Podcasts are very à la mode these days, which means you can find at least one covering just about any subject imaginable. Luckily, that includes learning French.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of some of the best French learning podcasts. And since English isn’t the only language podcasts come in, we’ll also check out some French podcasts that advanced learners and fluent speakers may want to give a listen.
What to know about French podcasts
Before we get started, here are some things to keep in mind about French learning podcasts:
- Listening skills are a critical part of becoming fluent in French. According to a study by PhD graduate Paul Sulzberger from Victoria University, “Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from simple exposure to the language – which is how babies learn their first language.”
- A big advantage of podcasts (as opposed to text or videos) is that you can listen to them just about anywhere on your mobile device or computer. This means that they’re a great way to practice French while you’re, say, driving to work, doing chores around the house, or taking a walk.
- Some French learning podcasts are actually audio recordings of lessons from a learning platform, or an audio recording of a video, and they’re usually scripted, which means some kind of text version (usually a transcript) is available. The good news is, if you’re not a podcast person but you do like the subjects that are covered in a French learning podcast, chances are you can find the same thing in a different format. The bad news is that you can’t go into a French learning podcast expecting amazing production values and pacing – although some of them are extremely well produced, and all of the ones on our list are easy to hear and understand.
- French learning podcasts aren’t the only way you should be learning French. It’s important to have some kind of visual and hands-on elements of language learning — not to mention a way to get a handle on things like grammar, a topic that isn’t often covered, or isn’t covered in depth, in French learning podcasts. You also can’t listen to a podcast one time and expect that you’ve acquired the vocabulary or whatever else was covered, forever. Just like anything else, you’ll have to review and practice regularly.
- French learning podcasts won’t work for everyone. Some French learning podcasts may not work for the way you like to learn. For example, if you’re a visual learner, hearing vocabulary words repeated at you with no indication of how they’re written may not be very helpful (although once you’ve learned the vocabulary from a list and/or by writing it, you could use podcasts like this to help you with pronunciation).
- Not all French learning podcasts are reliable sources of correct French. After all, anyone can make a podcast. You could end up listening to one with a non-native speaker who uses words incorrectly or has a bad French accent. The ones on our list won’t have those problems, but if you come across a French learning podcast on your own, be careful. Try to find out about the native language and teaching qualifications of the host(s). You can usually do this by visiting the “about” section of the podcast’s website.
If you don’t know what kind of language learner you are, give podcasts a try – but remember to always supplement them with a visual element and other ways to practice.
Try thinking of them as a way to train your ear and/or as a supplement your classes at school or online.
How do French learning podcasts work?
Like just about any podcast. French podcasts can usually be found via their official site, as well as platforms like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Player FM, etc.
French learning podcasts use different strategies. Some are entirely or mostly in French, while others are primarily in English. Some use regular spoken French, while others use slow French.
Slow French is what it sounds like – slower spoken French, which is a great way for beginners and intermediate level learners to practice their listening skills.
But it’s also important to listen to things in regular spoken French as well, so that you’ll be able to understand French speakers in everyday life – not to mention French movies, shows, and even other French podcasts.
French Together founder Benjamin wrote this helpful article about the pros and cons of slow French, and how you can turn audio into slow French if necessary.
Most French learning podcasts are tied to a learning platform, so you will probably hear ads or feel that you need to become a (usually paying) subscriber in order to access supplemental features.
Some French learning podcasts are free – including transcripts of the episodes. Others are free to listen to, but you have to subscribe or pay for access to a transcript and/or vocabulary list. Still others can only be accessed by paying for them. These are typically podcasts and audio that go with learning platforms.
Two very popular French learning podcasts that aren’t free
Frenchpod101 used to be free, and according to its website’s FAQ, it still is…sort of. If you sign up, you have access to podcasts and lessons for a limited time, until they become part of the paying service.
Beginner level audio/podcasts are usually a spoken list of vocabulary, first in French, then in English. More advanced levels are like typical dialogues or podcasts. Some of the audio options come with free transcripts or vocabulary lists, while others only make these available to paying members.
When he discovered the Frenchpod101 podcast a few years ago, French Together founder Benjamin Houy really loved it and thought that it was an excellent resource. Personally, I find it hard to locate the podcasts on their site, and when using a podcast site like Player FM, I’ve found that most of the options are actually just ads for Frenchpod101, not podcasts unto themselves. It seems to me that a lot’s changed.
