Looking to learn French? Here are all the resources I’m using to go beyond the textbook and *actually* speak French. Enjoy!
Every year in search of a “New year, new me” — we make resolutions.
Now, whether we keep them or not is a different story (I’m 50/50) but after the events of 2020, I needed something. Something to keep my mind off all the lockdowns and elections and chaos, something that would satisfy my travel-loving brain, I needed to dream of traveling to France.
You see, my romance with this country started painfully typically, with a trip to Paris.
Me and my boyfriend at the time took the Eurorail from London to the capital and it was literally everything I’d ever dreamed of….minus the fact…that I didn’t speak French.
Perhaps in other countries, you can simply get by with friendly smiles and some body language, but in France, it made me feel ostracized.
There were no spontaneous conversations, no small talk with the waiter, I couldn’t even give compliments. And it was all my fault, for I decided to travel for France, without knowing a word of French — and it’s never a country’s responsibility to speak English for you.
So, I decided in 2021 my New Year’s resolution was to learn French. But I didn’t just want to study for the fun of it. One month in, here’s how I’m learning to *actually* speak French, to travel back to Paris, and finally have all those conversations I wish I had.
Why I joined Babbel….then applied for a refund
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know my French journey started with downloading Babbel and using it daily.
With a New Year’s Deal for £50 a year I was keen to make it work. But as a polyglot follower of mine quickly pointed out, you can only learn, through speaking.
By week 2 I was majorly disappointed with my progress. Because like with any language app, I wasn’t speaking French. Sure, I had memorized some vocab and could “talk” back to the app during some exercises, but any interaction with a real French person and I was lost for words…everytime.
I may go back to app-based language learning, but only as a supplement (like using it on my daily commute) but for now…
How I’m Really Learning French so Fast
A couple days ago I tried speaking completely in French on my Instagram and got some really good feedback from native French speakers!
Despite all the apps in the world, I don’t think I could have gotten this far in this little time without language lessons. Introducing, Lingoda.
But, what I neglected to realize was that I was living in China (and Thailand surrounded by native Mandarin speakers) the whole time. I had an unfair advantage, and it made me learn fast.
Within 6 months I could have a long small talk conversation with native speakers and express opinions and ideas. But that’s because I was speaking Mandarin everyday, not as a hobby, but a necessity. If I wanted human connection, I needed to speak their language.
And so I realized I couldn’t learn French on my own. I needed to create an environment in my life that forced me to speak French daily, and then I found Lingoda.
They follow the European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) designed to take you from A1 (my current level) to C1 mastery level. Once you pass each level you’ll get an official certification that you can use for your work, school, or even a visa application!
The best part is all their classes are capped at 3-5 students, so the experience is super intimate and you’re often learning with people from around the world.
I’ve spent my mornings in London learning about conjugations with a Parisian woman and Swiss classmates, reading French stories with Americans with a man from Cameroon living in the South of France, and laughingly stumbling over numbers with a French guy who assured me that French numbers are indeed, “très compliqué”.
But the best part about this company is they’re determined to make sure everyone that uses the platform ends up actually speaking the language, which is why they came up with the Lingoda language sprint.
The Lingoda Sprint
Designed to get you comfortable in any language within 3 months the Lingoda Sprint offers a 100% (yes 100%) refund to students that complete 30 classes a month for three months or a 50% refund if you take 15 classes a month for three months.
This is because science (and life) proves consistency is the best way to do anything, and Lingoda knows it too. Talking and learning new phrases all the time will inevitably create that French-speaking environment you need to take you to the next level.
Now unfortunately for me, I joined a bit too late to join this round of the sprint, but I loved my free trial and the platform so much I ended up paying for it anyway, and I’ll still get cashback if I attend 90% of my classes in 3 months (but you can do month by month do).
If you’re serious about learning French, I highly suggest testing it for free to see what you think. You get to take 3 classes of choice at any time and if you like it after that you can use my super-duper special code, ‘CANDACE1’ to get 20 euros off your first month.
But outside of the classroom, you’ll still want to create that French environment we’ve been talking about. So here’s how I’ve been supplementing my classes, and how you can too.
