Until now, you may have been saving up to pay for your first French class. Maybe you’ve been eyeing a subscription to a language learning app that keeps showing up in your news feed. Or, perhaps you’ve given up all hopes of learning French because it will cost too much.
What if we told you that you could learn French without touching your wallet? That you can start your learning journey today, for free?
With our experience testing hundreds of resources, we know that it’s possible—and we’ll show you how. You won’t need to put aside money for monthly payments or splurge on a new textbook; all you need is your motivation and a digital device.
So keep reading and let’s explore a ton of high-quality resources to keep your French studies free!
Choose Your Resources
If you want to learn French for free, you may need to adopt an eclectic approach to French resources. What is limited access in one may be free in another, so don’t get discouraged if you hit a paywall.
We’ve made sure to include resources that tackle reading, writing, speaking, and listening. You can mix and match, but at the beginner and intermediate levels you may want to establish an overarching structure with step-by-step courses.
We’ll first introduce some course options, then offer some podcasts, YouTube channels, and reading tools to enrich your studies.
Next we’ll point you towards a plethora of practice activities to refine your skills and some reference sites for when you need a quick answer for grammar, pronunciation, nuances and more.
It’s often more fun to learn with others, so we’ve also handpicked some community sites for language exchanges and writing and speaking feedback.
Finally, you’ll find out how to get some paid resources for free and assess your French level based on the CEFR scale.
And don’t forget, if you sign up to be an app tester on the ALR website, you can get free access to paid resources in exchange for your honest opinions.
Table of Contents
- YouTube Channels
- Reading Tools
- Language Exchanges
- Writing and Speaking Feedback
- Language Discussion Boards
- Accessing Paid Resources for Free
- Testing Your Knowledge
The step-by-step structure of courses can help keep your studies on track. You’ll probably have to use multiple resources at each level—but if it gets overwhelming, make one of them your priority so you can keep your studies consistent.
In this section we will introduce some courses that flow through the beginner and intermediate levels, then we’ll talk about more level-specific courses. Courses at the advanced level are scarce, but keep reading and we’ll suggest plenty of other resources to take your skills to the next level.
Beginner and Intermediate
There are a couple of free courses that cater to beginner and intermediate learners—one of which used to cost hundreds of dollars. Since each of them is distinct from the other, you’ll want to investigate to see which style suits you best.
And don’t worry if you can’t find anything yet—the sections that follow are filled with resources to engage you at any level of your learning.
ALR Curated French Course
Like we said, learning for free may mean using a variety of different resources—but how do you know which video to watch or which website to use next? Well, you’re in luck.
ALR has spent several months collaborating with a French language teacher to develop a free, structured, and comprehensive French course for beginner to upper intermediate learners. We have curated numerous level-appropriate videos, websites, and interactive activities to provide you with speaking, listening, writing, and reading practice—all from free resources on the internet.
For each lesson you’ll also find Anki flashcard decks, comprehensible input resources, language learning advice, and cultural videos to enrich your studies.
All this, and it’s 100% free.
Radio France Internationale (RFI)
Radio France Internationale takes you on several intriguing adventures in its high-quality bilingual audio courses. If you are a beginner (A1), you can learn French through several mysteries in Le Talisman brisé, Mission Paris, or l’affaire du coffret. If you find these easy, the relationships between several neighbours in Les voisins du 12 bis will give you a friendly introduction to everyday life in Paris. As an intermediate (B1) learner with Parlez-vous Paris?, you will expand your vocabulary while exploring French sights and culture.
Remember to check for exercises at the bottom of each episode—and take a peek at some of the accompanying graphic novels and podcasts.
The Flow of French
The Mimic Method’s Flow Method used to be a paid course, but now you can access it online for free. Through popular songs and the International Phonetic Alphabet, you will hone in on your French pronunciation. You’ll learn the 38 basic French sounds, understand how they are produced, and go through extensive drills to train your motor memory. Though you won’t get feedback from the Mimic Method’s coaches, you could send your exercises to a language exchange partner for feedback.
Open learn has several free courses for beginner to intermediate French learners. Some focus on specific topics, like science and technology or the city of Avignon; others will help you understand general French as it’s spoken in everyday life. Most of these courses take about 6 hours to complete.