I would say that if you don’t mind paying for access to these podcasts, they could be helpful, but with so many other free options (as you’ll see from the rest of this list), they didn’t particularly stand out to me as being so remarkable as to be worth the investment. But if you like the Frenchpod101 system and would sign up for the lessons anyway, the podcasts are a nice part of that.
Cost: $60-$316 USD a year, depending on your subscription level. You may see that you can sign up for a free 7-day trial, but as with any subscription, be sure that you know how to cancel it if you don’t want to continue, so that you won’t be billed.
Basically, this podcast is what it says: different headlines are read in slow French. This means a huge variety of vocabulary for listeners.
You can find some free episodes if you do an online search for “News in Slow French podcast.” These seem to only be advanced-level episodes, however.
The other levels, as well as all of the podcasts, not just selected episodes, are available via paid subscription. Personally, the free episodes I’ve listened to show that the headlines seem to be well selected and enjoyably presented, so if you are planning to invest in a paid podcast subscription, this could be a good choice.
Cost: $19.99 USD a month ($239.88 USD per year) for access to the podcasts (different levels available) and other learning material.
If you’re on a budget, not to worry! There are many excellent free French learning podcasts. Here are some of the most notable, with our thoughts.
Free French podcasts for all levels/beginners
This cheerful, charming French podcast is hosted by Mark, a Scottish man who teaches French.
The lessons are helpful and feel very interactive and warm. For example, when Mark suggests holding your nose to practice the nasal sound of Non, he then remarks that he’s imagining people all around the world holding their noses right now. These sort of little side comments make for a fun and relaxed ambiance.
There are Coffee Break French podcasts for several levels of French learners, from “Absolute beginners” to “Advanced” and all of them are free and easily accessed from the website. Just scroll down the website’s main page and click on the “More Info” box for your level.
The levels seem well thought-out. “Absolute beginners” podcasts involve basic vocabulary and slow speaking, and feature Mark and a beginner French student.
The “Advanced” ones are quite advanced, indeed, spoken at slightly slower speed than usual (but then again, the idea of the podcast I was listening to was that the speaker was reading an email, not having a real-time conversation), but not really anything much different from what I might hear in Paris every day.
The advanced courses include a native French speaker, who does most of the talking/reading.
But even if Mark’s speaking French, don’t worry – as French Together founder (and bona fide French guy) Benjamin Houy wrote in a previous article about this, Mark’s French accent is great (I am insanely jealous), so beginners are in good hands.
Cost: The podcasts are free and there is a course you can pay for, as well.
This podcast features different formats for different levels. Beginner level podcasts feature native speakers’ words explained by a native English speaker after the dialogue or information is said in French, while Advanced level podcasts are entirely in French, with vocabulary explained in French, by a native French speaker.
There are three levels, and a very wide range of topics are covered.
The weird thing is, despite the podcast’s very clear name, their website makes it hard to find podcasts for particular levels, and often calls podcasts by other names, like “lessons” and “guides”.
The only way I’ve found to locate lessons for a particular level is to click on a podcast on the homepage at random listed under “Recent Lessons” and then look for the sidebar on the right that lets you choose between Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
Another downside is that the beginner episodes seem somewhat advanced, to me. For example, this episode about how to use Ça va and talk about how you are involves a dialogue where a person is interrupted by their cell phone ringing and incorporates far more than basic vocabulary. All of that is explained by an English speaker afterward but to me it seems like it could feel like overload for a lot of beginner-level learners, especially absolute beginners.
It seems like this podcast is best for intermediate or advanced French learners, who don’t mind sifting through lessons in order to find what they’re looking for, rather than relying on a more organized way to find it in the first place.
Cost: The podcasts are free, but the lesson guide for each has to be purchased.
Alexa is an experienced French teacher (and native French speaker). Her podcasts are positive but very teacherlike, asking people to repeat, guiding listeners, and announcing what you’ll learn later.
If this academic style appeals to you, great news: Alexa offers courses for three different French levels on her website – Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
A paid subscription includes not only access to podcasts but worksheets and other helpful resources.
On the other hand, if you just want to listen to the podcasts without subscribing or paying for anything, your choices are more limited.
You can find beginner-level podcasts she posted as long as ten years ago on sites like Player FM and Apple Podcasts, but there are only 15 of these. Still, they provide a great introduction and should be a more than helpful way of determining if you want to go further into learning French with Alexa.
Cost: About 15 podcasts are free (available on third-party sites (links above), but you’ll have to pay for additional podcasts, as well as lessons and learning materials.
French podcasts for intermediate and advanced learners
This is an excellent podcast for advanced learners. The host is Johan, a native French speaker. He’s very positive, but in a realistic, extremely French way. For example, in a recent episode, “Comment parler comme un français”, he starts out by telling listeners that they will never speak like a French person, since they’re not native speakers – but that this is okay. For that honesty and reassurance, bravo, Johan!
This podcast is an excellent way to get a sense of how French people really speak. I would even go so far as to recommend it to beginners solely for listening/pronunciation/cadence purposes, since they probably won’t be able to understand much yet. That said, you can also watch these podcasts in their original video form. This include custom French subtitles.
Tip: If you watch the videos (which are the same audio as the podcasts) on the Français authentique website, you’ll also be able to read a free transcript of each.
Cost: The podcasts/videos and transcripts are free. You can also pay for a course.
The concept of this podcast is a bit unusual. A Frenchman, Louis, presents a very short news story or dialogue two times, in slow French. Then, he breaks it down, defining and repeating each word or phrase.
It seems simple enough, and at a short 4 minutes or so per podcast, it’s a great way for learners to train their ears and acquire some new vocabulary. But DailyFrenchPod is definitely not for beginners; while words and phrases are defined, they’re explained in French, and the overall meaning of the dialogue or news story is never explained, so you have to have a decent level of French going into it.
Still, I love the fact that this podcast is short and to the point. It’s an excellent way for advanced intermediate and advanced learners to practice and learn in a stolen moment of their day. And there’s such a wide range of topics that you’ll learn a lot of new vocabulary.
Cost: The podcasts are free, but you can also purchase additional learning tools and lessons. You can even sign up for one-on-one Skype lessons with Louis himself.
I love poetry, so before listening to this podcast, I was so excited about the idea of getting to listen to a French poem and then learn a bit about vocabulary and maybe grammar through it. But it turns out that each Easy French Poetry podcast is simply the poem read twice, slowly and clearly. On the website, you can find the transcript and an English translation.
So, rather than being an extensive French lesson, this short podcast is an excellent way to train and test your French listening skills, while also discovering (or re-discovering) some French poetry. It certainly isn’t the only podcast you should use to learn French, but it makes for a moment of beauty and a way to learn something about French culture, which is why even as a fluent French-speaker, I’m going to be listening to this one regularly!
One disadvantage, though: poetry, of course, often involves wordplay or unusual vocabulary and usage choices, so this shouldn’t be the only French podcast you listen to if you want to master everyday French.
Cost: The podcast and texts of the poems as well as their English translations, are free. You can purchase additional learning materials, including an explanation of the poems (also in French), as well.
This tri-weekly podcast is very much in line with the modern-day trend of social media figures like vloggers letting you into their lives (Fittingly, the podcast has its own Instagram account).
Each episode is about something that happened in the daily life of Laetitia, the host, a Frenchwoman who lives near Paris. Speaking only in French, Laetitia will start talking about something mundane, for example, an episode of a TV show she watched, and then, as these kinds of conversations often do, she’ll go into another, related topic.
But don’t worry – she talks very slowly and clearly. This, in fact, can be a disadvantage or an advantage, depending on what you want in a podcast. If you like the idea of being able to share the daily life of a real French person, this slowness (she’s probably reading a text she’s written) makes it all ring false, regardless of how true her words might be.
On the other hand, for intermediate and advanced French students who want to test or improve their comprehension skills and vocabulary, it’s definitely an advantage.
Cost: The podcast is free. You can also have free access to the transcripts, if you subscribe to the newsletter.
The first thing that came to mind when I listened to this podcast is “legit”! It actually airs on RFI (Radio France Internationale), a real French radio station. The opening music, in fact, is the same thing I hear every morning when my French husband listens to the news while getting ready for work.
This means that while simplified a bit, the newscast features real French speakers who talk at a normal speed and use current vocabulary. The bad thing is that while the podcast’s title implies it’s easy to listen to, even some advanced speakers might have a problem now and then keeping up. Luckily, you can get a transcript of each episode for free, by clicking on the title of that particular podcast.
Cost: The podcast and transcripts are free.
If you’re an advanced French learner who likes podcasts that cover a wide range of topics, this is a great one for you to try. Each episode, the host, Jessica, a native French speaker, interviews other native French speakers living in France and abroad, about their interesting jobs. Jessica begins by introducing the episode in English and giving a very brief summary of what’s to come, and the rest of the interview is in French.