Set a Timeline
By the end of the year I want to be able to travel to Paris and not speak a word of English.
Assuming I’m navigating travel, conversations, and reading signage by myself, that means I need to be somewhere around B1-B2. As I’m starting at A1, that means every 3 months I’ll need to progress a level (the CEFR levels are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2).
Setting a clear timeline is the first step to staying committed to your French journey. So grab some paper, set a goal, and put it somewhere you’re forced to see every day so you stick to it!
P.S – You can keep up with my weekly progress on my Instagram stories!
Get Some Instagram Accountability
When I decided to take my French learning seriously, I knew I needed some accountability, of the Instagram variety. Because the human condition makes us 99% more likely to do something….when people know about it.
On January 1st I posted a couple of stories telling my audience I planned to learn how to speak French (and belly dance…still on the back burner for now). Every week I’ve been sharing my progress, what I’m learning, and it’s going great!
Not only has this helped me connect with like-minded language learners, but I’ve met dozens of French speakers offering to help me with speaking practice, and of course, I’m held accountable!
Even if I wanted to quit I’ve gotten too many DM’s from other French learners excited for my journey (and their own) to turn back.
So if you’re struggling with staying accountable for your language learning, let social media know about your goals, post your progress weekly, and hold yourself accountable.
Harness the Power of the Post-it
It’s pretty hard to keep French out of your life if you’re passing it everyday. Harness the power of the post-it and stick French vocab around your bedroom, bathroom and anywhere you spend the most time in your house.
Many of us are still stuck at home, meaning you’re bound to pass new vocab every day. I tend to write sentences and words that relate to the items, room, and what I’ll be doing in it. For example:
This not only helps you get comfortable with new vocab, but you’re subconsciously reinforcing the language everyday which can eventually help you think in French too!
P.S – If you want to go a step further, learn about the Roman Room study method for vocab memorization.
Talk to Yourself…and Alexa
Before you call me crazy, hear me out. We all talk to ourselves, so why not do it in French? Talking about what my schedule is for the day outloud in French helps me effortlessly include the language into my daily routine, and learn some new vocab everyday!
But of course, when you’re first learning (like me) you don’t know many sentences, which is where Alexa comes in.
Now, of course, this would first require you to have an Alexa device or some virtual assistant AI. But if you do, you can easily use Alexa to translate absolutely anything you want to say in French. For example, in the mornings I’ll say:
“Alexa, how do you say “I’m getting ready for work now!” in French?”
“I’m getting ready for work now!” in French is “Je me prépare pour le travail maintenant”
I’ll admit, I wasn’t all too keen to start my days talking to a robot. But for French, it’s worth it. I also love to journal daily, so I’ve considered starting a new diary where I solely write in French, but baby steps, baby steps.
P.S – I haven’t tried it yet, but you can also set your phone setting to French for added daily exposure!
Make French Podcasts Your New Background Music
Anyone that knows me knows I love podcasts. I listen to at least 1-2 a day so deciding to mix what I already loved with a new language, just made sense. Outside of speaking, listening to podcasts even passively is bound to help you with your French journey. So here are some podcast recommendations:
Coffee Break French
The title says it all. Teaching bite-size French lessons you can do within a coffee break, the host Mark is a Scottish man with surprisingly good French and super accessible lessons.
The episodes go from beginner level all the way to advanced so you could easily listen to 1-2 episodes a day and work your way up! I usually listen to this while I’m making breakfast and try to use the vocab in my class or with a French speaker within the same day.
One Thing In A French Day
If you like more conversational type podcasts you’ll love ‘One Thing in a French Day’.
It’s hosted by a French woman named Laetitia, talking about her daily life, in French! If that sounds mundane, that’s because it is, but think of it like a vlog for your ears.
You’ll hear about her life, what tv shows she’s watching, and general random chit-chat. But I like this one because if you think about it, most of your conversations with French speakers will just consist of talking about your daily life anyway — so it’s great practice.
News in Slow French
Sharing the top headlines in slo-mo ‘News in Slow French’ is a great way to pick up some vocabulary you wouldn’t hear otherwise. I’ll admit, at my stage, it’s a bit too advanced for me. But following along with the transcripts or playing it in the background of my daily routine really helps with my listening skills.
