News in Slow French offers three different levels of content (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) with lots of different features for each. I’m a huge fan of what’s included at the intermediate level but a bit less enthusiastic about the content at the beginner and advanced levels. That’s not to say those levels are bad, they aren’t by any means, but the material available for intermediate level learners is really fantastic. Much more than simply current events narrated at a slower pace, News in Slow French is comprensive, engaging, fun, and effective.
It often doesn’t feel like you’re studying without sacrificing on quality.
The depth and unique manner they teach grammar and expressions is really impressive.
Although it’s not cheap, there’s more content than you may initially realize.
The manner in which current events are talked about make them really engaging to listen to.
The huge catalog of grammar and expressions lessons age very well, providing a ton of study material.
Grammar and expressions are first used naturally in a conversation, only to be explained later, making learning them feel much more natural.
I DON’T LIKE…
The beginner and advanced lessons aren’t quite as good as the intermediate level.
Their app is very basic, so you may prefer using a mobile browser instead.
Most of the content doesn’t require you to use the French you’ve learned.
There’s a 7-day free trial for new subscribers, then the price is $19.90/month. There’s also an option to prepay for up to 12 months at a time, which doesn’t affect the monthly price.
News in Slow French is an online program that aims to provide useful content for French language learners of all levels. Some of these levels are better than others.
News in Slow French is a really good resource, though I was much more impressed with what’s included in the intermediate level compared to the beginner and advanced levels. None of them are bad, but the intermediate level is fantastic.
This review will be very detailed, highlighting everything included within each level, starting with the beginner course.
If you’d prefer, you can jump ahead to either the intermediate or advanced levels.
News in Slow French’s beginner course is pretty unique compared to most other French courses you’ll find.
For starters, it’s structured as a play, with each lesson being an act in the play.
While this sounds unusual and is somewhat, it feels a lot more normal since one of the main characters in the play is a French teacher, and the other characters are her students.
The lessons start from zero, with the absolute basics being taught first and progressing to more challenging content as you move through the course.
The hosts mix together English and French into the conversations naturally, adding in some humor, culture, and telling a story that builds up in each act.
The course clearly progresses in difficulty as more French and less English are used as you make your way through it.
In total, there are 30 acts in the beginner course. Each act contains the following sections – Opening, Hello Again, Grammar, Expressions, Pronunciation, Quizzes, and Closing.
The opening is a brief introduction to the act. It lasts less than a minute and the narrator just gives you a brief introduction as to what will be included in the lesson. You’re encouraged to study the lessons and flashcards before moving onto the dialogues.
Although I’m a big fan of News in Slow French, their flashcards section is seriously lacking. I don’t think flashcards would really be the correct word for these. Basically, it’s just a PDF download of a vocabulary list.
This is fine for getting acquainted with the vocabulary but I wouldn’t recommend trying to go through the word list and memorize the words that way. You’ll encounter these words later in the lesson so I think a quick read through should be sufficient.
This section consists of a dialogue between two of the characters in the play. The audio typically lasts around five minutes long and you can also follow along with the interactive transcripts. The French words that are written in red can be hovered over to show their English translation.
This dialogue mixes together English and French. You get to know the characters and the story comes together nicely. You get to hear one of the French students putting together what they learn to express themselves. It’s also very clear that as you make your way through the lessons, English is used less and more French is spoken.
One weakness here is that it can be a pretty passive way to study as you’re mainly listening and not producing the language. This is especially evident when compared with a resource like Pimsleur that gets you speaking often from the beginning.
Next up in the lessons is the grammar section which consists of two dialogues and a written lesson. In the dialogues, the teacher will explain the grammar points with the students and prompt them to combine what they’ve learned with what they already know. Each dialogue typically lasts around five minutes or so and you can follow along with the dialogue using their interactive transcripts.
The structure is fairly similar to Coffee Break French with the student learning alongside the listener. Although, in this G.U.T.S. program, it’s a lot more scripted, where the character’s stories playing a role in how the dialogues come together.
After the dialogues is the grammar lesson. This is a written explanation of the grammar and is pretty similar to what you might expect to find in any textbook. Although it’s not the most exciting thing ever, it’s definitely useful.
