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 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.
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 your pay more for the progressive packs, you get more and more bonus features that will help you learn.
The site offers training in 4 different levels of hardness – 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 level, you could find around eight to twenty different pathways in every level.
These pathways are then further divided into lessons. Once again, depending on the pathway you choose, you can have anywhere from 5 to 200 lessons included in them, 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 doubt about it.
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?
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, if you choose, you can go with a different email ID and create an account all for yourself. Unfortunately, the login page isn’t a site to behold. However, it is functional, and the rest of the website is relatively well designed.
When you sign up, you will immediately be asked to choose from one of the four difficulty levels – Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate and 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. But for people who are just out of touch or if they just learned a bit might face some problem discerning their level at this point. But don’t worry, you can change this difficulty level any time you want.
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. So, imagine you are planning a trip to France and you just want to know how to ask the basic questions and understand the answers, you can do that too! You won’t have to go through the entire course trying to find out how to pronounce different words or understand the grammar properly. However, I do recommend you do.
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.
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, I suggest you go according to the order that they have mentioned. Otherwise, you will face a problem in the future lessons.
So, when you first open the lesson, you will see on the top of the page, a media button. This may either be for an audio file (most of the lessons work on audio), or a video file (relatively few on the site). You will also see the option to mark the lesson as complete if you finish the lesson or if you think you already know everything there is to know about it. You’ll also find a navigation one for the lessons which you can use to switch between them whenever you like. A progress bar tracks how much of the pathway you have completed. There are a few other options like sharing, favoriting, downloading the lesson or even taking notes.
Once you are past this, you will see a navigation bar right below stating what all you will find on the page like Vocabulary, Lesson Notes and many other things.
Now, if you are an amateur and want to know whether you should skip the lesson or not, I suggest going to the dialog part first. Here you will 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 feel free to skip the lesson and move on to the next one. Even so, I would suggest that you visit the Lesson notes and skim through it just for a 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 transcript part. But it is a task to search for it. Try searching for “Lesson Focus” on the page using the command “Ctrl + F” on your keyboard. That should make it relatively easier. Alternatively, you can save yourself the hassle and use a tool like Cooljugator to study verb forms.
In another scenario, if you cannot understand every word in the dialog, 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 is best to go through it all. Start off with the video or the audio file. If there is no video to watch, just play the audio file. Here, I find it best to hear what they are saying as I read the lesson transcript. This helps me understand what they are saying easily. However, I recommend that after a while, you just refer to the transcript occasionally to improve your listening skills.
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 is not completely useless though. There is a purpose to it. This banter helps us understand how to communicate more effectively in French in everyday life. However, pertaining to the lesson, it isn’t much use and just increases the length of the audio file thus consuming more time. In the long run, it gets quite tiresome and irritating. They could have included easy to navigate buttons that lets you skip to that part in the audio lesson, like what YouTube does. Over the course of time you do get quite skilled in skipping these parts though – both in the transcripts and the audio file that is playing.
Once you are done with this, jump back to the dialog part where you can start revising everything you just learnt. Similarly, 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. Thy will explain the logic behind the language and the grammar which will prove quite beneficial to you later. It will help you learn faster for future lessons.
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. But as I said, in a while, you should be able to complete everything in probably half the time as you might have figured out how the language works and which parts you can skip.
If you feel you are ready, you can choose to take a quiz to test your knowledge. You’ll find the button right below the vocabulary. Sadly, this quiz is just too easy and focuses on phrases rather than full sentences – something I feel is quite important since people tend to make more mistakes while forming complete sentence rather than phrases. Moreover, when trying to translate to French, you will face a problem if you are on your laptop since you won’t be able to type the accents with your normal keyboard settings. The questions are relatively repetitive too. Your speaking and listening skills will also be left untested. I’d suggest people interested in working on their pronunciation and getting more speaking practice to try out Speechling (This review is for Chinese but it works similarly for all languages).
Unfortunately, this quiz system is only available for the premium and the premium plus package. So, I recommend you use 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. Moreover, it will also test your listening skills and speaking skills.
Another drawback is that there is absolutely no external motivation that compels you to use the site every day, something that Duolingo does very well. Duolingo has a daily goal that we need to complete, and we can maintain daily streaks to beat our friends who are learning with us. Moreover, we can join clubs and use our virtual currency earned through the game to buy power ups and what not. An intraclub weekly contest makes it even more interesting. If Frenchpod101 used something like that, it would be much more fun to learn on this website. However, the content it has beats that of Duolingo hands down.
Plans and Prices
There are 3 plans that are offered to everyone by Frenchpod101. These are irrespective of your expertise in the language. They are 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.
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!
As the name suggests, the basic plan offers the most basic of services to everyone who chooses it. However, ‘basic’ is an understatement since the amount of content offered here is quite a lot.
The Basic plan allows access to all their lessons with the audio files. It also offers the in-depth lesson notes and access to the mobile application. They offer two applications for this purpose. One is the “Innovative Languages” app and the other is “Daily Dose of Language” app which should be available across all android and apple devices. However, you will lack access to HD video files if the lesson offers it (though this is highly unnecessary). 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, this plan is the perfect bargain for someone willing to learn French as a hobby.
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.
Moreover, this plan 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 also create your own word bank of the words that you find hard. 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.
Premium Plus Plan
The premium plus 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 it justifies the increased cost.
The premium plus plan offers everything that the Basic and the Premium pack offer. The special feature of this plan is the attention given to every user.
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 $10/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 you could have imagined. The interface isn’t all that smooth and not 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.
One great thing about Frenchpod101 is that it regularly updates itself with new pathways and lessons that can be beneficial to its students.
Frenchpod101 astounded me with the amount of content they had and the amount of work they had put into each of their lessons and pathways. They have literally thought about everything that their users could possibly need in their lessons and constructed these lessons in the exact same way.
Something that I loved about this website was that unlike other French teaching resources, this one also taught us about French values, culture, and customs. The audio lessons, though tiresome, are almost as if your friends are teaching you, which usually helps you learn better.
However, there were a few negatives like their quizzing system and their inability to motivate us. Other than these I really couldn’t find much wrong with the website. The pros greatly outweigh the cons. You can easily fill up these gaps by using other online resources.
To conclude, I’d suggest that you opt for the premium plan and use it along with Duolingo to get the best of both worlds. The premium plan will cost you $10/ month for 24 months which may seem like them forcing you into a contract. However, in my experience, I have found that learning French will take you around a few months. But, speaking it fluently and conversing with others takes a considerable amount of time and practice, which is where the 2-year subscription becomes valuable.