FrenchbyFrench sets the foundation for your French studies with 200 beginner and intermediate lessons. It follows the story of four main characters in a series of short dialogues. The course is text-heavy, but it also includes downloadable audio recorded by voice actors. By the end of the last lesson, you should have developed some basic speaking, reading, and writing skills to support you in your future studies.
FSI and DLI
From the Foreign Service Institute and Defense Language Institute comes hundreds of hours of French audio and reading material. These courses were used to get diplomats and military professionals to conversational fluency in a short period of time—and you can follow suit. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to mix these courses in with more modern material, as the outdated themes and language have not been revised in several decades.
If this is your first day learning French, or you’re trying to brush up on the basics, there are a surprising number of free courses available to give you confidence in your abilities.
Do you want to dive into full immersion? Or would you prefer to break down the language into its basic components? Whatever your desired learning method, you’ll likely find something enjoyable and educational on this list.
French in Action
Complete immersion from day one isn’t for everyone, but it can help you learn to think in a language. With the video course French in Action, you’ll learn French through observation, repetition, and deduction—without making any comparisons to English.
You can progress through these 52 thirty-minute videos as a total beginner, or review them again as an early intermediate learner. Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed at first—stick with it and you’ll soon be responding to the narrator’s prompts with ease. Read more about the program in our mini-review.
This audio course gives you a gentle introduction to French. It focuses less on memorization and more on understanding French from an English speaker’s perspective. You’ll problem solve to create your own sentences and practice speaking alongside a fellow French learner. If you’re not in a hurry and are keen to set a foundation for your French studies, Language Transfer is an excellent place to start. Full review.
Duolingo is the pioneer of accessible language learning and can make your first steps in learning French both fun and motivating. Though it teaches phrases that are far from practical (when was the last time you saw a bear cooking dinner in the kitchen?), it still manages to reinforce crucial sentence structures.
You probably won’t learn much with the phone app as it relies primarily on recognition to advance through the levels. But, using the desktop version lets you type your answers rather than just tapping on French words, which will help you practice recall of important concepts. Full review.
Memrise adds another element to the free, gamified language learning world: mnemonics. This flashcard-based app will help you remember difficult concepts through associating them with your choice of images or words.
Through spaced repetition you will learn and test yourself through 7 levels of material, plus some high-quality videos with native speakers. After, you can make your own decks or try some community content. Full review.
Refine your knowledge with the Institut Polytechnique de Paris’s B1-B2 French course, hosted on Coursera: practice your listening comprehension with videos, improve your pronunciation with minimal pairs, test your understanding with quizzes, and engage in written discussions with fellow French learners. After six modules of engaging practice activities, you’ll likely have the confidence to move on to advanced French content.
EdX: On-Ramp to AP® French Language and Culture
Review intermediate French grammar with EdX’s grammar course. It was originally intended for high school students, but is still suitable for intermediate learners at any age. Though it requires a lot of reading, and the Comic Sans font is a bit passé, the quizzes in each lesson can be helpful to test your knowledge.
Podcasts are not limited to improving your listening comprehension; many of them teach language learning techniques, while a single French immersion episode can be a comprehensive speaking, reading, and writing session on its own.
We can’t detail all of the great podcasts available on the interweb. But, we have cherry-picked a few from our already curated list of 36 French podcasts that might be particularly helpful for your studies.
Coffee Break French
If you are starting from zero and would like to take your French studies at a slower pace, the Coffee Break French series will gently guide you to the intermediate level. Though there is additional material available for paying subscribers, you’ll find the free podcast yields more than enough practice for your studies.
Mark will guide you through four seasons of step-by-step lessons, prompting you to practice both listening and speaking skills. You can also take a detour to seven additional series that will help you master verbs, practice your listening comprehension, and decipher posters and signs in France. Full Review
Le Français à la une
For intermediate (B1) learners, Le Français à la une will help you decode news headlines—specifically the plays on words that may get lost in translation. Viviane, an experienced journalist and French teacher, introduces you to three headlines from three separate newspapers. Using only French, she explains the meaning of each headline and helps you develop a more nuanced understanding of the French language. On her website you can read along with the transcript and see photos of the original articles.
