Everyone likes to feel fancy now and then.
Picture yourself sipping champagne out of a crystal flute, or humming down the freeway in a brand new Jaguar.
Feels nice, right?
But there’s a thing about the finer things—they’re expensive.
With one exception: French language MOOCs.
MOOCs are affordable (sometimes free!) online courses offered by prestigious universities and educational institutions from around the world. They allow you to access some of the best French language instruction out there, without building up your student debt.
We’ll show you the top five resources for French MOOCs, from beginner to advanced language courses and even some authentic French classes designed for native speakers.
How Do MOOCs Work?
As noted above, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) allow self-starting students to take courses from prestigious universities and educational organizations—affordably and online. Once you enroll in a MOOC, you’ll get access to lessons, course materials, assignments and all.
The number of students enrolled, price and course structure will vary. Most of these courses are free or low cost. Some of them follow a set schedule while others are totally self-guided—but either way you have the freedom to tackle the course materials early in the morning, late at night or whatever works for your own schedule and allows you to bring your A-game.
The scheduled courses often provide access to an instructor for guidance and questions, though this type of access is usually not free.
If you like the focused but flexible style of a MOOC and want to keep your skills up outside of your digital classroom, check out the immersive self-study tool 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.
Fan of the Finer Things? Get Prestigious French Classes Affordably with MOOCs
The MOOC options below are organized from beginner to advanced, but we’ll also show you where you can explore the sites for even more learning options. And remember, you can always stack one French course on another to design a personal French curriculum comparable to one offered by a university.
These courses will require focused study and commitment, but it’s often learning of this nature that’s the most rewarding, too!
Carnegie Mellon’s Elementary French Courses
This highly respected university in the U.S. has made its elementary French courses public to the world. The courses makes frequent use of media like videos for beginners, with actors from both France and Quebec speaking authentic French to help students develop their comprehension of both accents.
Elementary French I covers many basic interactions you’ll have in French, from introductions to work exchanges to ordering at restaurants. Elementary French II broadens your communication skills with topics like political opinions, transportation and stress.
All of the lessons in Carnegie Mellon’s courses feature an intro video scene to set the stage for the focus of the lesson. These introductory videos are then revisited throughout each lesson to demonstrate certain learning goals, which makes the courses great for auditory learners.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Beginner French Courses
Tech wizards can use foreign language skills just as much as those of us who have a hard time figuring out which folder our latest “Game of Thrones” download ended up in. It should come as no surprise that MIT, one of the most prestigious science and engineering schools in the U.S., also offers language courses. Fortunately for all of us, they’re accessible online as MOOCs.
The university’s MOOCs include French 1 and 2, both of which use a mix of audio, video and print course materials to develop linguistic skills and cultural awareness.
French 1 focuses on developing proficiency with the present, future and past tenses in a variety of situations. Students work equally on comprehension, speaking, reading and writing through lessons on culture and everyday life in several different French-speaking countries.
The French 2 course aims to expand students’ vocabulary while perfecting their grammar. Students also dive deeper into reading and writing by using media resources such as French newspapers, newscasts and films.
École Polytechnique’s Intermediate French Course
When you’re ready to choose a MOOC for your transition into intermediate French, look no further. Provided by one of the premier universities in France, this intermediate French course focuses on preparing students for higher education in France.
In addition to development of linguistic skills, the course also features interviews with real French and exchange students living in France to help students prepare for life abroad. Language learners enrolled in this course can also benefit from access to an online forum that serves as a place to hone debate and discussion skills with other students.
This course is offered through Coursera, a reputable MOOC platform with wide-ranging options from schools all over the world. The courses range between roughly $25 to $100 and come with certificates of completion that can boost your resume. Check out the full range of Coursera MOOCs here, including more French language options and many others.
French Culture Courses on edX
If you’re looking for an authentic taste of what courses are like at a real French university, edX offers MOOCs in French on a range of cultural subjects. This is a great way for upper-intermediate and advanced learners to prepare for life in France, develop sophisticated vocabularies or simply have more to talk about with French native speakers.
You can take French-language classes in classical theater, human rights and astrophysics from big-name universities like La Sorbonne. While these courses will be rigorous for a non-native speaker, they can be indispensable resources for learning and retaining subject-specific vocabulary. For more of these course options, click Browse Courses and Programs from the homepage and then click French in the box on the lower lefthand side. You can also filter specifically for “Art & Culture” classes among other categories.
Because the French used in these courses will contain cultural references, students will likely understand more and find the courses more rewarding if they go in with some knowledge on French culture. Not quite ready for these types of courses? edX also offers an AP French language and culture course that’s designed for language learners and walks students through everything they need for the highest level of French language education offered in the American school system.
Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is another well-known MOOC platform with over 130 educational partners from universities to nonprofits and research institutions. The courses are free but you can pay to earn a certificate upon completion.
Authentic Courses from the French Government
Ready to get your MOOC on like a native French speaker?
This is the official French digital portal for higher education. You’ll find MOOCs covering both French as a foreign language and, like edX, courses in French on a variety of topics.
These include everything from art and culture to law to the environment. You can filter courses by category under the calendar bar on the MOOC catalogue page.
This MOOC resource is unique in that it offers learning materials independent of the courses they’re part of. You can check out resources like articles, case studies and slideshows that’ve been used in French university classes. These resources could be used for language learners who want to mix and match the type of content they consume. They’re also great resources for advanced learners to build upon an existing course curriculum in places students feel it’s lacking, and all of the ones listed on this platform can be sorted by type of material.
The site also offers the option to receive updates via email to know when new MOOCs come out. Users can also sort MOOCs by discipline and synchronize their computer’s calendar with the site calendar to save events of their choosing and stay on track.
While there’s something to be said for the value of traditional courses taught in the classroom, the developments in remote education are fast moving and hard to ignore. With so much high-value content and information being made available by reputable institutions, language learners who appreciate the flexibility, affordability and variety that MOOCs offer will have more and more opportunities to perfect their French. What more do you need to hear to get yourself in a good mooood?
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.