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FrenchPod101 Review – Not Perfect But Offers Good Value

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Quick Review

4.2 

Summary:

If you want to learn French from the comfort of your own house, then Frenchpod101 is definitely a site worth visiting. It is a comprehensive learning tool that has lessons catered to your needs, whether you want to master the language or just learn a few common phrases. With engaging content in all forms of media, though primarily audio, this is a great way to learn the language of love.

Quality

The website is easy to use, but the pathways could be improved.

Thoroughness

This website covers almost everything there is to know about the French language and culture.

Value

A subscription is required, but it offers great value for the money.

Price

If you choose to opt for just a one-month subscription, you’ll end up paying $8, $25, and $47 for the Basic, Premium, and PremiumPLUS plans respectively. There are varying lengths and prices for subscriptions. A two-year subscription costs $4 a month for the Basic plan, $10 per month for Premium, and $23 a month for the PremiumPLUS.

Use the promo code “ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES” to save 25% on a subscription to FrenchPod101.

Frenchpod101 is one of the most comprehensive resources you will find for learning the French language.

Before using this website, I had used Duolingo, Babbel, and a couple of free online websites. I have also learned French in Alliance Francais classes in my city. But after using this website, I feel that this is all one needs to learn the language fairly well. Well, this and dedication.

This website can be used by anyone looking to speak French as the content provided by the website is quite vast. It covers everything from the basics to even comments on social media.

Absolute Beginner Pathways

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Frenchpod101 offers you 3 packs of subscriptions to choose from – Basic, Premium, and Premium Plus. All these packs offer the same basic content. However, as you pay more for the progressive packs, you get more and more bonus features that will help you learn.

The site offers training in four different levels of difficulty – Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Now, each of these levels has sub-modules known as “Pathways” that you can choose. Depending on the difficulty, there are around eight to twenty different pathways at each level.

These pathways are then further divided into lessons. Once again, depending on the pathway you choose, there will be anywhere from 5 to 200 lessons teaching you various things related to that specific pathway.

Each lesson then either has some or all of the following features: video clips, audio clips, audio transcripts, lesson notes, vocabulary and comments. You use these to complete the lesson and then use the comments section if you have any doubts. Learners are encouraged to use the comments section to ask clarifying questions and write about what they learned in the lessons.

You finish the lessons to complete the pathways and then you finish the pathways to ace the difficulty level and move on to the next one. Sounds easy, right?

Getting Started

To start off, you will need to create an account with Frenchpod101. You will find several ways of doing this. You can either use Google or Facebook to sign up automatically, or you can go with a different email ID and create an account all for yourself. Unfortunately, the login page isn’t a sight to behold. It works, though, and the rest of the website is relatively well designed.

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When you sign up, you will immediately be asked to choose from one of the four difficulty levels – Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced. There is no test to determine if you are fit for the level or not. For people who don’t know the language at all, it is easy to choose the first option.

It might be a bit trickier for learners that know some French but aren’t sure what level to study. Fortunately, there’s what they call a diagnostic test that you can take for each difficulty level. It’s supposed to give you a better idea of where to start. PremiumPLUS members have the added option of asking their teacher to recommend a starting point. Of course, you can also change the level you’re studying at any point and jump around as you please.

Once you sign in, your recommended pathways will be presented to you so you can start studying right away. Again, you can change these pathways or remove them any time you want to.

This means that, if you’re planning a trip to France, for example, and you just want to know how to ask the basic questions and understand the answers, you can do just that! You won’t have to go through the entire course trying to find out how to pronounce different words or understand the grammar properly, though it would probably be beneficial.

FrenchPod101 Pathways

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Depending on the pathway you choose, you will get a number of lessons that cover everything there is to know about the module.  You can jump to any lesson you want and mark them complete when you are done.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into how the lessons are structured.

Lessons

As mentioned above, you can choose any lesson from any pathway whenever you want and start learning them. But of course, if you have just started to learn the language, you’d probably want to start from the beginning and proceed sequentially.

For the most comprehensive study path, learners could even use a textbook in tandem with the resource to add some solid structure to their study plan and to make sure they don’t end up with any gaps in understanding.

Upon selecting a lesson, you’ll see a media play button at the top of the page. It’s usually for an audio file, but there are also some video lessons throughout the course. You can indicate that you’re finished with the lesson by selecting the “Mark Complete” button when you’ve completed it or if it turns out you already know the material.

There are also some navigation buttons that make it easy to switch from one lesson to the next, and a progress bar tracks how much of the pathway you have completed. Other options include sharing, favoriting, downloading, or even taking notes.

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Beyond this banner, you will see tabs for navigating the different lesson elements.  These are things like Dialogue, Vocabulary, Lesson Notes, Transcript, and more.

