It can be so frustrating to study French for a long time but still be lost when listening to it.
You might know endless vocabulary words and have your grammar perfected, but spoken French still just sounds like gibberish.
If that sounds like you, we have the solution: Listen to French for beginners.
This post has five resources that are easy to understand, accessible to beginners and at least partially free.
Best of all, the tools listed here offer different topics and styles, so you won’t get bored and can easily pick and choose what works best for you. They’re all also frequently updated, so you’ll never, ever, run out of material.
With these tools, you’ll finally be able to understand what native French speakers are saying!
Listen to French for Beginners with 5 Remarkable Resources
Get Up to Speed (GUTS)
Listen, learning a new language can be a chore. I hear ya! You listen to the news or you YouTube “French conversations” and people are just blazing by with their words and while the speaker is going on and on, you’re still playing catch up, trying to figure out what was said two sentences ago. Three sentences ago now. Four. Okay, you get the point.
Now, what if there was a way to slow down a conversation without losing the rhythm and without making it sound unnatural—so you can still hear every word without losing the cadence and momentum of the language? Better yet, what if listening to somebody else’s conversation in French was, dare I say, fun?
Enter Get Up to Speed, a.k.a. GUTS, brought to you by News in Slow French.
Billed as “equal parts education and entertainment,” GUTS is a training program structured like a play between a French teacher and her pupils. Each lesson tells a story and the next lesson builds on that, creating a coherent and entertaining plotline that makes it easy and fun to listen to.
The more fun you’re having, the easier it’ll be to listen and understand and the better you are at listening and understanding, the better you’ll be at communicating. It all comes full circle.
The best part about GUTS is the user experience. There are exercises, flashcards and lessons to practice with each lesson. Plus, if you get lost or mishear a word, the script is posted online to help you catch up.
And of course, the program is articulated slowly and purposefully, so you can really hear the words and the emphases.
The first five episodes are free and you can see previews of paid content. If you like what you see and want to learn more with GUTS, there are three monthly subscription plan levels to choose from.
Sometimes, even if you find a great video for beginners, you might struggle to keep up with faulty captions or unknown language. FluentU has the solution for that.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Each video comes with 100% accurate subtitles. Not only that, but you can watch with French and English subtitles (or both—or neither!) on a whim, and any unknown word is immediately defined and explained just by hovering over it.
Videos are organized by content and difficulty, so you can find plenty of authentic video and audio combos perfect for a French beginner, about topics you actually find interesting.
Additional tools let you practice what you’ve learned through flashcards, quizzes and fill-in-the-blank exercises to help reinforce your French.
FluentU is available in your browser and as a mobile app for iOS or Android and you can try it out with a free trial if you want to dip your toes before you commit.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the big one.
Just look at it! It’s got more audio files than I can count (okay, maybe that says more about me than the resource).
All the audio tracks have exercises accompanied by passages which require you to listen to a recording and then fill in the blanks with French words. On top of that, you can record your own speaking voice to compare how close your pronunciation is to the one in the audio.
It’s the perfect resource to listen to French spoken much closer to how it is in real life, and you’ll get a wide variety of accents and intonations to learn from, as well.
Most of the passages are short—under two minutes—and offer worksheets that are automatically graded, so you can know what you’ve done right and what you need to improve on.
And if you miss something? You can easily rewind and play again, as many times as you like and/or need. Remember, there’s no shame in not understanding. After all, that’s how you learn.
Learn French in Your Car
Let’s say you’ve got a trip to Paris planned. You’re not too stressed over accent aigu’s and whether or not there’s a second silent e at the end of abandoné (hint: sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t). But you’re freaking out about how to order a cab from the airport to get to your hotel room, how to get hotel service or how to ask where the bathroom is.
Learn French in Your Car will help you with that.
It’s exactly what it sounds like: a playlist offering over 100 audio files for you to listen to while you drive. Or do laundry. Or the dishes. Your choice.
The point is, most of these audio files are culturally-relevant, containing audio for doing business, ordering food, asking for directions and other everyday occurrences. Learn French in Your Car is excellent for familiarizing yourself with French culture and is extremely useful for beginners. For each word or expression, you’ll hear the English version, followed by the French translation.
There are pauses for you to imitate the words that you’ve just learned and as you progress, you’re encouraged to go back to the beginning to reinforce the material you’ve already learned.
And best of all, it’s totally free via Spotify. (Note: If you use the free version of Spotify, you may have to go through the playlist on shuffle.)
Learn French With Alexa
No, not the handy-dandy virtual personal assistant. This Alexa is an actual person who’s equally helpful. For those who want a more human interaction, check out Alexa’s podcast, aptly titled “Learn French With Alexa.”
This podcast is completely for beginners with a heavy emphasis on grammar. And jeez, French grammar is something else!
You’ll enjoy this podcast a lot if you’re looking to learn more slowly and academically, and are building the foundations for learning French, first.
Alexa also has a YouTube channel, which she updates regularly.
Listening is a major component of communication. It helps you feel more confident speaking in French because it familiarizes you with common sayings, reinforces verbal emphasis in your mind and increases your level of exposure. The more confident you are with the material, the more likely you are to practice it.
So go out there and listen to some French for beginners to get you started.
And remember: The rewind button is your friend. Don’t feel bad about not understanding! You’re still a beginner and we were all beginners once.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.