Learn French For Free: Best Resources

Free resources can only be considered a complement to organized lessons

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Free doesn't always mean good. While you may pay nothing, the provider is probably making a healthy sum on backend agreements. Do "learn French for free" providers offer quality products? Let's take a look at this world to see if it's worth the beginner's time. 

First a caveat: There are a lot of good free resources for advanced speakers of French. Here, we're concentrating on free resources available for the beginning student of French.

Free Phone/Skype Conversation Exchanges

Many sites offering language conversation exchange are thriving. This is a great resource for advanced speakers who want to speak regularly to a real person. Unfortunately for beginners, it has its limits: The person on the other end of the line is not a teacher. He or she cannot explain your mistakes and will probably not be able to adapt his or her French to your beginner level. This might damage your confidence, making you feel you cannot speak French, when in reality, with encouragement and a structured program, you can.

Free Podcasts, Blogs, YouTube Videos 

Podcasts and videos are a fantastic way to improve your French, but they are only as good as the person who makes them. It's easy to get lost in the fun of jumping from link to link, then forget you are there to learn French. So always make sure you work with a resource that's appropriate to your level, and as with any audio, make sure the speaker has the accent you want to learn.

In other words, is this a native French speaker from France, Canada, Senegal or what? Keep in mind that there are many different French accents out there, so don't be fooled. Also, beware of well-intentioned English speakers who try to teach French pronunciation.

Free Online French Lessons

Today, with all the language learning sites, you are inundated with information and free online lessons.

Accessing the info is no longer a problem. What is a problem is organizing it and explaining the content in a simple, clear manner. A good teacher with a good method should help you organize your thoughts, guide you step-by-step through a proven learning path and always make sure you master each step before you move on to the next. So providing the information is only half the teacher's work.
So be smart. Find a good website. And then invest in an audio method, a group class or private lessons to guide you along a logical learning path.

Free French Literature

French literature is just too difficult for most true beginners. Even the beautiful but over-recommended "le Petit Prince" can be a handful. Do you think that, for instance, "Aussi absurde que cela me semblât à mille milles de tous les endroits habités" is a beginner's sentence? It's less difficult than other French literature books, but it's still not appropriate for a beginner. There are more useful tenses and vocabulary to concentrate on at that stage.

French Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Movies

These fall into the category of have fun with French, not study French. Learning French with level-appropriate tools is essential, and there is a real danger that the wrong materials will damage your emerging self-confidence as a student of the French language.

Even the fantastic "Journal en Français Facile" of Radio France Internationale is too difficult for true beginners. Instead, beginners would do well to listen to French songs and learn a few lyrics by heart, watch French movies with subtitles, grab a French magazine and get a taste of the latest popular written language. It's great to have fun with the French-related things around you, but they can't be considered serious learning tools for beginners.

For Best Results, You'll Need to Invest in Organized Lessons

In summary, it is possible to learn a lot of French for free if one is well organized, has a solid knowledge of French grammar and follows a well-thought-out course plan. But all these free resources can only be considered a worthwhile complement to organized lessons, and ultimately, most people need guidance from a professional to organize a course plan that works.

Most students will need to invest at least some money in a French learning program. This could take the form of French classes, tutors and immersion programs. After students reach a certain level of proficiency, self-study might be an option. At that point, students will be looking for the best resources to self-study French. Follow the links in this paragraph for detailed information on all of these points.