Lesson Dialogue

If you aren’t sure whether you should skip the lesson or not based on your ability, you could look at the dialogue first, as it’s where you’ll find the main focus of the lesson. If you can read it fluently and know what every word means in the phrases and their different forms, then it’s probably safe to skip the lesson and move on to the next one. Even so, skimming through the Lesson Notes could certainly make for a useful recap.

There might be times where you find that you know the verb, but not all its forms. You can find the conjugations of this generally in the Lesson Notes or the Transcript.

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Alternatively, Cooljugator is a hassle-free way to study verb forms.

In another scenario, if you cannot understand every word in the dialogue, go down to the vocabulary part where all these words have been explained in detail with their meaning and individual sounds too.

If you are a complete beginner, it’s probably best to go through everything as prescribed start off with the video or the audio file. If there is no video to watch, just play the audio file. I find it best to read the lesson transcript as I listen to what they’re saying. This helps me understand what they are saying more easily. As you advance, though, it’s probably best to just refer to the transcript occasionally to improve your listening skills.

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What I don’t like about the audio file is that it is full of unnecessary banter. There is even a heading called “Banter”! It’s not completely useless though; there is a purpose for it. The banter helps us understand how to communicate more effectively in French in everyday life. If often doesn’t pertain to the lesson, though, and significantly increases the length of the audio file. In the long run, I find it gets quite tiresome and irritating. They could have included easy navigation buttons that let you skip to that part in the audio lesson, as you’ll find in some YouTube videos. Over the course of time, you do get quite skilled in manually skipping these parts – both in the transcripts and the audio file that is playing.

Once you are done with this, you can jump back to the dialogue section to start revising everything you just learnt. You can also cross verify with vocabulary to check if you must learn all the words and the grammar used.

Then it is time to dive into the lesson notes to get a lot of technical information about that lesson. They will explain the logic behind the language and the grammar which will prove quite beneficial to you later. These explanations should help you learn faster in future lessons.

Try a free 7-day trial to FrenchPod101

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Finally, a quick visit to the comments section can clear any doubts that you may not have known you even had.

The whole process can take around 20 – 30 minutes, mainly because of the size of the audio every time. As you get used to the process and pick up more language, this time should shorten and could even take you only half as long.

If you feel you are ready, you can choose to take a quiz to test your knowledge of a lesson’s material. You’ll find the button right below the vocabulary section.

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Sadly, I think this quiz is just too easy, and I don’t like that it focuses on phrases rather than full sentences — I think people tend to make more mistakes while forming complete sentences rather than phrases.

Moreover, when trying to translate to French, you will face a problem if you’re on your laptop you won’t be able to type the accents with your normal keyboard settings. The questions are also relatively repetitive, and your speaking and listening skills will be left untested.

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I’d suggest people interested in working on their pronunciation and don’t mind paying for an expensive product, Mimic Method is quite thorough. Alternatively, you can get feedback on recordings with Speechling.

Unfortunately, this quiz system is only available for the premium and the premium plus package. If you aren’t interested in paying for one of these plans, you might Duolingo where you can “test out” of lessons and jump to various checkpoints to measure how far you are coming along in your lessons. It should test both English to French and French to English translations. It will also test your listening skills and speaking skills.

If you’re someone that enjoys the external motivation factor offered by resources like Duolingo, you’ll miss that with FrenchPod101. There’s no daily study goal or learning streaks as you’ll find with Duolingo, nor virtual currency, power-ups, or clubs. If Frenchpod101 used something along these lines, I might find it to be much more fun to learn with, though this may not be as important for everyone. All that said, it’s my opinion that FrenchPod’s content beats that of Duolingo, hands down.

Plans and Prices

FrenchPod101 offers four different types of plans: Free, Basic, Premium and Premium Plus. There is also the free trial period of a week that everyone gets once they sign up for this service.

FrenchPod101 Prices

FrenchPod101 Prices
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The free trial period lasts for 7 days and gives you premium access to all the website’s content. Fortunately, once your free trial expires, all the audio files still work, but nothing else does. Good luck with that!

Basic Plan

As the name suggests, the Basic plan offers the most basic of services to everyone who chooses it. However, ‘basic’ might be an understatement since the amount of content offered here is quite a lot.

The Basic plan grants access to all their lessons with the audio files. It also offers in-depth lesson notes and access to the mobile application. There are two mobile apps on offer: one is the “Innovative Languages” app and the other is the “Daily Dose of Language” app. They should both be available across all android and apple devices.

You won’t get access to the few HD videos found in some lessons, but this shouldn’t be a huge issue for most people. You can also view a list of 100 words that are essential if you want to speak the language.