Apparently there’s a paid version that gives you access all episodes, but I just use the free ones. It’s also really interesting to hear news about your home country from a foreign perspective.
I’ve also listened to French Conversations with Natalie and loved it — just wish she published more episodes!
P.S – I’m still on the hunt for more French podcasts, so if you find any good ones, let me know on the gram 🙂
Read Books About France
There’s something about reading that transports you to another world — France included! Learning about French culture through stories can not only inspire your future trip; but give you a first-hand account on what life is actually like there.
Although I’m nowhere near being able to read books in French, reading about France has kept my language learning motivation high.
Here are my favorite French books (mostly about Paris):
I listened to an episode of Lindsey Tramata talking about how the image of “Parisienne woman” is skewed in society thanks to the media.
Her book, The New Parisienne interviews dozens of women throughout Paris shedding light on the true diversity of the Parisienne woman. I fell in love with reading all their stories and it’s definitely given me a deeper appreciation for Paris altogether.
Following the story of an African-American woman venturing to Paris to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer, Shay Youngblood’s award-winning novel ‘Black Girl in Paris‘ will make you feel like you’ve transported to France yourself. If you like coming of age stories and travel, you’ll love this book.
Dreaming of smelling warm baguettes, crisp vegetables, and foreign cheeses immediately made me book hungry for a read on French markets, that’s when I found Markets of Paris! This travel book guides you through every nook and cranny of the Parisian market scene. Plus, it’s pocket size, meaning you can take it on your market adventures IRL!
The famous American chef, Julia Child was also an author — writing dozens of books about the art of French cuisine and her life abroad. Reading about her life in France makes me feel like I’ve just taken a trip myself, and the way she describes food will leave you drooling.
If you prefer pictures to words you’ll be enthralled with Serge Ramelli’s ‘Paris’. A coffee table book bursting with vibrant postcard pictures of Paris — it only takes the flip of a page to fall so in love with the details of Paris you want nothing more than to speak French — ASAP!
Read More: 8 Must-Read London Travel Books
Watching Kids Cartoons
Assuming you know as much French as I did a month ago, you probably speak French, like a child. That’s not an insult, it’s a good thing! Because like me, that means you can take advantage of all the cartoons France has to offer.
Since kid’s shows are aimed at young learners you’ll be able to follow plots easily, learn basic sentence patterns and gain some vital everyday vocabulary. I personally love watching Peppa Pig in French. But some other favorites include:
Watch French Movies
Ah, onto French movies. In all honesty, I think this is where my interest in French started. Because anyone who watches French films knows there’s something different about them.
For me, they seem to be a lot deeper and more realistic than many of the American movies I’d watch growing up. Not to mention the characters often have way more depth and character development.
I’ll admit, I don’t count watching French movies as studying (and neither should you) but it’s a great way to add some more French into your routine. Here are a few of my favorite French (and French based) films:
A classic tale about a whimsical woman named Amélie and her imaginative journeys through Paris.
Paris Je T’aime
An ensemble film taking you behind the lives of several Parisians through the neighborhoods of Paris
Hors de Prix
The story of a young woman that cons her way into a life of luxury in the South of France.
A charming story about a woman that opens a chocolate shop in a conversative French village…featuring young Johnny Depp.
A French-Spanish film about an Erasmus student spending a year in Barcelona.
I Am Not an Easy Man
A rom-com about a sexist French man that wakes up to reversed gender roles, it’s hilarious.
A coming-of-age story about a teenager growing up in gritty Paris.
Find Language Partners on Hello Talk
How do I describe Hello Talk? Think of it as a matchmaking app for language learners. Just pop in your native and target language and voila, you’re instantly matched with locals wanting to learn your language too, and it’s free!
Be sure to match with a language partner at the same level as you or you’ll end up doing all the teaching. And as a general rule of thumb (and human decency) don’t just become friends with someone for the purpose of learning a language. That’s called a tutor.
Connect with people who share at some common interests with you (outside of the language barrier) and you’re good to go.
Through Hello Talk I was able to connect with a lovely French woman from Créteil and we’re setting up our first Zoom call this week!
