What is the best way to learn French online?
Most people quit learning French because they don’t have a plan… because they don’t have the right tool at the right moment… and because they don’t know which French course, program, software, podcast or app to choose…
But you won’t quit, because on this page, you will find the 5-step process that helped thousands of people to become fluent in French.
Ready? Let’s discover the best way to learn French!
Disclosure: I’m happy to recommend the courses, apps and softwares below to whoever wants to become fluent in French. Some links are affiliate related, but the price stays the same for you. If you buy, I might earn a small commission to run this 100% free website.
In a rush?
Start with something easy!
I recommend you to try the free trials and go with the course you prefer
Many people think the first step is the most difficult. “Where to start?… What if I’m doing it wrong?… How to not lose any time and money?… Will I be fluent in French one day?”
If any of these questions are paralysing you, I have some good news: this step is very easy and fun! All you have to do is to start small to boost your confidence.
By “start small” I mean avoiding heavy theoretical lessons going deep inside grammar rules and exceptions that most French people don’t even know. (True story)
This step will replace your fears with curiosity, confidence and enthusiasm. And you will realise that learning French isn’t that difficult.
Pimsleur French is a course based on oral language and interactive audio lessons. The purpose of the course is to make you listen and speak French right away without bothering yourself with grammar. (Which is precisely what we want for this step!)
It’s easily accessible online and also through their excellent app. They even offer a free trial with full access to all lessons.
The French course contains 5 levels, each one including 30 audio lessons of 30+ minutes. These audio lessons are based on interactive conversations in a real-life situation.
But for me, the real plus of this audio course is the way each lesson are linked and building up upon each other to reinforce the learning. For example, what you learned in previous lessons is indirectly appearing in the next ones within different contexts.
This coherence between lessons will make you able to talk about a broad range of topics once you will complete the entire course.
Note: Be aware that if you want to buy Pimsleur’s software for an unlimited amount of time, it can be very pricey. But don’t worry, they have a much (much) cheaper monthly subscription model, which is only accessible through their app (available for Android and iOS).
Another excellent option is Rocket French’s module “Interactive Audio Course”, which is just a part of the very complete Rocket French software. It’s accessible online and also via their app for Android and iOS.
The full course is well-structured and includes 99 interactive audio lessons lasting 20+ min. And what’s great with Rocket French it’s all the tools included in each audio lesson: you can access dialogues (and even be a part of it!), quizzes, flashcards and much more.
Some games might seem a bit repetitive, but the key is to stick with the ones you prefer. (I enjoyed a lot the “Write it!” module)
You can download the audio lessons for offline use, and each of them comes with a live transcript below the audio player for a better understanding.
By the end of the audio course you will be able to have some simple conversations and to understand some basic French. But above all, you will have fun and become more confident.
Spoiler alert: the real power of Rocket French, as you will see shortly, is that it’s also a great option for the following steps (for learning grammar and vocabulary especially) which make it one of the top options if you want only one French course.
One more option for this step: FrenchPod101. It also comes with an app for iOS and Android, as well as a complete online platform. The course’s structure is very similar to Rocket French.
The course is composed of a huge (I mean: “H-U-G-E”) library of podcasts and videos, each of them includes a detailed lesson script, examples, cultural insights, grammar tips, etc.
You can filter the lessons depending on your level and other criteria for a learning path tailored to your progression! Even though all these possibilities can sometimes make you feel uncertain about what to do next and can cause some frustration compared to more structured courses.
Bonus: FrenchPod101’s lessons have a comment section feature which allows you to ask and see questions from learners just like you. Their teachers answer them frequently, which is very handy when something isn’t clear. (Plot twist: most of the time, your questions have already been answered…)
They have so much content and they offer so many tools it’s impossible to cover everything in few paragraphs. I highly recommend you to try it by yourself.
Duolingo is an option worth mentioning that some people seem to enjoy, but I wouldn’t recommend this app for someone who is serious about learning French. Here is why:
- They have a very shady data policy and a business model based on selling their user’s translations to third parties.
- It’s very limited and suited for beginners only, you’ll need a real French course at some point.