In short, you will have access to everything that is mentioned above under the “Lessons” heading. At a price of $8/month, I think it makes a great bargain for someone interesting in learning French as a hobby.

Premium Plan

The Premium plan is an upgrade from the Basic plan. You do get to access these features in the free trial period, so be sure to check them out.

The Premium plan builds on the basic plan by offering more tools to help you learn the language. While the Basic plan can show you a list of 100 core French words that you should know, the Premium plan comes with 2000 words for you to check out.

This plan also offers daily French lessons, updated vocabulary depending on the season you are experiencing, short quizzes for every lesson, speaking lessons, flashcards, and slide shows. You can create your own word bank of the words that you find hard, or you can choose to study one of the many premade vocabulary lists.

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An audio dictionary and a grammar guide are offered too. You can now access HD videos from this plan onwards.

Overall, this is probably the best deal offered by the website at $25/month. It is perfect for people who are trying to study French for school or educational purposes.

PremiumPlus Plan

The PremiumPLUS plan is the most comprehensive plan offered by the website. It will make you feel as if you are studying in a school rather than from the comfort of your couch. However, I’m not sure if the value justifies the increased cost.

The PremiumPLUS plan offers everything that the Basic and the Premium pack offer — the special feature of this plan is the attention given to every user.

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Every user will have a personalized teacher who is always there to clear doubts and set up educational plans for you. You can get assignments and continuous tests to check your progress whenever you need. Based on your assessments, you will get personalized pathways that will help you learn faster than others.

The premium plus plan costs $47/month, which is still quite reasonable compared to physically going to a class somewhere far away from you.

They don’t give that many details about just how much extra attention you’ll receive, though. The vagueness of it all makes me hesitant to recommend this plan. This is especially true since you can find tutors on italki for less than $15/hour.

The app is basic but functional

I feel it is also important to look into the mobile app offered by the website. After going through the application, I have to say, it is as simple as I could have imagined. The interface isn’t all that smooth, and it isn’t pretty either. However, it is functional and lets you access all the features that you could on the website. But using it isn’t something I would like to do regularly. I would prefer the desktop site over it any day.

Of course, one alternative is to open the desktop site on your mobile. The website handles that relatively well and you could use that instead to learn on the go.

Alternatives

If you’re looking for a solid audio course for learning French, you’re in luck! There are several really good ones, and if FrenchPod101 doesn’t float your boat for any reason, you’ve got others to choose from.

Pimsleur

This is one of the more popular courses out there, and its been around longer than most. Pimsleur’s audio course has a very solid structure and gets users interacting with the language right away. There’s no idle listening with this one, you’ll be speaking right away. Note, though, that you won’t get much at all in the way of grammar explanations or reading and writing practice. Read the full review here.

News in Slow French

News in Slow French is especially good for learners that enjoy a solid course structure and are interested in current events. As the name suggests, lessons are delivered in a format that’s similar to a news podcast, but there’s a lot going on here. Material is available for learners at all levels, but the intermediate-level content is where the resource really shines. Lessons are engaging and there’s a ton of content. Here’s our full review.

Language Transfer

This audio course is particularly exciting because it’s 100% free! It’s also different from the others because it takes a unique approach, teaching listeners how to think in French. It’s specifically designed for English speakers, which is something to keep in mind. Some people may like the approach more than others, but it’s hard to beat free. Language Transfer review.

Duolingo or Lingodeer

If you’d rather spend time with a resource that’s heavy on gamification, both of these are definitely worth considering. Duolingo is totally free and has a reputation as one of the most popular language apps out there. Lingodeer, while not totally free, has better audio than Duolingo and may have a better course structure. Here’s our Duolingo review, and here’s our review of Lingodeer.

Final Thoughts

Frenchpod101 astounded me with the amount of content they offer and the amount of work they had put into each of their lessons and pathways. They seem to have literally thought about everything that their users could possibly need in their lessons and to have taken that into consideration while constructing the lessons.

Something that I loved about this website was that, unlike other French teaching resources, this one also provides information on French values, culture, and customs. The audio lessons, though sometimes tiresome, almost feel as if your friends are teaching you, which makes learning more enjoyable.

However, there are a couple of negatives in my opinion: the lackluster quizzes and the absence of motivating factors. Other than these I really couldn’t find much wrong with the website, and I think the pros greatly outweigh the cons. You can easily fill in these gaps by using other online resources if you need to.

To conclude, I think a good option would be to opt for the Premium plan and use it along with Duolingo to get the best of both worlds. The monthly price will range between $25 for a one-month plan, and $10 if you’re willing to commit to 24 months. In any case, the first seven days are free, so be sure to give it a try before you buy.

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