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How to Learn French Online as a Beginner

Whether you are learning French or any other language, the formula is the same.

During years of learning foreign languages, I have developed my own learning process, which features the following stages :

  1. Grammar & Vocabulary
  2. Exposure
  3. Repetition

While focusing on online resources for learning French, this article will follow this formula and explain each of the steps.

Getting to Know the Map

#1 Grammar & Vocabulary - Getting to Know the Map

Getting Started With Vocabulary

The first step in language learning is to get familiar with the words and the grammar. For me, learning a new language from scratch means spending a lot of time on Memrise, which is a great tool for learning vocabulary (for beginners).

Vocabulary is best learned in context. As a beginner, however, it is difficult to do so because you first have to understand the language to get the context. For this reason, apps like Memrise or flashcards can be useful as a crutch. As soon as you can learn from context though, I would recommend you do as suggested in part #3.

Getting Started With Grammar

Getting Started With Grammar

Once I know a few basic words, I generally look into a few basic grammar rules. Notice that this step does not involve trying to learn by heart. Here, we're just discovering aspects of the language.

Although this article is exclusively focused on online material, I still recommend that you get a grammar book. Still, if you're more adventurous (like I am), there's nothing wrong with skipping the books and learn on the web.

If you're a hardcore learner, you can read the wikipedia page for French grammar. If not (99.99% of us), you will do better with the wikibooks version. This is a simple introduction to French that covers the alphabet, the grammar and vocabulary items.

harpening the Saw

Sharpening the Saw

Great learning comes with action (if that's a motto that talks to you, you'll be happy with part #3).

You'll probably need exercises to consolidate your knowledge of French. I stumbled upon this website which provides various grammar exercises.

A more popular recommendation would be to use Duolingo (in moderation) and/or Babbel (not free).

Useful Resources

French has a tricky grammar and verb inflections. This resource allows you to type in a verb and inflect it automatically in all the tenses.

Also, you'll probably need this dummies cheatsheet for verbs (this is to be consulted when needed, not to be learned by heart).

Explore the Territory

#2 Exposure - Explore the Territory

I like to picture grammar as the "map" for a language. Well, we all know that the map is not the territory. It is merely an approximation, whereas the territory is full of details and subtleties you can only assimilate through experience.

That's where exposure comes in. The idea behind it is to reinforce what you've learned formally through real-word experience, that is face-to-face conversations, videos and books.

Exposure is a double process. On the one hand, there is "passive exposure" (listening, reading, etc.) and on the other, there is "active exposure" (writing and speaking). Part #2 will cover the first one and part #3 the second.

In this previous article, I've already covered how to learn French for free. In the present article, I will focus on the online and beginner part.

Reading

Reading

There are unlimited ways you can read in French. As a beginner, however, it can be a challenge to get started. By nature, most of the content is designed for adults, that is people mastering the language. Plus, most people don't want to hear about children's books.

The good news is that I found out an innovative way to start reading in a new language (and online!). That is Lingq, an app or website which allows the reader to instantaneously check for the meaning of individual words in a text. Lingq is, in my opinion, the best tool for reading in a foreign language. This is especially true for widely learned languages such as French, because there is content available for every level. Plus, you have the option to add in your own content.

Alternatively, I would recommend Readlang (only if you use a computer - I don't find it flexible on mobile).

Videos

Video is the medium that is closest to real life. It is therefore a powerful tool for learning. Again, the amount of material is infinite.

If you're an amateur of French movies, you could check out The 100 Best French Films of All Time. I always like to watch movies in the original language with the subtitles in the same language to train my ear - but it can be tough if you're a beginner. Starting with the subtitles in your native language is enough.

Another resource, of course, is YouTube. I recommend you get started by watching videos in the Easy French playlist which features subtitled videos in French where the hosts interview people on the street on various topics.

Again, content that you're interested in (or even passionate about) will have learn more effectively.

Time for Some Action

#3 Repeat - Time for Some Action

Part #2 of the article dealt with passive exposure. I will now introduce you to active practice.

One way you can start right now is to find a partner online, which I describe how to do in this article.

Friends

Having friends is one of the most powerful ways to learn a language. Friends who are native speakers of French will motivate you to learn.

In addition, friends are also a good way to practice because your interaction with them involves no pressure. In this The Ultimate Guide to French Pronunciation, I wrote in detail how to get better at conversations in a foreign language.

If you don't have any friends who speak French, no worries. The article mentioned above will help you to either (1) find a language partner and/or (2) find out how to get the most of out your interactions.

Traveling

Traveling

Traveling is what people first think of when it comes to language learning. While it is the most glamorous of the language learning techniques, it is also the most difficult to put into practice, as most people are not able to travel easily.

To keep this article as short as possible, I will not extend on traveling. If you're interested in this topic, I highly recommend you read this recent article.

Feedback - the Leftout Variable

All types of learning involve feedback. The downside of learning French online, is that you won't easily find personalized feedback.

Hopefully, Speechling provides just that. Our dedicated professional coaches will help you improve your pronunciation. All you have to do is provide private recordings of you reading French sentences. We guarantee helpful and objective feedback!

Want to sound native faster?

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Mica Ménard

Mica Ménard

Dedicated language learner, I've taught myself English, Turkish, German and Italian and am still learning more! Also a native speaker of French. Making language learning fun and easy is my mission.

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