For the third year running Duolingo features in our top 10 ways to learn French. It’s motivating, well resourced and it’s constantly adding in new methods and variety. Our students like the repetition, the stories and pronunciation exercises. This is a must for anyone at The French Room Levels 1 – 3, who wants to do extra practise outside of classes.
Stories are a great way to learn anything and are particularly helpful for memorising new words and understanding why sentences are ordered a particular way. Book Box French is one example of a youtube channel that uses children’s stories to teach French. They are fairly slow, have great subtitles and the stories are enjoyable to listen to.
The Mr Men books are still a favourite of ours. There are so many ways you can enjoy learning with these stories. There’s the obvious one of new expressive vocab that you might not come across by any other means, but even more useful than that is the way you can see how verbs are used in a repetitive and usually funny story. An average Mr Man story is half a side of A4 so reading 1 a week is very doable!
Coffee Break French comes highly recommended from a number of our students. There are a huge range of high quality French podcasts out there and if you can find one that you would enjoy listening to for just 5 minutes a day, you would no doubt see the results not only in your listening skills but also in your pronunciation.
Once you reach Level 3 and above at The French Room, you’ll start finding the 1 o’clock news on TF1-13h pretty easy to follow. The more you watch it, the more you will find that the same phrases are used over and over again. The topics rarely stray from markets, food and cooking, museums and all things relating to seasons and festivals. It’s a charming way to get an insight into this side of French culture and is fairly accessible to all levels of a French learner.
For students at level 4 and above, you’ll probably be looking for something a little more stretching. You might want to delve into language for specific situations, hear more of a variety of registers, such as very familiar language vs academic language, and look more for implied meaning. We would recommend these RTL podcasts in order of difficulty; “on est fait pour s’entendre”, “ca peut vous arriver”, “on refait le monde”, “les grosses tetes”. RFI is another online radio station that is good for stepping up your listening skills and includes a podcast called “Francais facile” for current affairs.
Watching French TV dramas with or without subtitles is a pleasure even when you’ve only just started out with the language. At the beginning you might only be able to pick out the odd word, but as you understand more and more you can feel really proud of your progress.
Channel 4 usually has several French series available from Walter Presents. BBC Iplayer often shows box sets of series such as “Spiral” and Netflix and Now TV have plenty of French films and programmes available. Failing that you could even get a VPN and watch French TV live!
TV5 Monde Apprendre Le Francais is a useful site, although it is a little dated and difficult to navigate. The Totem series is good to watch when you are first starting out and the higher level videos and quizzes can be interesting. Our favourite feature of the site, though, is “Merci Professeur”. This is a short 2-3 minute look at where words come from, why they are used backed up with some little known facts about them. If you are really interested in words this is the podcast for you.
Going to France is obviously going to make a massive difference to how you use the language. People who manage to get to France 2 or 3 times a year really get the benefit of seeing their progression in action and tend to find they develop a stronger emotional connection with the language. This makes sense and it doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. A day trip to Calais or Lille, or a quick nip across on a cheap deal with Ryanair or Easyjet could be just enough to make the difference.
Come to a group class and have a go! Languages are based on grammar rules and the accumulation and memorisation of words, but nothing beats actually using it. At a group class you get plenty of opportunity to try out your skills, receive helpful feedback on pronunciation and mistakes and the enjoyment of putting all that hard work into real practice.