Interested in learning French?
For English-speakers, French is the first foreign language we are usually exposed to, and once we, as little kids, get over the fact that the French for “yes” sounds like “wee”, it is also the one that often sticks in our heads the most.
Sadly, our grasp of French diminishes once we leave our school studies behind, and we have to resort to watching the Trois Couleurs trilogy with the subtitles on. Despite this, it is never too late to either brush up on your French or learn to speak French from scratch. There are over 200 million French-speakers on the planet, so the chances are that one day you will bump into one of them. French is the language of culture, of fashion, cooking and theatre. It’s a language that opens up an otherwise closed section of the International job market, and is a language for travel, as France endures more visiting tourists (at over 70 millon) than any other country.
French is also the only other language asides from English that is taught in every country in the world, so, if you fancy brushing up on your gallic tongue, here is a run down of the top ten sites that will allow you to do just that.
Once again, the mighty Beeb comes out on top. Although their French-learning resources do not seem to have been updated for a while, there’s still enough in terms of lessons to get you going and keep you running. There are sections for both young children and adult learners, and a dedicated section for those studying French as part of their school studies. If you want to progress your studies beyond the web, the BBC’s site will help you find a nearby French class.
The learning resources offered by About.com are two-fold; firstly the extensive range of learning materials, and secondly the marvellous forums where a student can connect with people in the same boat as themselves for support and advice. The site has a range of lessons for all abilities, from beginners all the way through to advance. The invaluable audio lab contains over 2,500+ audio files, which will no doubt help with pronunciation.
Busuu offers a different approach to language learning, and is completely free. At the moment it offers a dozen languages, including French. Once you become a member you have your own personal learning area, which includes writing exercises and vocabulary training. The real buzz about Busuu though is its extensive online community, which contains more than 30 million users worldwide. This enables you to get in touch with someone who is a native speaker in French and who is learning English so you can each test your progress by attempting to communicate with the other.
Live Mocha is another free site that takes and applies the Whole-Part-Whole learning approach. A language is learnt first by hearing native speakers talk about real-life settings and experiences, then de-constructing what has just been heard, then practising using the examples that have just been learnt. This acts as a building block to vocabulary and understanding, and certainly sounds more fun and effective than sitting in a dusty classroom.
Babel eschews traditional French-learning techniques in favour of state-of-the-art interactive courses that are taken online, and promises to improve your grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation abilities in record time. As well as speedy progress, the site promises your learning experience will be enjoyable. Before you can register you have to take an easy test of your existing knowledge so you begin your learning journey in the right place.
Memrise is an online site that uses the old flash-card method of memory-tuning, as well as many other tricks. This method helps you build vivid memories by using mnemonics, plus amusing images, animations and photos. These images and photos have been created by users of the site, and you can even contribute images and photos of your own.
ielanguages (the ie in this case stands for indo-european, and not Internet Explorer) offers free learning resources that have been contributed by volunteers who have taken it upon themselves to share their own learning experiences and expertise. Learning is done via downloadable texts, videos and podcasts. There is also a complete French Language tutorial on offer, downloadable for $14.95 or a print version for $29.95.
An archaic-looking site which seems to have been invaded by advertising, all the lessons on this site are guaranteed to be free, and promise to cater for many levels of expertise, from beginner to expert. You can watch a series of videos that show you native speakers talking about casual situations, or simple practise your grammatical understanding. If you want to get serious, you can try some of the site’s fiendish test exercises.
Not strictly a language tutorial site, the Mixxer is a free site dedicated to language learners from all over the globe. The idea is simple – if you want to learn French, and your native language is English, the Mixxer will put you in touch with someone whose native langauge is French, and wants to learn how to speak English. You then teach your teacher how to speak English (usually via Skype), whilst your teacher teaches you how to speak French.
A site dedicated purely to beginner and intermediate French-learners, this site has a few options, and boasts nearly a quarter of a million users across 227 countries. The standard version will teach you the basics over 160 tutorial pages and 200 audio files, whilst the deluxe edition, which is available for a small donation, will give you access to the support forums and a series of exams that allows a student to evaluate their learning.