- It won’t make you fluent in French.
That being said, the app is partly free, which is cool! And I like their “streak system” which encourages you to keep using it frequently.
Conclusion: be careful with Duolingo. If you really want to learn French and don’t like what they do with your data, I recommend you one of the previous options.
Summary: for this first step, I recommend you to go with a tool to boost your confidence and start having fun while learning some basic French.
Now, it’s time for the next step…
Let's learn some basic grammar
I recommend you to try the free trials and go with the one you prefer
Now that you completed the first step, it’s time to get familiar with some basic grammar rules. This will consolidate what you learned during step 1 and will lead to tons of “Ahh, that’s why!” moments.
And because grammar is always important, the course you will choose for this step will be a powerful weapon. It will be that wise friend you are referring to when you have an important question.
Often, people see this step as the most boring one and tend to skip it. But it’s important to note that for now, the aim isn’t to be an absolute master in French grammar.
The aim is rather to build a tiny but solid grammar core knowledge that you can build upon. Because in the long term, those who built a grammar core knowledge will become fluent much (much) faster.
Plus, tools like Rocket French and FrenchPod101 made a monumental work turning their grammar course into something easy and fun. You will barely realise you are learning grammar because the knowledge is well diluted and incorporated into their lessons.
Choose your weapon
For example, the full Rocket French course comes with 112 (!!!) “Language and culture lessons” incorporated into your learning path precisely when you need it. Each of them contains everything you have to know about a specific grammar topic.
It’s like a grammar textbook but accessible online whenever you want, with audio examples, voice recognition exercises, flashcards, quizzes and funny cultural notes. Literally everything you need to plant the seed of French grammar into your long-term memory.
FrenchPod101’s grammar course has a very similar structure and would be a great fit for this step too. They also have a ton of very detailed grammar lessons and offer many tools like flashcards and audio examples.
What I like about FrenchPOD 101 is that they allow you to save your own flashcards and to download the pdf version of the lessons.
Alright! Once this step will be completed, you will have good basics in French. That’s generally when you have the classic epiphany: “Wow, I didn’t know any word in French (“baguette” doesn’t count, sorry) few weeks ago and now I understand so many things!”.
Enjoy this amazing feeling, give yourself a highly deserved high-five and get ready for the next step… it’s time to speak French!
Time to take one-on-one private lessons
I recommend you to try the free trials and go with the tool you prefer
The courses we discussed above offer interesting voice recognition exercises, but at some point you must test your speaking skills “for real”. For that, there is only one way: to take online lessons with a tutor.
You might think it’s expensive – truth be told, it used to be – but not anymore! You can now access a personal French teacher for few bucks an hour!
And I highly recommend you to take advantage of this opportunity for several reasons:
Why it's important
- You will speak French for real. Online lessons with a tutor will make you talk more than ever in French. And you will have a live feedback on your knowledge and pronunciation.
- All your questions will find an answer. Think of all these tiny questions you have about French. Yes, the annoying ones that keep frustrating you. It will be the perfect moment to get all the answers.
- You will experience exponential progress. Remember “the core knowledge” we built during the two first steps? It’s now time to use its potential! Having a real-life conversation will stimulate it and will help you to “connect the dots” of everything you’ve learned.
The best options
Back in time, you would have to book a plane ticket to France and wander randomly on the streets, asking desperately strangers to become your exchange partner. (more preferably “language exchange partner” if you want to avoid any misunderstanding…)
But good news! Now we can have the same result much faster, cheaper, at anytime and from anywhere in the world!
The first option is, of course: Italki. This website became famous for being the widest repository of online language tutors. And it’s not limited to French language, in fact they teach languages I’ve never heard about before visiting their website…
I highly recommend this tool for one-on-one lessons online. However, because you have a lot of teachers offering their services, it’s not always easy to find the perfect one according to your needs.
You can filter the teachers by level, certifications, reviews, etc. But still sometimes you might need to try several teachers before finding the one of your dream.