Daily French Pod
Louis teaches you French one sentence at a time. In each episode he tackles one intermediate-level sentence, providing synonyms for more difficult words without translating into English. Note that you can always check your understanding with the French transcript and English translation in the podcast description.
If these get easy, you can listen to the rest of his bite-sized podcasts for native speakers, which also include French transcripts.
YouTube channels are a great way to add visual context to the French language. And if you can find a channel that matches your level and interests, there’s no limit to how fast you’ll improve.
We have already spent dozens of hours carefully curating this list of 29 YouTube channels so we’ll only recommend a few here. The first two videos provide seemingly endless hours of comprehensible input, while the third may surprise you with its semi-retro yet humorous style.
We also encourage you to watch Luca Lampariello’s video on how he uses YouTube to learn languages:
Alice Ayel teaches French to beginners using comprehensible input. Speaking only in French, she uses gestures and drawings to familiarize you with important vocabulary and grammar. She provides four seasons of free lessons that will quickly advance your French abilities. Start with Alice’s YouTube videos today—even if it’s your first time learning French.
Intermediate French learners who don’t feel ready for native-level content will be pleased to discover innerFrench. On this channel, Hugo explores French language and culture, and occasionally dabbles in relationships and health. He is skilled at simplifying more complex sentences and expressions so that even without translations, you’ll be able to understand. He also has a podcast if you don’t feel like looking at a screen.
[email protected] is a sitcom-like language learning series with 13 episodes for any level of learner. Though the gender stereotypes are sometimes uncomfortably outdated, the misunderstandings between Sam (an American) and his two new French roommates can make for a fun and educational watch.
Reading can help you familiarize yourself with French grammar structures and vocabulary. But, if you’re not already proficient in a language, picking up a book for native speakers may be overwhelming.
That’s why we suggest using some of these tools to help you read with ease. Whether you’re a beginner or almost fluent, you can pair them with the level-appropriate reading recommendations in our French Comprehensible Input Library.
Readlang is an excellent resource to facilitate the reading process for learners at any level. Its Chrome extension provides instant translations on almost any webpage, allowing you to translate unlimited individual words and up to 10 six-word phrases per day.
And, if you upload .txt or .epub files to the Readlang website, you can use the online reader and identify up to 200 unknown words highlighted across every text. Or, import your favourite YouTube video to interact with its subtitles.
OPLingo makes reading easier by identifying French words that you have not yet learned. The first time you use the reading tool, you’ll see a wall of words highlighted in red. These indicate your “unknown” words, and you’ll find them highlighted across every document. Every word you mark as “known” loses the red highlight.
Since the free version only lets you mark 20 words as “learning,” you can use the red highlights as your indicator instead. You can also instantly translate an unlimited number of words as you read and import up to 15 of your own texts.
Courses, YouTube videos, and podcasts can improve your French at a rapid pace. But, sometimes you may want to hone in on specific skills. Maybe you want to practice your pronunciation of /õ/ and /ɛ̃/, drill verb conjugations in the futur antérieur, or learn some new vocabulary in context.
If you’re looking for general skills training or targeted practice, there is a wealth of free resources that can help you achieve your goals. You can also find a full list of level-appropriate listening and reading practice in our Comprehensible Input Library.
TV5Monde’s website and app provide thousands of structured exercises for beginner to advanced learners, assigning levels to each activity based on the CEFR scale.
A1–C2 learners can test both listening comprehension and writing with over 40 dictation exercises, while A1–B2 learners each have their own learning hub with reading, listening and writing activities. Start with their knowledge test to see which level to tackle first.
Radio France Internationale (RFI)
Earlier we recommended Radio France Internationale for their bilingual audio courses—but you can continue your learning with over 1000 exercises and quizzes for every level. You’ll explore practical and authentic French content through lessons on current events, opinion pieces, and the intricacies of the French language. And, if you want even more content, tune into their 10-minute podcast for French learners every weekday, which details daily news in simple French.
Speechling can help you improve your pronunciation at any level. You can practice as much as you like, but the free version lets you submit 10 audio files for a French teacher to correct. These teachers will give you brief feedback about specific words, or an overall comment about your pronunciation. Learn 1500 of the most common words or improve your fluidity with full sentences: either way, Speechling will help you for free. Full Review.