In the expressions part of the episode, the teacher will explain a French expression to the student. Here, there’s a dialogue that typically lasts around five minutes, as well as a written lesson.
The format is quite similar to what we’ve encountered earlier, with the teacher and student having a conversation that you can listen to and follow along with using the transcripts. The student will ask questions along the way and practice using the expression within different contexts while intertwining parts of their character’s personality and story.
The written lesson just explains the expression a bit more while giving examples of when and how to use it.
The pronunciation section of the episode is the first time you’re prompted to do more than listen and read the material.
Here, you’ll find around 5 or 6 phrases that are recorded. You’re meant to then record yourself saying the same phrase and compare it to the recording by the native French speaker. This can be a very helpful activity for improving your spoken French.
However, there’s another resource called Speechling, which I’d recommend using instead. It does the same thing, though better and with lots more sentences and other features, for free. Plus, if you want feedback on your pronunciation, you can subscribe and submit them to a teacher to be graded.
There are also two quizzes included with each lesson. In these, you’ll be given various fill in the blank questions. It’s helpful too that they use the interactive transcripts that allow you to look up the meaning of some of the more difficult words in the sentence.
This is just a short (1 minute or so) narration wrapping up the lesson.
Although I’m a huge fan of the materials available at the intermediate level of News in Slow French, I’m a bit less enthusiastic about their beginner course.
That’s not to say it’s a bad course, it’s definitely not bad at all. I like how they arranged the lessons to resemble an act in a play, with characters that you get to know throughout the story. The content is structured well, with each episode building on what came before and increasing the ratio of French to English used.
However, I wish it were a little less passive. The majority of the time, you’ll only be listening to the material, and outside of the pronunciation and grammar quizzes, you aren’t asked to use much French.
By contrast, with Pimsleur, you constantly need to think and speak French. Or, with Coffee Break French, you’ll be prompted to put together words and sentences, forcing you to engage with the lessons more.
So, although I’m not enamored with the G.U.T.S. course, it’s not bad. You can also try out the first five lessons for free and see if it fits your preferred learning style.
Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the beginner course, I can enthusiastically recommend the intermediate materials.
This is actually where News in Slow French got started (hence the name), so not surprisingly, it’s also their strongest offering. It’s a great way for intermediate level students who aren’t quite ready for native materials to study French in a way that’s far more fun than most other resources.
A new 30-minute episode is released once per week. Each episode is made up of four news stories, a grammar part, and an expressions part.
Although it doesn’t sound like all that much material, there’s actually a lot more to it than you might expect.
The four news stories are, of course, quite interesting but you probably wouldn’t want to go back and listen to old episodes (though you could). What really impressed me with News in Slow French were the grammar and expressions parts of the lessons.
These parts were super interesting and not likely what you’re expecting. Plus, they aren’t tied to current events, so they age very well. This makes the ones recorded years ago just as fun to listen to as the more recent episodes.
But, we’ll look at all of this later.
Because News in Slow French has three different levels with each level containing different features, it can be a little hard to figure out what everything is. So, to make it easier, I’ll explain what each feature includes.
The audio episodes are the heart of News in Slow French. As is obvious from the name, the main draw is that they contain current events narrated and discussed at a slower pace, making them easier for French learners to follow along with.
But, there’s a lot more to the lessons than their name implies.
As previously mentioned, each weekly 30-minute episode consists of four news stories, grammar, and expressions.
The news stories are super interesting, highlighting the most important current events, as well as some smaller French specific stories. The two hosts narrate a news story, then discuss it, adding in their opinions and additional information, entirely in French. Each news story lasts around 3-5 minutes.
Following the news stories is a section about grammar.
If you weren’t told that this section is about grammar, you’d probably never realize it’s a grammar lesson. The hosts don’t spend this part of the lesson explaining grammar points to you. Instead, they simply have a discussion about some interesting aspect of French culture, history, or a story.
So, what does this have to do with grammar?
At the beginning of this section, you’re told what the grammar focus will be. Then, throughout the course of the discussion, that grammar point is used repeatedly in a completely natural way.
