The Best Resources to Learn French
Four Foundational Skills: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking
Reading, writing, listening and speaking are the four skills that you have to master in order to be fluent in French. Mastering a language means you are able to communicate on all of those four levels. You can use those skills when you write emails in French, when you talk to people on the street in France or another French speaking country, when you talk on the phone, when you watch documentaries or moves in French or when you talk to friends from France or language exchange partners. The key is finding the right resources in order to master all of those four skills.
Challenges When Learning French
If you want to learn French, there are a number of obstables you have to overcome such as learning the Latin alphabet (which comes easy to us Europeans, yay!), learning how to read and pronounce special characters, reading and forming your own sentences, structuring sentences correctly, spelling words correctly, using proper punctuation and using the right conjugations and different tenses. All of this can be overwhelming as a beginner which is why it's even more important to choose resources that will guide you step by step from a beginner level to fluency.
Types of Resources
I am German and I have learned to speak French fluently which took me around 8 years of continuous studying including living abroad in France for months. I used countless different resources, some of which were amazing and others which I now avoid because they weren't of much help. Some of the best resources I used were:
- YouTube channels
- Language Exchange Partners
- Skype Lessons with a Teacher
As a self-learner, books are a great resource, especially for beginners. They will teach you your first vocabulary and introduce you to the essential grammar such as conjugations, the usage of nouns, verbs and adjectives and tenses. Usually these books come with CDs so that you can listen to the words that you are learning and learn to understand and pronounce them at the same time. I used to be a fan of books for learning a language but since about 2015 I have switched to the digital technology that is now widely available and not as outdated as some of those books. (they are still a great way to look up conjugations and review tables and grammar rules).
YouTube offers one of the best ways to learn a language: There are a number of high-quality channels that provide excellent learning content with grammar explanations, videos for listening comprehension, cultural information and much more.
My favorite channels are:
- Learn French with Alicia (for beginners and advanced learners). This channel produces high quality learning content that helps with reading, writing and listening. They also have an app where you'll find podcasts, exclusive videos, worksheets to download, interactive exercises and vocab training - very useful! You can even sign up for a free 7-day trial.
- Learn French with Alexa has a ton of useful videos. If you watch her videos, you will become a verb and grammar expert, that's for sure. Occasionally, she films videos on the street and talks to real native people, a great way to practice listening.
- Another channel I quite enjoy is Comme une Française. She teaches you idioms, expressions, tons of vocab and gives you tips on how to improve your French.
French on Instagram
Instagram is no longer just reserved for those who share fashion, beauty and travel pictures. Now you can learn a language there too! Some of my favorite Instagram pages that can help you learn French are:
Books and YouTube channels will help you improve reading, writing and speaking but one very important skill is missing: speaking! Being a grammar expert will not automatically give you the ability to speak fluently to people in a real-life situation.
A very convenient way to practice speaking a language without having to travel to the country itself is by taking lessons online, for instance through Skype. I have taught for many companies and platforms in the last ten years and my absolute favorite are:
(Lingoda only offers French, English, Spanish and German though). What I love about Verbaplanet, preply and italki is that you can choose your own teacher based on the teacher’s background and expertise. If you cannot spend that much for private lessons, you will definitely find a teacher with possibly a little less experience who doesn't charge as much as the other high-profile teachers on the sites. You can define your own schedule and even book classes with several teachers which gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility.
Last but not least, language exchanges are a fun and cheap way to practice French. You sign up on a language exchange site and have immediate access to people from all over the world who are also looking to improve their language skills. So let's say you are a native English speaker and you want to practice your French. You could practice your French with a person from France or Quebec for instance who in return is trying to learn English. You can meet up in person or on Skype or FaceTime. I always spoke to my language exchange partners in German for 30 minutes and then we switched to French for another 30 minutes. Each partners gets to practice their language and also help the other person practice his. It's awesome!
My favorite websites are: