Most of us have a moment in our lives, when we’re obsessed by a foreign culture, which captures our imagination. The New Wave era of French cinema was my such moment. It fired up a strong desire to speak the language of the artist, to form a personal opinion on the work instead of relying on someone else’s interpretation. Back in the day I could not have imagined that some few years later I would be studying book publishing in the Sorbonne, in the heart of the French capital.
Fast forward to today: it took me 4 years in total to master French at a level, where I can study and work in the language with no difficulty. This article is dedicated to various resources I have personally used in my journey and continue to refer to today.
Some basics to kick off:
- For assimilating new information: determine what kind of aides (visual or auditory) work best in your case and choose learning material accordingly.
- For motivation: outline clearly the reason for which you’re studying the language. And remind yourself of this every time you are inclined to slack off study time.
- For boosted efficacy: switch your life to French. Phone menu, series downloads, radio, news – all of these should now be in French mode.
Alliance Française and Institut Français
Their mission is to promote French culture worldwide, which means they have offices in numerous locations around the globe. Alliance Française is the language school, which has a French speaking club that is constructed on the principle of maximum practice (versus the memorization of grammar rules). The Institut organizes various live events, like round table debates, movie screenings, and exhibitions. The cherry on the cake is the médiathèque (present on the site of many of the local affiliate offices), which is a treasure chest of various French materials you can borrow for personal use. Magazines, newspapers, movies, and books!
A yearly membership with access to the online portal Culturethèque costs 10 euros and is most definitely worth it if you plan an intensive immersion.
During my holidays in Cambodia, I sought shelter from the days’ heat peaks in the local médiathèque. Funny how you can take a little bit of France with you anywhere you go!
For the closest locations to you, click here:
A stay with a host family
I spent a semester in Vichy, living with a French family (the logistics of my stay was handled by Alliance Française). At the beginning, my level of French did not allow for much vocal conversation and I had to resort to hand gestures for communication. Two months in, and I was able to appreciate jokes over the dinner table and tell my host family about my day. Being exposed to French on a daily basis was an important training exercise that I recommend to everyone!
The online platform ProfParticulier connects teachers and tutors with potential students in many different fields, French and other languages included. Most offer to give classes online for a relatively small fee. It is here that I found my teacher in journalism, who is now also my mentor in all matters concerning academia.
If you run into me somewhere in a supermarket or in the public transport, you are very likely to find me looking very serious and pensive. Let me explain: I am continuously listing to various podcasts instead of music. Here are my favourites, which are of enormous help in continuing to expose myself to spoken French, even when I am abroad.
- Français avec Pierre: dedicated to grammar for beginners with easy to remember examples. This guy also has his own website with lots of useful video materials.
- Coffee Break French, Learn French: 2 other alternatives for improving your grammar.
- ARTE: this one is a long-standing favourite and deserves a special mention. Its authors can transform a speech on macro-level issues into a theatrical performance, which you cannot pull away from. By the way, check out their website and YouTube channel for a large selection of documentaries, mini-series and movies.
- La Poudre: created by the former editor-in-chief of ELLE France, this is a woman for women channel with interviews of inspiring French female figures, like Garance Doré.
- France Culture: suitable for a level starting from upper intermediate, here you can listen to famous academics from the top French institutions, like Collège de France.
- France Inter: from one of the country’s most famous radio stations. Here it is all about politics and burning societal issues. But in spite of what you may think, the presenters keep a light hearted tone and a positive mood. Along with a very speedy speech, which means you need an advanced level to follow well.
Many of you may have already heard of the great classics: LaRousse, Petit Robert, and maybe even the Bescherelle. I too started off with those manuals. Here is a list of other great resources I came across:
- Le petit Grevisse: the bible and best investment for anyone who is studying French.
- Le Bon Patron: for proof-reading.
- Français Authentique and Regles de l’Orthographe: for grammar practice.
- Prononciation des Voyelles: do not mind the poor visual execution. This is a great find to practice your prononciation!
And some with a little humourous twist:
- Golden Moustache
- What The Fuck France: a Brit who mocks the cliché French traditions and serves culture in a non-boring way.
We all spend hours on Instagram, so why not use the platform to enrich your vocabulary with some new words every day while scrolling the feed?
Because lyrics too can teach you some useful spoken speech!
- The Pirouettes
- La Femme
- Juliette Armanet
I hope this list was useful and inspired you to get started or simply pick up from where you have left your last French class.
Share with us your comments, other favourite resources, and do not hesitate to ask for advice. Our entire team’s personal experience in this field is up for grabs!