Hello and thanks for tuning in!
On today’s show we’re going to take a closer look at the present-day French language learner.
They’re watching French television online, they’re on the look out for false friends, and they’re actually so motivated that these folks are teaching themselves the language!
In fact, today’s French learners can immerse themselves in the language at home. It’s really quite incredible.
So we’ve seen all sorts of strides and changes in the way the people are learning languages, but do you know where these French learners could still really benefit?
Listening to native speakers has always been difficult, especially with the variety of French accents that exist. It’s also valuable (and fun) to be exposed to some French culture.
Well, listeners, have we got the solution for you: French talk radio.
The NPR of French Talk Radio: France Inter
Before we dive in, I’d like to offer a brief note about the translation of “talk radio” into French. Radio parlée is perhaps the closest translation, which is primarily used in Quebec. Radio parlotte is a bit different in that it’s more sensationalized and lacks the journalism of our standard talk radio. And finally, radio culturelle is how the radio station France Inter (France’s NPR) categorizes itself, which is the most fitting translation for us since the radio shows to follow all air on France Inter.
Radio culturelle (or radio parlotte, radio parlée—however you deem to say “talk radio” in French) is alive and kicking. There’s plenty of it, and there’s a show for everyone.
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.
What’s more is that learning to truly listen to talk radio will not only be pleasurable, it will rapidly improve your listening and comprehension skills, and help you distinguish between different French accents. How? Let’s take a look.
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.
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.
By the way, if this all sounds good to you, there’s another terrific resource for getting listening practice with authentic content: FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% 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 FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Okay, so we know how talk radio will improve our French, but where should we start? Which programs are best?
5 Great French Talk Radio Shows
The following five radio shows are all programs on France Inter. You can listen to them live in France on the radio or at the France Inter website. If you miss an episode, the website keeps previous programs on file for a long time before deleting them from the archives. All the shows have broadcast time listed in Paris time.
1. Le masque et la plume
Time: 8 to 9 p.m.
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!
2. L’humeur vagabonde
Day: Monday to Thursday
Time: 8 to 9 p.m.
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.
3. On va déguster
Time: 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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.
4. La bande originale
Day: Monday to Friday
Time: 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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.
5. La Tête au Carré
Day: Monday to Friday
Time: 2 to 3 p.m.
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.
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!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.