Follow French Content Creators
Whether we admit it or not social media is very much apart of our everyday lives. And if you want French to be too, follow French creators on Instagram! Watching their stories and getting a feel for daily French life will be constant motivation to keep learning. But I mainly stick to 3…
A 10+ year expat in Paris, fashion maven, and CEO of the travel platform My Parisian Life Yanique’s love of the city shows — helping her followers have local Parisian experiences and doing it all with class and style. You can follow Yanique on Instagram here and read her blog here.
A British girl from the countryside turned daily Parisian, Solo Sophie posts tons of daily stories taking you on the streets of Paris and sharing her French adventures. She also has a super popular travel blog about France called Solo Sophie. You can follow Sophie on Instagram here and read her blog here.
I passed Wongguy’s photography on my feed one day and have been in love with his Instagram ever since. He’s got a special knack for urban and travel photography, so if you want some French eye-candy every day, give him a follow.
P.S – Starting to get a little embarrassed at how much I’m talking about Paris, I love the rest of France too I swear!
Find Your Favorite French Youtuber
If you want to speak French like a textbook, more power to you. But for the rest of us, start watching French Youtubers.
Not only can you tailor it to your interests, but as they’re often younger, you’ll learn the most up-to-date slang and hot topics in France, all through watching Youtube!
A no-fluff French teacher with tons of free lessons and grammar points.
A French woman living in Australia with weekly lessons ranging from French culture to conversation practice.
An ensemble of French women sharing digestible French lessons and tons of street interviews with Parisians!
A fun and relatable French teacher taking you on her travels and teaching you the language in a super accessible way.
For Vlogs & Lifestyle
A lifestyle Youtuber making videos on a range of interesting life topics like veganism, travel, and female empowerment.
A French expat in the US with tons of entertaining vlogs and beauty videos.
A funny fitness Youtube with a bunch of workout videos and vlogs.
A personal development Youtuber exploring life hacks with really interesting interviews!
A super popular French comedy Youtuber (great for understanding French humor)
Bonus: Damon and Jo
Okay, so they’re not *technically* French YouTubers, but there’s something extremely motivating about watching other foreigners speak the language you want to speak. The “I can do it do” feeling arises and makes you want to study ASAP. Plus I love following Damon’s scandalous adventures in Paris.
Listen to French Music
Ever wonder why you can memorize song lyrics from 2003 but not what you had for dinner last night? That’s because the connection between music and memory is strong.
This makes listening to French music the perfect excuse to jam out and get some retention in the process. Sometimes I’ll even take my Lingoda lessons and turn what I learned into a song for memory (although I’ll spare your ears from listening to them).
There’s so many French tunes beyond La Vie en rose, so here’s my favorite French playlists to get you moving and a groovin:
And be sure to check out these French artists:
Remember, Consistency & Confidence
Learning Mandarin taught me a lot of lessons, but the biggest one was that nothing beats daily practice.
There’s a great book called The Compound Effect that talks about this in detail, but it basically alludes to the fact that true success can only come from doing something small every day, and having it add up over time.
I’ll admit, this is much easier said than done. But when you get clear about your goals for learning French, discipline comes in, along with a daily reminder to get back to the books.
And lastly, to learn French, you’ll need confidence.
Because sorry to say, but if you’re choosing to learn French, it’s not going to be perfect.
You’ll mispronounce words, stumble on grammar points and say the wrong gender noun (the struggle is real) all the time. But this is also where you learn to laugh at yourself. Because making mistakes is the biggest part of language learning…and life!
Considering the fact I’m only one month into my French journey with the vocab of a 3-year old, I probably shouldn’t be saying this with such confidence. But I know that as long as I stay consistent and confident, I’ll achieve any level of French I set my eye on — and you can too!
From being taught by natives, binging French Youtubers and sowing the language into your daily life, learning French won’t just become a hobby, it’ll become a lifestyle. One that lets you connect with locals, travel through France like you live there, and have the kind conversations I wish I had back in Paris.
If you liked this post be sure to keep up with my French journey on Instagram @candaceabroad and let me know how your French journey is going in the comments!