Ever come across an artsy French movie and thought, “geez, I wish I could speak French and watch this beauty in its original language?”
Or how about those French vloggers that you love watching? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to understand them without subtitles?
Sure, you could take a formal French course, but if you’re like me, you prefer to carve your own path.
I get you. Self-studying is awesome, and even if you’re not really able to do it completely on your own, the internet is teeming with resources to help you study French at home!
Why Study French Online?
In case you missed it, with the internet, there are practically endless French learning resources online. Here’s why that’s important:
- You can access concise grammar tutorials or helpful vocabulary lists to quickly address any of your language weaknesses. These concise resources are perfect for getting clarification on tricky topics and overcoming your stumbling blocks. Heck, as you’re browsing, you might even pick up completely new grammar knowledge!
- You’ll never run out of written French content to boost your reading and writing skills. You can find news articles, blog posts and even entire French novels on the internet. For free!
- Similarly, the internet has a wealth of multimedia content to perfect your listening and speaking skills. There are millions of audio and video clips in French that you can use to practice your listening comprehension and imitate that perfect accent.
- Due to the informal nature of internet self-study, you can do as much or as little as you want. That means that whether you study two hours a week or two hours a day, you have complete freedom! There’s no syllabus or course instructor to tell you how much you need to do. You can work at your own pace toward your own goals.
- You can create an at-home immersion program! Immersion is perhaps the best way to achieve fluency in French if you want to make the most of your self-study program. Online resources let you surround yourself with French content and create an environment where you’re thinking only in French. For an even more immersive experience, you can branch out to mobile apps so that your French tools stay with you wherever you are.
5 Self-study Methods to Study French Online
Here are our picks for the most effective ways to study French online!
1. Master Grammar with Online Tutorials
As I’m sure you’ve heard before, learning grammar is essential to learning French, but before you get stressed, check this out: you can ditch the textbook!
So, what’s the alternative? Online tutorials, of course! Online grammar tutorials are concise—they’ll get to the root of the grammatical topic you’re trying to learn and they’re generally easy to understand. Further, many grammar tutorials come with handy practice exercises. Once you finish those exercises you can always scour the internet for more!
Where can you access these awesome tutorials?
- For brief tutorials covering a wide range of grammar concepts, check out ielanguages. These tutorials will teach you everything from beginner topics like the French present tense to more complicated topics like adjectival agreement and the subjunctive.
- If you want a tutorial with built-in exercises, LanguageGuide.org is your resource. LanguageGuide.org is an easy-to-navigate site that covers the pillars of French grammar, from tenses to noun gender to negation and more. It also comes with audio recordings so you can hear how words are pronounced.
- For more of a lecture-style grammar tutorial, check out Français avec Pierre or Learn French with Alexa. Both of these two resources are actually YouTube channels run by French natives! Their grammatical explanations in-depth but easy to follow, and there are often exercises to complete. Further, Français avec Pierre in particular does tutorials completely in French, so it’s perfect for intermediate learners who want to start using French-only resources.
2. Use Vocabulary Building Tools
Aside from grammar, learning vocabulary is perhaps the most important part of learning any language. I mean, where are you going to find the words to fill those grammatical constructions otherwise?
The big name internet resources for building vocabulary are best known for their mobile apps: Memrise hosts dozens of French vocabulary building courses for all French levels and LingQ lets you track your vocabulary learning to measure your improvement.
If you’re like me and want to take complete control of your vocabulary learning journey, you might be interested in a more self-directed program. For example, try making your own French vocabulary flashcards with Chegg. You can make flashcard decks to suit your personal learning goals, whether it’s mastering basic phrases and common verbs or even something advanced like French medical terminology.
Can’t find words to fill your flashcards? Try using word lists like the ones from FrenchLearner.com.
Many people have trouble learning new vocabulary in isolation, and that’s ok—FluentU is the perfect solution. FluentU uses real-world videos, including movie trailers, commercials and inspiring talks, to give you an authentic vocabulary building experience.
This tool comes with in-context definitions and comprehension activities, so you’re not just getting exposure to new French words but actively learning them. And you’re doing it all while diving into real, relevant French content and culture.
3. Surround Yourself with French Texts
With the internet, finding French reading materials is easier than ever before. Online, French texts are accessible, digestible and usually free! Best of all, you can leave those bulky French textbooks behind!
For starters, websites like LanguageGuide.org and Lawless French offer readings for French learners at the beginner level. You can log on, pick a reading completely in French and read away. You can progress with Lawless French as it offers readings all the way up to the advanced level and the readings are accompanied by comprehension tips and tools as well as translations.
The web version of MosaLingua offers plenty of native content selected especially for learners, including reading material. It also gives you access to a translation tool to get instant definitions for words and phrases you come across while reading. You can then turn these words and phrases with their definitions into flashcards, so you can review the material later on.
For more advanced readings, prepare to become a real French media hound! For starters, you can check out media outlets such as RFI or Le Monde. Both are recommended for intermediate learners and up, but they’re not overly-complicated with specialized vocabulary.
But it’s not all about traditional texts! You can also try this fun little trick: change your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to French. You can do this under the “language” tab in most of the “settings” options for these social media accounts and the result will help you learn useful vocabulary, especially commands.
Further, you can use the Language Immersion extension for Chrome to have webpages automatically translated into French for online immersion.
4. Stream/Download French Audio
Listening is a skill most learners take for granted (at least, as an introvert, I did), especially in the beginning. But don’t ignore it!
Even if you don’t understand every single French word, listening to French is awesome for tuning your ear to the French language. It’s true even if you just have something on in the background, like the radio or TV. Believe me, your unconscious mind has your back on this one!
For radio, try TuneIn. Sign up for free, log on and find a French radio station. The stations vary in topics: you can find music stations, documentary stations, sport stations or my personal favorite, talk radio. Best of all, a lot of radio stations have corresponding websites. While listening, try logging on and matching the story you’re listening to with the written article on the website. It’s great for making sure you actually understand what you’re hearing!
One last thing on this topic. Do you like podcasts? Me too! They’re perfect to download onto your music player or phone and take with you for French on-the-go. One of my personal favorites is PodClub.ch. Based in Switzerland, these awesome podcasts are spoken in slow, concise French for beginner to intermediate learners. Best of all, each podcast has a corresponding transcript so you can follow along and look up any words you don’t know.
French Today has audiobooks and lessons that come with hours of listening material and are based around a storyline to keep things engaging. They’re built around the concept of teaching you spoken language (the language actually used by French natives), but are still designed to teach you vocab and grammar.
5. Meet a Native (or Two, or Three…)
Speaking French is a must if you wish to, well… speak French. Again, this is a skill that a lot of self-studiers neglect because self-studying is often a solitary activity. And frankly, it’s easier to pick up a textbook or an app than it is to find the nearest French person and chatter away. But let’s change that!
Short of traveling to a foreign country, the internet is a great way to practice French speech. Surprise, surprise, right…?
The website Polyglotclub is a great way to meet French native speakers and other French language learners. Sign up, log on and get socializing. You can communicate simply by joining discussions and finding a French pen pal, but I challenge you to set up a Skype date or a phone call and practice those speaking skills!
If you’re more interested in practicing your speaking skills with a French tutor, definitely check out Wyzant. You can choose from hundreds of French tutors that can help you not only with speaking French but also with particular grammar or vocabulary points that you find challenging. Best of all, you can choose to meet the tutor online or in-person to maximize your French learning experience!
Alright, self-starter! It’s finally time to get started! Get clicking and start studying French online today!
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