If you prefer having a group class, I recommend you Lingoda. Just like Italki, you can book one-on-one lessons, and they also propose group lessons with students all around the world, which can be a lot of fun too!
It’s the best way to experience something similar to a real classroom with classmates, but online and on demand. The only thing that can sometimes be annoying, is having classmates that have a different level compared to you.
Lastly, if you want a real life immersion into French language and culture, you can always try a physical classroom in a language school. Language International is a great repository of these programs.
And their classes aren’t in France only! They also propose some in USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Mexico and more. You can even filter by city, level, duration, etc.
Upgrade your vocabulary
I recommend you to try the free trials and go with the course you prefer
This step is all about finding the best way to learn new vocabulary and not forget it the very next day. The good news is that Princeton neuroscientists and masters of memorization discovered it for us… and the answer is…
*Drum roll intensifies*
Use flashcards and spaced-repetition
Memrise is probably the best tool existing dedicated to learn new vocabulary. It’s basically a flashcard software based on the spaced-repetition principle, with some useful extra features.
The spaced-repetition algorithm basically do 3 things:
- It teaches you new words
- It helps you to focus on the one you are struggling with
- It reinforces the ones you already know
It’s available online but also through Memrise’s Android and iOS apps. That makes it a great tool to learn new vocabulary on the go or during commutation, for example.
For kids and absolute beginners, Drops can be an option too. Their very visual concept and the “learning is a game” atmosphere make it a great fit for children. But for more intermediate and advanced users, Memrise offers much more possibilities.
For example, online courses like Rocket French and FrenchPOD101 also come with plenty of useful features to learn new vocabulary.
Each of them comes with slow audio, a dialogue example, detailed explanations, synonyms and more… It’s a great tool to learn everything you want about a specific phrase!
To use it, you can simply browse the entire French words repository by using the search bar on this page. And for a more specific search, you can use the category pages, sorted by type of content: phrases, sayings, idioms and quotes.
And guess what? You can even learn French while checking your Instagram and Pinterest feed! For Instagram, you can find daily posts to learn French on @all.french. And for Pinterest, @allaboutfrench has a ton of content that you might want to save (including some useful dialogue flashcards…)
You made it! You reached the very last step of your learning journey! Don’t quit now, you are just too close to become fluent in French. Plus, the last step is probably the coolest one.
Why? Well, because binge-watching is a part of it…
Reading and listening to French
I recommend you to try the free trials and go with the tool you prefer
To reach fluency, you need to keep exposing yourself to the language. The best way to do so is by reading and listening to French as much as you can. This will make you learn new vocabulary, patterns, grammar and will train your ear.
It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself and avoid feeling bad when you don’t understand perfectly a video or a podcast. It’s normal. What is important is to use this frustration to learn actively what you don’t know yet.
But it would be deadly annoying to google every word you don’t know, right? Thankfully, there are online tools available to make this process fast, fun and easy.
Videos, podcasts and news in French
The best tool existing for this step is certainly Yabla.
Yabla is an online platform containing +1500 French videos that you can filter by difficulty and categories. Each video comes with translated interactive subtitles, reading script, games and more cool features.
You can, for example slow down the video from 50% to 75% of the normal speed.
Few alternatives to Yabla:
- For something slower: News in slow French can be an interesting option. They share each week an audio article in slow French with a script that you can follow. Unfortunately, you have to pay for this service, but you still can access the beginning of each article for free.
- If you prefer listening to the radio: Journal en Français facile offers free content for intermediate French learners daily.
- FrenchPOD101 is also a perfect match for this step with their huge catalogue of French videos and podcasts. They are not going as far as Yabla with the interactive subtitles features, but most videos (and podcasts) have subtitles too.
The 5 steps of the French learning process
Step 1: Begin with something fun and easy
Step 2: Discover some basic French grammar
Step 3: Take 1-on-1 lessons with a tutor online
Step 4: Expand your vocabulary
Step 5: Read and listen to French
What's the best online French course?
We saw that learning French is all about having the right tool at the right moment. But what if you absolutely want to go with just one French course? What if you don’t want to pay for several courses/subscriptions?
Answer: you need to choose an exhaustive French course covering the entire learning process.
And after trying intensively the existing online French courses and collecting tons of feedbacks, these 3 courses below appear to be the most complete you can find. They are clearly standing out from the crowd, and you won’t be wrong by choosing one of them.
Bonus: they all have a free-trial, so why not to try them and go with the one you prefer?
Probably the most complete and well-balanced French course you can find online. Rocket French is a web-based software, works for Mac and PC, and has apps for Android and iOS, which includes all features. The full course is composed of:
- 99 Interactive audio lessons: each of them includes 20+ min audio with a live script, an interactive dialogue that you can be a part of, exercises and extra vocabulary. Plus, you can download the audio for offline use.
- 112 Language and culture lessons: in-depth lessons about more complex topics, such as grammar, conjugation, rules and exceptions of the French language. But also about French culture.
- 23 Survival lessons: special lessons about a specific topic. Mostly about something funny or useful like: “Numbers in French”, “Business vocabulary”, “Expressing your feelings”, etc.
- Many additional tools for each lesson: so it’s around 200 sets of flashcards, quizzes, writing exercises, vocabulary lists and a lot of mini games to reinforce what you just learned in each lesson.
Honestly, with a total of 422 hours of lesson time and 8076 phrases with voice recognition for the full course, it’s difficult to find a more exhaustive program…
In addition, I really like that every lesson is a part of a coherent and easy to follow learning pathway. With Rocket French you just sit and follow the course, no need to think about “What to do next?”. You just can’t get lost, and it makes you much more likely to not quit.
Easy to follow. Great for beginners to advanced. Covers the entire learning process. Audio course, grammar course, and cultural insights included. Many useful tools and games. It’s fun. Tons of audio lessons. Buy it once and receive lifetime access and lifetime updates. No subscription fees. Free trial (no credit card needed).
Some mini games can be a bit repetitive sometimes. No videos.
If you want to learn French with podcasts and videos, FrenchPod101 is probably the best option you will find online. They have the largest collection of podcasts and video lessons for French learning that I have ever seen.
Each lesson comes with examples, a script, grammar tips, cultural notes and more. All these tools make each lesson worth it. I also like the comment section where you can interact with other learners and have some of your questions answered.
Just like Rocket French, this course is also web-based and accessible through iOS and Android apps. But with FrenchPod 101, you pay a subscription every month depending on the plan you chose.
That’s why if you plan to use it for more than three months, you better consider Rocket French, which has similar features but is a one-time purchase.
You can filter the lessons by level. Their quantity of content is amazing. Excellent if you like to learn through videos. Lessons for beginners to advanced. The extra tools. The comment section. They have a free trial.
Monthly subscription only (it can become expensive in the long run). There is so much content that you often feel a bit lost, there are just so many possibilities… it can be frustrating compared to more structured courses.
Pimsleur French offers a learning software mostly based on interactive audio lessons. The idea is to make you acquire the language by talking out loud and repeating the words they teach you. It can be a useful tool when you are a total beginner.
The complete course contains 30+ minutes audio lessons which are building upon each other very well. And they also have some useful tools such as flashcards and mini games.
I recommend you to try their free trial and see if it works for you. But what I missed with Pimsleur, is a real grammar course and in-depth content like the one from Rocket French and FrenchPod 101. That’s why, if you want to cover the whole learning process, it’s better to complete it with another tool mentioned before.
Also, be aware that you can either make a one-off purchase of their software (which is quite expensive) or buy a much cheaper monthly subscription. But the last one is (weirdly) only accessible through their app…
Interesting free-trial. Beautiful app. Good for beginners and total beginners. Good for pronunciation. Interesting audio course.
Lack of grammar content. Not suited for advanced learners. Some mini-games don’t provide much value. Quite expensive (especially the one-off purchase).
In my opinion: Rocket French
For me, having such a complete course for a reasonable price is a blessing. Especially because it’s a one-off purchase. You pay once and *boom* it’s done: you have a lifetime access to the whole Rocket French online course with free lifetime updates. Check the free trial and discover it by yourself…