Clozemaster helps you learn vocabulary by filling in the missing word of a sentence. Most of the sentences are sourced from Tatoeba, so you may encounter some errors or odd phrases. But, for the most part, Clozemaster is a fun, gamified resource to put the French language in context. Full Review.
At Lawless French, you can organize activities and lessons by level, then identify a core skill you want to improve: grammar, listening pronunciation, reading, or vocabulary. You can also enjoy fun articles about idiomatic expressions or learn about cultural sites in France. It may be a bit trickier to find what you’re looking for than on other sites, but Lawless French is still an excellent resource to supplement your studies.
Struggling with verb conjugations? Whether you want to drill a single verb tense or mix several up for varied practice, Conjuguemos is a free, fast-paced resource that will make your conjugations more automatic.
If you love music, you’ll probably love LyricsTraining. Not only can it help you discover catchy new French songs, but it will train your listening comprehension so you can eventually sing along. The desktop version can be a fun challenge, as you will have to type rather than tap the words you hear. But, you can choose between several levels of difficulty no matter which type of device you use.
Dans l’air du temps
If you’d like to integrate some listening comprehension questions into your French music endeavours, look no further than Dans l’air du temps—a website dedicated to thirty French-Canadian songs produced between 1920 and 2010. Each song has seven different types of quizzes with a glossary of difficult words. This site is most appropriate for intermediate learners.
Although Kwiziq’s free basic plan is limited, it can help you identify your weaknesses in French grammar. Start with a full placement test to determine a personalized learning plan, then explore the abundance of grammar explanations specific to your level.
Though you can only take 10 quizzes per month, your learning path will continuously adjust based on your most recent tests. Just make sure not to take the mini-quizzes at the bottom of each page, as these count towards your 10 quiz limit. Full review.
If you’ve been itching to make some flashcards and finally memorize those tricky words, look no further than Anki. It’s an open-source spaced repetition flashcard system with enough customizability to make your brain hurt.
But, if you stick to the default settings, you can enjoy simple flashcard sessions for vocabulary building on your desktop or android app. And, if you work through the free ALR Curated French Course, you’ll get a headstart with pre-made decks for every lesson.
Apple users will want to stick to Anki’s desktop app or website, as it is a paid app on Apple devices.
Language Learning With Netflix
Add Language Learning with Netflix to your Chrome extensions to get interactive, learner-friendly subtitles while watching Netflix. The free version offers line by line translations, lets you look up individual words, provides text-to-voice pronunciation, and links to various dictionary sites to give you more context. Check out the LLN catalogue to find your next binge-worthy series.
CaptionPop can make watching French YouTube channels infinitely easier. The website lets you effortlessly jump ahead or back to different lines of dialogue, and you can save sentences to your “favourite captions” for future reference. Though it doesn’t offer every channel on YouTube, you’ll find many that made it into our French Comprehensible Input Library.
The free version limits 5 dictation flashcards per day, so you’ll have to be choosy with which ones you add to your list. Or, you could test yourself by writing your dictation on a separate document.
Lingolia has an abundance of grammar explanations for different aspects of the French language. Plus, every explanation comes with an exercise to test your understanding. Though the quizzes are limited in the free version, they still prove to be an excellent resource to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
If you have questions about the French language, HiNative’s Q&A community may give you the quickest answers—it’s full of fellow language learners asking and answering each other’s language-specific questions. Full review.
Sometimes text-to-voice just isn’t enough. That’s where Forvo comes in: it has one of the largest banks of native speaker audio recordings on the internet. Search for a word or phrase and instantly listen to recordings by native speakers. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can sign up for a free account and ask the community to make recordings for you. Plus, you can download these recordings for free to add to your Anki flashcard decks. Mini-Review.
You’ll notice that words often sound different when pronounced by native speakers. You’ll likely also find that one word can be used in a variety of contexts—so many that it can be difficult to keep track. That’s why YouGlish is such an excellent reference for listening comprehension: type in any word in the French language, and it will find multiple videos of native speakers using that word in a sentence. After dozens, sometimes hundreds of examples, you’ll have no problem applying what you learned to everyday conversations.
Before submitting your writing to a community forum, you may want to run it through Bon Patron’s spelling and grammar checker. It will identify your mistakes and provide suggestions for how to correct them. Use your best judgment if you are writing in colloquial French, as it may mark common contractions or slang as incorrect. Read our mini review to compare it with Reverso’s spell checker.