In fact, it’s very similar to how grammar is taught with Grammar Hero – a resource that I like but may be a bit too expensive.
Then, if you look at the transcript, each time the grammar point was used, you’ll see that it has been written in bold. This makes it easier to spot the grammar point used naturally.
After the grammar is an expressions section.
The expressions part of the episodes is probably my favorite part of News in Slow French.
When most resources teach expressions in a foreign language, they usually just give a rough translation and then some examples of when it might be used.
Much like the grammar lessons, the expression is mentioned at the beginning of this section and that’s pretty much it. The hosts then go on into a discussion about some completely unrelated topic, which is almost always interesting and often teaches you about French culture in a roundabout way.
Then, during their conversation, you’ll hear the expression used several different times. It never feels like they’re trying to teach it, instead, it’s simply a suitable moment for that expression to be used. It’s the most natural way I’ve come across for expressions to be taught.
It really doesn’t feel like you’re studying expressions at all. Rather, the experience is very similar to listening to the news stories, where you’re practicing your French by listening to interesting content instead of forcing yourself to study.
You’ll also get more in-depth information about the expression – but I’ll get into that later.
Since many of the news stories can cover rather complicated topics, there are bound to be parts that you need to reference the transcript to fully understand.
The more challenging parts have been written in red. If you then hover over those parts, you’ll see an English translation.
I really like that this isn’t only translations of individual words, but also includes phrases as well. This is a nice feature because sometimes you may understand all the words in a phrase, but the meaning of the phrase could still be a bit unclear.
This is identical to the interactive news transcripts but obviously for the grammar portion of the lesson instead.
Again, given the nature of the lessons where challenging topics are discussed, this can be really helpful.
Also, since the grammar lessons don’t explicitly explain the grammar point, referencing the transcript will show you in bold each instance that grammar point was used.
While the audio dialogues of the grammar section are very unique, the grammar lessons are much more similar to traditional learning materials. In fact, this part would look at home within a textbook.
Basically, you’re given an explanation of how the grammar point works with examples.
You could find this elsewhere and probably even for free online, but the other components of Slow News in French are really great.
Plus, it’s nice to have the grammar lesson tie into the audio episode without needing to spend time searching elsewhere for it.
There’s also a huge grammar catalog.
It would be easy to overlook the grammar catalog but it’s actually one of the reasons why I’m such a big fan of News in Slow French.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend trying to use this as a replacement to a textbook but it’s an insanely good supplemental resource.
Because there have been hundreds of episodes of News in Slow French, the grammar catalog has become pretty massive.
Remember how I talked about how the grammar part of the audio lessons didn’t really feel like a grammar lesson at all? Well, it’s the same for all of these lessons in the grammar catalog.
So, instead of looking it as only a resource to learn grammar, it’s more of a place to improve your listening, build your vocabulary, and hear interesting discussions. Then, if you feel like digging in deeper, you can read through the grammar lessons and practice with the quizzes.
I really love how News in Slow French teaches grammar. You first notice it being used, then learn why it’s used that way, then practice it on your own. It’s a super effective cycle.
By now you’re familiar with the interactive transcripts and see how useful they can be. The interactive expressions transcripts work the same way.
One cool thing is that sometimes while reading the transcript, you’ll see that another expression was used. By clicking on that expression, you’ll find its accompanying dialogue and lesson.
Like most of News in Slow French, I came away really impressed by the expressions lessons. Again, they don’t teach expressions in the easy and common way that most other resources do.
From the expressions dialogue, you only saw how the expression was used in a natural manner but weren’t explicitly taught much about it. This section explains it much more but in a fun way.
Similar to the grammar lessons, there’s no audio, but this part is quite unique. For starters, it’s written nearly entirely in French. It explains how the expression is used, English equivalents, gives example sentences, and what I found fascinating, even goes into the history of how the expression became prevalent.
There’s also a huge expressions catalog
Much like the grammar catalog, the expressions catalog is massive. It’s definitely worth spending a lot of time digging through.
Each of the expressions found in this section also includes the accompanying dialogue and lesson.
For most people, listening to old news stories isn’t the most exciting thing imaginable. But, the items found in this grammar catalog are timeless. Lessons from years ago are still as interesting to listen to today as the day they were recorded.
