Learn French with these resources
To learn French, you’re going need a way to learn correct pronunciation, a frequency dictionary to form your base vocabulary, and a good grammar book. You’ll also benefit from a thematic vocabulary book for specialized vocabulary and maybe a book or two, once you learn your first 1000 words. Make sure you read the Method sections of the website, then check out some of these recommended resources (pictures are links):
Note: As a faster (and more effective) alternative to the following pronunciation resources, check out my pronunciation trainers. It will make the first steps of French much easier for you, because it takes advantage of how your brain works (and how to re-wire it) in a way that traditional tools just can’t.
First off, get a feel for how pronunciation works in English. The video tutorials here should help. Once you understand that, start working on French. Check out my French sounds video, and then try out these resources:
I used this series (Phonetique Progressive Du Francais) from CLE International, and found it really excellent. Be warned, it’s French only (which can be nice):
Just get the Intermediate version; it’s phonetics, and you might as well do it right and do it completely if you’re going to buy a book (and CD). It did wonders for my pronunciation. Highly recommended!
If you want something in English, the Pronounce it Perfectly series comes with Audio CDs, all the pronunciation rules, and I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t excellent.
If you want to jump to free internet resources, you have a few options. Check out Wikipedia’s French Phonology page or the Foreign Service’s Institute French Phonology course. You can also find recordings for fine tuning work here.
If you have more questions about studying with Anki flashcards and learning French pronunciation or vocab, there’s also the Anki language learners community on Reddit. You can even check out this Anki language learning blog for other Anki tips and tricks for learning French.
2. Your base vocabulary
I’ve made a base vocabulary list of 400 words to start you off! As I talk about in that article, I find it easiest to translate those words using the short dictionaries at the end of a Lonely Planet Phrasebook; they’re cheap, short and give you good, standard translations for your words (just ignore the ridiculous pronunciation guides). Later, when you’re ready for sentences, you can go back to your phrasebook and grab some. After that, try some of these resources:
Another great dictionary is this one. It has links to Google Images and conjugation links.
The best free internet-based list I’ve found is here.
Thematic Word List:
The Mastering Vocabulary series is a wonderful set of books that contain core vocab for just about any field/topic you can think of. They’re great for adding to your vocab once you get your first 1000 or 2000 words from a frequency list.
There are also a neat set of sentences online, which are ranked based upon how frequently the words within those sentences show up within the language, then created Anki decks to store them, with Text-to-Speech recordings of each sentence and translations. They’re a nice resource to mine for useful content; I’d suggest finishing the 625, then looking through them in order for new words or new grammatical constructions, and then learning those new chunks via New Word cards, New Word Form cards and Word Order cards.
3. Grammar book
Grammaire Progressive Du Francais with answer book.
I used this book (Intermediate Level) at Middlebury. They’re wonderful. Completely in French, with clear explanations and examples for the whole range of French grammar. They’re just great books.
Here is a link to the grammar book I mention in Fluent Forever
4. Book-type book
You can read anything that you enjoy. I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter series in translation, especially if you can find an audiobook version to listen to at the same time as reading.
In terms of French literature, La Cantatrice Chauve by Ionesco is hilarious.
5. Other Resources
The TV series 24 has been dubbed into French and makes for some addictive TV! Shut off subtitles and it makes for 24 hours (well more like 18 hours) of solid French listening practice.
A list of great French movies on Netflix is here.
If you’d like to have French scripts handy for your TV watching, check out hypnoweb.net; they have scripts for just about everything.
There’s a useful French IPA deck for Anki that helps you get used to all the unique IPA and the sounds of French, according to their letter combinations in French words.
My favorite online monolingual dictionary is actually Wiktionnaire. (Many other language’s Wiktionaries are pretty incomplete)
In terms of a print source, the gold standard is Le Petit Robert or its little brother, Le Robert Practique (Used to be called Le Robert Micro).
Linguee is a lovely dictionary resource, in that it shows you multiple example sentences for each word and tells you about each word’s relative frequency in the language. (Currently in English, Spanish, German, French and Portuguese)
The Assimil series is a sort of special language learning resource that I discuss in a blog post here. It doesn’t quite fit into any of the categories above, and I think it works best as a sort of supplemental source of French input. Here’s the beginner French version with CDs.
Dictionarist provides translations, example sentences, conjugations, and synonyms for a number of languages including French.
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By the way, did you know the book is now an app. Check out our Fluent Forever app!
Discover our immersive method rooted in neuroscience designed to take you to fluency in < 30 minutes a day through four steps:
- 1. Train your ears with pronunciation lessons.
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