Recent episodes include an interview with a French scientist studying magnets at a Florida university, a discussion with a French psychologist, and a conversation with a French driving instructor. Each episode includes notes with definition of some of the more obscure vocabulary used, as well as a few comprehension questions and answers. You can also subscribe for access to more resources.
Cost: The podcast is free to listen to, and if you listen via the official site, you’ll see a few vocabulary words and exercises for free below it. Transcripts are free for the first 64 episodes of the podcast; for later podcasts, they’re available for a fee.
Podcasts about language learning
Learning a language can take its toll on you.
There are days when you feel great and optimistic, and other days where you feel, well, the opposite.
Language learning podcasts can be a great way to realize that you’re not alone, and they can also give you some very helpful tips when it comes to some of the challenges you’re facing.
The podcasts here aren’t in French and most don’t specifically focus on French, but they can be a good listen for all of us who are on the journey of language learning.
This podcast is in English but is actually focused specifically on French. In some episodes, Jessica (the same French native-speaker who hosts French Voices) will focus on vocabulary or grammar, while other episodes look at topics like how to stay motivated when learning French, or travel tips.
What’s great about this podcast is that it’s great for beginners but there’s a nice enough mix of information, tips, and tricks that even advanced learners won’t be bored listening to it.
Cost: The podcast and a list of selected vocabulary, as well as links to other resources, are free. Additional learning material is available at a cost.
Hosted by Kerstin Cable and Lindsay Williams, two enthusiastic polyglots, the podcast explores things like how to memorize vocabulary about ideas, what an indigenous language really is, and much more.
Although I love these ladies’ enthusiasm, I personally find that it takes them way too long to get to the point – and apparently, I’m not the only one; in one podcast, they even say they’ve had comments about this. But if you like podcasts that are a bit long-winded, yet full of pep and good cheer, and do ultimately share interesting ideas and advice, this is a good one to check out.
Cost: More of an actual podcast, The Fluent Show isn’t tied to a learning platform, so it’s free to listen to and there’s no supplemental materials to purchase. Like all podcasts, you can, of course, donate to support the hosts/producers if you want.
Olly Richards, a cheerful Englishman, polyglot, and teacher, shares the tips he’s personally learned while learning 8 languages.
The episodes move along at a breezy clip and there’s a lot of honesty and humor around Richards’ thoughts and experiences. Personally, I prefer his style to the slower one of The Fluent Show.
Cost: The podcast is free to listen to. Richards also offers courses and other learning tools to purchase.
How to find podcasts and podcast episodes about French culture, history, sports, etc.
A part of language learning is also understanding culture, history, and traditions.
After all, if you don’t know the importance of a baguette or what French people are talking about when they say things like le 14 juillet or la rentrée, you can’t really consider yourself completely fluent in French.
If you’re a podcast fan, there are loads of podcasts (in English) about French culture, history, and other aspects of French life.
These may be individual episodes of other podcasts, or entire podcasts unto themselves.
Do an online search for “podcasts about French ____” (the blank is whatever interests you – culture, history, movies, TV series, life, etc.) and see what you discover!
Podcasts in French
Of course, podcasts aren’t just for people learning French – there are podcasts for and by native French speakers, too.
If you have an advanced or fluent level of French, these are a fantastic way to keep up your skills, learn new vocabulary, and gain insight into French culture.
You can find a list of the most currently popular French podcasts here.
And here are a few suggestions.:
Produced by Slate.fr, this podcast lets randomly chosen people speak about their thoughts and lives. It’s an interesting mix of topics and voices – in every sense of the word. And if you like variety, the link to Slate.fr’s podcasts page includes episodes and links to their other French-language podcasts, too.
This podcast discusses different aspects of TV series from France, the US, and elsewhere. It’s an entertaining and often enlightening listen for pop culture junkies like myself.
This true crime podcast discusses a case in one hour.
Since it’s a technically a radio show from French radio station RTL, unlike most podcasts, it simply involves an announcer and the occasional interview – there’s no music to set the mood or other similar features you might find in a typical podcast.
But that’s also an advantage for foreign listeners, since you can focus on the voices.
Even if neither of these three in particular speak to you, they should show that French podcasts are extremely diverse.
Have you listened to any of these French learning (or French) podcasts? What did you think of them? Do you have a favorite French learning podcast?