This is a super valuable part of News in Slow French and shouldn’t be overlooked.
This is probably the least exciting part of the intermediate level materials. Basically, you’ll be given some phrases, a recording by a native speaker, and then record yourself saying the same sentence.
While it’s a very useful exercise that I recommend doing, I think Speechling does the same thing better and for free. Plus, you can get feedback on your pronunciation if you’re willing to pay.
As part of each grammar lesson, you’ll find interactive grammar quizzes. These have a number of fill in the blank questions designed to help you practice that grammar point.
This is really useful since to really master the grammar point, you have to actually be able to use it yourself. If you get stuck, you can check the answers as well.
It’s also pretty nice that they’re written with the interactive transcripts, so you can get translations of the more challenging words.
I’m a huge fan of the intermediate materials available on News in Slow French.
They manage to not only make the lessons enjoyable to study but also teach grammar and expressions in a unique and extremely effective way. Because they’ve been around awhile, the catalog for these lessons is huge and those components of the lessons age extremely well.
One of the best ways to get yourself studying regularly is to find methods that are fun to use. News in Slow French is great for this.
The final product available on News in Slow French is their advanced series.
Similar to the beginner course, I think it’s alright but I’m not nearly as enthusiastic about it as I am the episodes at the intermediate level. That said, I can definitely see some people finding a lot of value in using it.
At the intermediate level, the audio is quite a bit slower than a natural pace. Moving up to the advanced level, the hosts speak much quicker, though it might be slightly slower than you’d find on a French news show.
Each week, a new episode is released covering five news stories. Because the hosts speak quicker, they can also go deeper while discussing the current events.
However, the real benefit of the advanced material is that you can use their interactive transcripts.
For those that aren’t quite ready for native speaking news shows, this can be a nice stepping stone. Still, I’d imagine if you were to do some digging, that there’s a good chance you could find a news program that also has transcripts available online.
Since I’ve already written so extensively about the interactive new transcripts, grammar catalog, and expressions catalog, I won’t go into detail describing those here.
I really loved the grammar and expressions catalogs, especially for intermediate learners. The content would be equally valuable to advanced learners if it weren’t for the fact that they’re spoken at a slower pace.
I could see it being a little frustrating for advanced students who are nearly fluent, to go back and use those resources where French is spoken much slower.
Although I’m not a huge fan of what’s included in the advanced level of News in Slow French, it’s not as if the materials are bad.
However, for those considering trying this level, I’d suggest trying to watch native news programs on their own first. If those are too frustrating, then it may be worth subscribing.
They also have a section called “series” which allows you to listen and read along to both fictional and nonfictional stories broken out into different chapters or parts.
This section appears to be rather new as it doesn’t currently contain much content. These lessons also don’t come with any grammar dialogue, lessons, etc. as many of the other lessons do, so if this is something that you value then you may not want to spend too much time with these.
However, if you are beyond a total beginner and want to study with something that’s a little more entertaining than some of the news content then this section may be worth checking out. The current content ranges from beginner to advanced so you can try it out no matter what your level is.
There’s only one subscription option, and it’s $19.90 per month. New subscribers get a 7-day free trial, but you need a credit card to sign up.
The subscription includes all of the material at all three difficulty levels and can be canceled at any time. After you cancel your subscription, you’ll still have access to the program until the end of the billing cycle.
For those that don’t like recurring subscriptions, there’s an option to prepay for up to 12 months at a time using a gift subscription, but there’s no discount on the monthly price. Use this method if you want to avoid paying for a monthly subscription you forgot about!
I think both the beginner and advanced levels of News in Slow French are pretty good, but not amazing. However, I absolutely love the materials included at the intermediate level.
You don’t need to take my word for it though, the first five lessons of the beginner course are available for free, as well as an intermediate and advanced episode.
I’d also recommend supplementing News in Slow French with regular lessons with a tutor on italki. Lessons are really affordable or you can find a language exchange partner for free. Additionally, you can get feedback on your writing using their ‘Notebooks’ section.
All that said, News in Slow French is among the most fun resources you’ll find.
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