You should probably bookmark Reverso for its French-specific language features. Like in Bon Patron, you can get grammar and spelling corrections. But, Reverso also provides context for French phrases and sentences, with multiple examples sourced from movies, dialogues, official documents, websites, and newspapers. Click around the website to find verb conjugations, translations, synonyms, and grammar explanations. Or, learn about the origins and translations of common French expressions. Mini-review.
Sometimes all you want is a quick translation or a new word in context. In cases like these, you may be tempted to turn to Google, which will hand over a couple hundred top results.
But we want to make sure you can get your answers fast—and that these answers are error-free and specific. Below are four major French dictionaries for your reference, plus a bonus in one of the descriptions.
Wordreference’s dictionary relies on professional translations for sentence examples, with many of its entries sourced from Collin’s French-English dictionary. It’s one of the best resources for single-word translations, and it even provides a section on compound forms of conjunctions.
Also, if you have questions about grammar, vocabulary, slang, or specialized terminology, the WordReference Forum can give you some answers.
Larousse offers a dictionary and verb conjugator for French learners, with several example sentences and text-to-voice audio. It also has a library of recipes if you are keen to explore French cuisine.
If you want a monolingual French dictionary, look no further than Le Robert. It’s one of the largest dictionaries for the French language, so it’s unlikely that your search results will return empty handed.
Linguee is the dictionary for specialized terminology in context. Each word is accompanied by multiple example sentences from articles and research papers in your target language. It also connects to the DeepL translator, which is a high-quality text translation resource.
Getting comfortable communicating in French is probably one of the most daunting tasks for a first-time language learner. Luckily, language exchanges can help you get past any hesitancies about going into the real world.
You may feel more comfortable with one-on-one exchanges, or you may prefer to have the support of other learners. Whatever the case, we have some suggestions. So read on to make some new friends and get talking.
HelloTalk can be both a social media platform and language learning hub all in one. You can connect with the community by submitting audio recordings and writing samples for correction— and maybe incorporate them into posts about life updates. Effortlessly correct and receive corrections from your language exchange partner within your private chat, and maybe even give them a call for free. Full review.
Compared to HelloTalk, Tandem focuses more on private chats with language exchange partners, allowing you to receive corrections and make private calls. There is no community function, but people can leave public comments on your profile. You may have to wait up to seven days for your account to activate, but sometimes this turns into less than an hour. Full review.
My Language Exchange
My Language Exchange looks a little out of date, but it still has a strong base of regular users. Find a long-term pen pal by searching through other members’ bios, or join a chat room to connect with active users. Keep in mind that as a free member, you’ll have to wait for others to initiate a conversation in the chat room.
If you search for “French” on Meetup.com, you’ll see a list of online events in your timezone. There you can meet people from your city or across the country. Bear in mind that some events ask for money to cover the organizer’s costs, but you can see this in the registration requirements.
The Alliance Française offers online and in-person events to immerse you in the French language and culture. Look up your local branch and see what’s available closest to you—or choose from 132 countries to join an international gathering online. With a couple of clicks, you’ll find book clubs, trivia nights, and conversation practice with other French learners.
You’re probably familiar with Duolingo’s free app, but did you know they also have in-person and online meetups? They can be filtered by level and language, giving you plenty of options for a fun conversation with other learners and native speakers.
Sign up for Polyglot club and you’ll be joining a keen group of language learners. With this supportive community you can chat online, interact with people’s questions and writing, and join in-person events everywhere in the world.
Writing and Speaking Feedback
Getting feedback from native speakers can help you identify your blindspots—and luckily there are several communities of language learners ready to support you. Get ready to brush up on those irregular verb conjugations and improve your skills.
Journaly is an innovative writing platform that connects you with like-minded language learners. What sets it apart from other community writing apps is how texts are edited. Community members can comment on specific words or phrases instead of submitting corrections for the entire text. So, you’ll get to see all your corrections in one place. Journaly also lets you filter entries by topic, so you can find writers with similar interests to you.
