I have had the privilege of teaching Mathieu French for almost two years now. He is hands down the hardest worker I have ever had; he has studied more than five hours a night on many occasions…for weeks on end! He has revolutionized the heights I believe it is possible for a student to achieve with self-study. I have never taught the likes of him in twenty-four years! He has also taught me a wealth of things about technology and its applications in foreign language study. Recently he complied a list of free resources he uses to study French so that I could share it with my other students. With his permission I am posting it here so that you can all benefit from his research and wisdom as well.
Merci M. Mathieu! And now, in his own words…the wisdom of Mathieu P.:
Clearly, if I used all of the below resources on a regular basis, I would be fluent in French in less than
two-weeks. However, what I’ve listed below are resources I’ve encountered during my unique
approach to learning French – the “Try Absolutely Everything Known to Mankind” method. The below
are free sources; I’m developing a list of resources that involve money. It is a bit more comprehensive
so I’m developing it separately.
Mobile Device Apps
There are a variety of French learning apps for mobile phones and other mobile devices. The great
thing is that users are able to see how the community rates a particular app before its downloaded.
Some of the apps turn out to be poorly done while others are ‘starter’ apps designed to encourage
you to buy the full product. However, there are still apps available for free that prove useful. For
iPhone, some of these include:
* Mindsnacks French
* Free French Audio
* SpeakEasy French
There are a variety of apps and podcasts – it’s just a matter of sorting through them all to find what
works for you.
French In Action Videos
All of the videos have been posted free (courtesy of a grant). Although the printed materials aren’t
presented, it’s very helpful to watch the videos and follow the dialogue in an immersion environment.
RFI Langue Francaise Site
RFI does a great job or providing numerous resources on their site relates to French learning. I listen
to the 20 minutes easy news (which is intermediate to advanced intermediate) whenever I can. The
script is also provided for free. Other than that, there are free games, resources, and other helpful
items for learning the French language.
About.com – French
This site is an amazing, free resource. It has conjugated every verb in every tense, has great articles,
tips for learning, free French lessons, free grammar explanations, everything you can possibly
imagine. I highly recommend this site to everyone because it’s also community-based. It also does a
great job of providing links to other resources on the web for learning French.
Quizlet Flash Cards
There are a variety of free apps (iPhone/Android) and websites that feature flashcards for
memorization and retention. A personal favorite (site) of mine is Quizlet. It allows you to create
flashcards but also has language-specific keyboards that pop-up.
This is an app for iPhone (not sure if it exists for Android). It also has a corresponding website, so
you’re able to listen to radio stations from around the world both on your mobile device and browser.
One of the stations I’ve been listening to a lot is RTL. Specifically, they have a morning program that
is two-hours long but covers a variety of topics (e.g. world news, sports, horoscope, humor). Do I
understand it all? Not really. But it becomes easier each time I listen because of the repetition. It’s
called “A la Bonne Heure“. All of the programs on RTL can be downloaded as free pod casts from
iTunes or the RTL site itself.
There are a variety of free French pod casts that are available for download; both from your mobile
phone and on the Internet. Some of my favorites include:
* News in Slow French
* RTL’s “A la Bonne Heure” morning program
* RFI “Journal en francais facile
* Radio Japan “French News”
Free College Courses
Over the past few years, prominent universities have been posting free courses from previous
academic years to the Internet for all. For example, MIT has a site called OpenCourseware where
French I and French” course materials, lectures, and syllabus from 2004 are offered for free.
Essentially, you have the entire semester of classes at your disposal from a professor for self-study.
I’ve only looked at MIT but the following are other well-known universities who have followed suit:
* MIT Open Courseware: http://ocw.mit.edulindex.htm
* Carnegie Mellon OpenLearning: http://oliweb.cmu.edu/openlearning/
* University of California at Berkeley: http://webcast.berkeley.edu/
* Stanford University ITunesU: http://itunes.stanford.edu/
* Tufts OpenCourseware: http://ocw.tufts.edu/
* Johns Hopkins OpenCourseware: http://ocw.jhsph.edu/
There are other universities that have done this – the above are just a sample of what’s available
Free Online Books
Google Books, Project Gutenberg, Archive.org and Amazon Kindle Store (to name a few) all
have books that are free due to copyright expirations. Although older, there are a variety of French
books from the 1920’s and 1930’s that feature short stories, fairy tales, grammar lessons, and
grammar drills. Although they are old, I feel like books from this time period are (for the most part)
better formulated for a French student. Since they didn’t have the benefit of TV or computers, they
had to explain everything in a manner that all readers could understand. There are a variety of free
books at all levels that often include French paragraphs immediately followed by English.
Mobile Phone & Computer Language
This was initially horrifying to understand but seemed to help increase my vocabulary a bit. Change
the language settings on your phone and personal computer to French. There are a variety of
commands and prompts that appear on both devices that help with learning every-day French
language. Not only do you learn the phrase but you can often extract the verb and when to use it. For
* Appels recus
* Creer un nouveau contact
* Ajouter a un contact
* Messages supprimes
Google Translate App and Site
This is an app that is available for both iPhone and Android. They’ve improved the functionality
tremendously over the past year. You can speak or write an English phrase into the app and it will
speak the French phrase in a human voice back to you or vice versa. This is extremely helpful during
translation or when you are trying to figure out whether or not the sentence you’re thinking about is
correct. It also provides “on-the-fly” translation help, which is useful over the course of the day.
Oh the joys of YouTube. There is SO MUCH stuff on YouTube that can help with French from video
courses to French TV shows to TV shows dubbed in French to interviews etc etc etc. The world is
really your oysters here and there are a variety of uses. It’s often helpful to pick a hobby or topic of
interest. For example, I enjoy classical music. There are a variety of interviews with opera singers,
maestros, orchestra members, etc that are easier to understand because I’m already interested in the
music. It’s easier to follow-along. Additionally, there are some children’s programs like French
Sesame Street and other cartoons that can be seen. The sky is the limit here.
The Bible in French
Despite being agnostic, I was raised in a very strong Christian household and went to Catholic School
for three years. As such, there are quite a few free translations of the Bible into friend that are
available for both mobile, Kindle, and PC devices. An easy search through app stores or the Kindle
Site will bring them up. Since there are certain Bible stories that many Americans grew up with, it is
really helpful to read them in French since you already have an understanding of what happens.
Putting the pieces together becomes much easier when it comes to words that you don’t initially
Industry-Specific Blogs in French
My line of work is in digital media and there are a variety of French blogs dedicated to this particular
area. For example, one of the big sites for digital/social media is Mashable – there is also a French
version of Mashable. I’ve found this route to be very helpful when it comes to learning industry terms
but also for overall French learning. As with other methods, you typically know a lot about your
specific industry. Because of that, it’s much easier to guess and estimate the meaning of words while
you’re reading. It’s a great free way to learn about your industry in France and learn the language at
the same time.
Along these lines, you can also download RSS feed products on your mobile device and subscribe to
French sites/blogs. Whenever there is a new article or update, it will automatically be updated on your
phone. This eliminates the need to search for websites because they can all be aggregated in one
place. The RSS Feed app I use is called Reeder. Although it cost $2.99, all of the feeds are free.
Skype is like the ICQ of the Internet. It’s possible to find pen pals and videoconference with them. You
can speak French and even chat in French as well. There are a variety of paid services that
incorporate Skype into their French tutoring. However, there are also a variety of websites that pair
people up (e.g. Someone who wants to learn French with someone who wants to learn English). In
some of these scenarios, everything is free because both parties are trying to learn the other’s
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