whole new type of French music!
  • The radio is hands-off and continuous. The radio is fantastic for playing background music. Since you don’t have to keep going back to YouTube to line up more French songs on your playlist, the radio will let you go on with your activities, uninterrupted.

How Talk Radio Will Help Improve Your French

Your listening comprehension will improve

At first, listening to the radio will be very difficult, since it’s much easier to understand a foreign language when you are able to look at the speaker’s mouth and match their words with their movement. Because of this, you have to pay close attention, and this will cause you to intently listen to each program, first picking up words, then phrases, and then—eventually—full sentences themselves.

It’s important to continue studying grammar and vocabulary as you listen to programs, which will help you recognize verbs and words, plus be able to put them into context all while listening. It’s helpful if you listen to the radio online because you can pause programs and rewind them to try and catch phrases and sentences you missed or didn’t understand. The France Inter website streams the radio over the internet, so you can catch your favorite shows live—or even later on—and pause them as necessary.

Other than the ability to pause the content, some online audio resources also come with extras for added comprehension. For example, the weekly broadcasts on the website News in Slow French are paired with transcripts.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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Learning tools like these can set you up nicely for faster-paced radio shows.

The moment you can fully understand a radio program is a sign that your comprehension has improved—and it’s certainly a great feeling.

You’ll learn to understand many different accents

The people on radio talk shows come from all over France, and sometimes all over the world, so they won’t always be speaking in the same accent as your high school French teacher. The Parisian accent is much different from Marseillaise one, and if you don’t know the difference now, you’ll learn it after listening to many different talk shows.

Talk shows will teach you to listen to this differences in tone, pronunciation and sometimes vocabulary. At first you’ll find yourself better understanding the accent with which you are most familiar—the one you’ve heard most often—but soon, you’ll be able to understand a myriad of different accents. This will help you adjust when you’re speaking French to someone in an everyday situation, and avoid having to ask “Pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît?” (Can you repeat that, please?) when someone speaks in an unfamiliar, unexpected accent.

You’ll adjust to the normal speed of conversation

This may be the biggest challenge when listening to French radio; hosts talk quickly, and it’s hard to keep up. They go from one discussion to the next, sometimes without a break. As you continue to listen to programs, it becomes easier to follow the speed of the talking and the flow of conversation. Your ears will begin to adjust, and you’ll eventually find yourself wondering how you thought the hosts were talking quickly in the first place!

If you’re able to follow the speed and the pace of radio talk shows, you’ll be able to follow an everyday conversation between natives on the train or pick up on a discussion as you wait in line at the boulangerie (bakery). You’ll even begin to speak as quickly as the locals as you continue to listen to radio programs that move at a brisk pace.

Well, we’re just about out of time here. So remember, to join the ranks of today’s French language learners, listening to some French talk radio will move you right on up, taking a bundle of benefits along with you.

As always, thanks for tuning in to today’s broadcast. Until next time!

And one more thing...

If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:


FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.


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Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."


All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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