LangCorrect is another great resource for getting writing feedback. You can follow the prompts from other users, or you can find your own inspiration. With LangCorrect, you’ll receive several different line-by-line corrections. Plus, members can rate the quality of others’ corrections so you know which changes to focus on.
The iTalki Community is similar to LangCorrect, except that it asks members to correct an entire text at once rather than one line at a time. As a writer, you can receive multiple corrections and see how other users rated each correction. Also, if you download the iTalki app you can receive feedback for audio recordings.
OPLingo’s Essay corrections follow the same style as iTalki Notebooks. The community is still growing so you may not receive as prompt a reply, but if you want to have your reading tool and writing practice in one place, OPLingo is the way to go.
Busuu’s community feature is slightly more limited than on other sites, as you typically have to follow a writing or speaking prompt. But, if you are intimidated by responding to personal messages, you’ll be pleased to see that Busuu doesn’t include a chat function. Members interact with each other by submitting public writing and audio recordings for correction without any private communication.
Language Discussion Boards
We’ve still got a couple more resources to recommend, but we didn’t want you to miss out on an often overlooked language community: discussion boards.
Below are two resources that have a community of French learners discussing so many topics that they would be impossible to list. Feel free to click around as an anonymous observer, or join in on the conversations.
Reddit lets you discuss just about anything, and that’s not limited to the French language. Join several thousand other French learners in the r/learnfrench group to join a book club, ask questions about grammar and resources, or see what other people are up to in their studies.
This language learning forum boasts a number of unique topics for you to keep yourself motivated. Add your personal language log, enter language challenges, join a study group, or practice your target language in a multilingual room. You may have to search around for French-specific posts, but even general language learning discussions can support your studies.
Accessing Paid Resources for Free
So far we’ve mentioned free resources for almost every learning situation. But what about testing paid apps for free?
As we mentioned before, one way to do this is by signing up to be an app tester on the ALR website. If you’re chosen, we’ll send you free access to a resource in exchange for your honest responses to some questions.
But there are other options as well.
Your Local Library
Your local library will probably have some French language books for your enjoyment, but did you know that some of them give you free access to online language learning resources?
If you are a beginner living in the United States or Canada, you can enjoy the full Mango Languages curriculum (full review) for free by signing up with a library card. Or, if you feel like sitting back and relaxing with some French cinema, many libraries also offer the movie-streaming platform, Kanopy. You may even find free access to Rosetta Stone (full review).
So, do a bit of digging and you may be able to add several hours of free language learning to this list.
We’ve mentioned several free apps that you can use in your studies, but there’s no shame in signing up for a couple—or several—free trials. Since many of these trials last 1-2 weeks, the time limit may provide an extra boost of motivation for you to keep studying and get the most out of each resource. We won’t go through all the trials available, as these are often subject to change, but there are three free trials that may be particularly enjoyable for French learners.
It’s actually possible to get up to a year of Busuu premium for free. Each time you invite a friend to a free trial, both of you will get 30 days free without spending a cent. It won’t be a hard sell given the high-quality of many of Busuu’s language programs—but you will want to find 12 friends who are at the early stages of their language studies so they can get the most out of the app.
We wouldn’t recommend paying for a subscription to Frantastique, but once you reach the intermediate level we would highly recommend trying the one month free trial. Each lesson follows an entertaining storyline with a mixture of listening, reading, and writing exercises. After a 7-day assessment, Frantastique will provide 15-minute lessons tailored to your level with specific activities to strengthen your weaker areas. At the end of the month, you’ll have a better idea of where you should focus your attention to advance your skills. Plus, you can review your previous lessons at any time after your trial ends.
Testing Your Knowledge
You may not want to take the official DELF and DALF exams, but practice assessments can help you determine your current French level based on the CEFR scale—the most universally accepted measurement of language ability.
France Education International and DELF-DALF provide official DELF and DALF practice exams. The DELF structure changed in 2020, but that shouldn’t stop you from testing your knowledge with the samples available.
If you’re not keen on going through hours of practice exams, you can take a decent CEFR placement test on Kwizik or a level assessment for listening comprehension on TV5Monde.
It used to be that learning a new language meant moving to a new country or spending hundreds of dollars on a fancy CD set—as you can see, this is no longer the case.
We hope this list of free resources was as fun to explore as it was to write, and that it gives you the confidence to succeed in your French studies.