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, including some recommended by our French Together readers! 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.
Free French podcasts for all levels/beginners
Coffee Break French offers a number of different podcasts for French learners. You can find them all grouped together on the Coffee Break French website, or by subject/level by using the “Podcasts” tab at the top of the site’s homepage.
Some, like the general podcasts that are divided by level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), focus on learning French, while others focus on culture (and, through that, vocabulary). There’s even a series for advanced learners, called La Vérité éclate toujours, which includes truly advanced audio as well as explanations by Coffee Break French’s founder, Mark, a cheerful, charming Scottish man who teaches French.
The lessons are helpful and feel very interactive and warm. For example, in one learning podcast, 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.
The podcast’s learning levels seem well thought-out. For instance, the main Coffee Break French podcast’s beginner level podcasts (compiled as “Season 1”) 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 are general and related courses 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”. There is a tab at the top of the screen entitled “Podcasting”, but this just brings you to a very outdated-feeling page that mainly explains what a podcast is and how to pay for the lesson guides that go with the ones on the site.
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 “Blog”, but even then, it’s better to scroll down till you reach the “Recent Lessons” sections, where podcasts are labeled as Beginner, Intermediate, or 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.
Learn French With Alexa has been a website and podcast for a long time. In early 2022, the podcast had a major rehaul. It now seems to be more about French culture than listening to/learning the language. Many of these podcasts do a deep-dive into one French word or expression.
Unlike the previous podcasts, these seem to be free, and a lesson guide that includes vocabulary and key information are also free via Alexa’s website.
Speaking of which, the site isn’t very showy – not showy enough, in fact; it took a surprising amount of digging to find an announcement that the new podcast’s first season finished in late March and that season 2 is set to start in September. In the meantime, you can listen to the dozen or so episodes that are currently online to get some interesting insights into French language and culture while you wait for the new ones.
Cost: The podcasts and a list of vocabulary and information are free. You can also take courses and purchase additional features.
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 an episode called “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.
Tip: If you listen to the podcasts via 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.
Many French Together readers have contacted us about the Inner French podcast, and now I understand why! This podcast takes in-depth looks not only at expected topics like what it’s like to live in France, but questions like whether or not the French are “woke” or what childcare is like in France today.
Although the podcast is entirely in French, with no explanation of words, etc., the hosts and guests usually speak a bit slowly and pay attention to articulating, so learners will be able to make out what’s said.
Perfect for advanced French learners who want to take a deep dive into French language and culture, the episodes are on the long side, averaging a little over 30 minutes, and are engaging and genuinely interesting. I’ve bookmarked a few to listen to later!
Also, this podcast genuinely seems to hit its goal of showing how French people speak today, by going so far as to include trendy English terms like “woke” in some of their titles – an extremely French thing to do, at least for younger generations!
When you access them on the Inner French website, the podcast episodes include a relatively thorough summary in French, as well as links to sources that are referenced (which could be a great way to also practice reading in French, if a topic appeals to you!). On the other hand, to get a transcript, you have to create a free Inner French account.
Cost: The podcast, brief summary in French, and list of sources are free; you can get a transcript by creating a free account. The site also offers paid French courses.
Jeanne is a French teacher whose podcasts are different from many others out there – she talks more like a blogger or your friend posting on social media (minus the slang) than a typical teacher. This means that her focus tends to be her own life, travels, and opinions, rather than things like French vocabulary or culture or current events.
Of course, the twist is that by listening to her talk about, say, her bucket list, you will come away with vocabulary and possibly insights into current events and French culture.
This podcast was suggested to us by a French Together reader, and while I get how some people might find Jeanne’s approach appealing, personally I prefer a more convivial, outward-looking style. But variety is the spice of life, and if podcasts in general don’t appeal to you, Jeanne’s might!
Cost: The podcast is free to listen to. Episodes are organized into thematic series for which you can purchase transcripts for 6 euros ($6.22 USD) as of this writing. In some cases, these also include images of things Jeanne mentions, but they don’t seem essential to enjoying the podcast. Jeanne also offers paid tutoring sessions.
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 Daily French Pod 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.
Another unusual thing is that this podcast used to have its own website, but if you go there now, the list of available podcasts ends in January 2021. So it’s best to access this podcast via third-party sites like Apple Podcasts, which we’ve linked to above.
Cost: The podcasts are free.
You may have seen LanguaTalk mentioned in some of our other articles. It’s primarily known as an online language tutoring site. It also hosts a few language learning podcasts, including the French option, LanguaTalk Slow French: Learn French with Gaëlle.
It’s name may be a mouthful, but this podcast is a really good source of practice for intermediate French learners. Gaëlle, a Frenchwoman who’s a LanguaTalk tutor, speaks slowly and clearly about a different topic related to the French language or French culture, in each episode.
She seems friendly and the show covers a lot of interesting and helpful topics. A bonus is the “interactive transcript” that you can access for free with each episode. It allows you to highlight a paragraph of the transcript and hear just that spoken by Gaëlle, with each word she says highlighted in blue as it’s spoken. A very cool and helpful French learning bonus!
Cost: Free. Online tutoring and other resources are also avaiable through LanguaTalk (the rate depends on the tutor you choose).
I love poetry, so before listening to this podcast, from French learning site French Today, 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 French Poem Readings podcast is simply the poem read twice, slowly and clearly. On the website, you can find the transcript and an English translation, as well as additional learning material.
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. Some also have additional material included, like a native French speaker reading them. Others have bonus material as part of a French poetry audiobook for sale by the site’s owner.
Hosted by Franco-Japanese actress and musician Nagisa Morimoto, this podcast covers a lot of different topics, mostly spoken in, as the title says, slow French. That said, the French is probably the least “slow”-feeling of the podcasts I’ve listened to; Morimoto’s cadence is very pleasant and often feels like having a calm conversation with someone at normal speed.
Don’t let that intimidate you; not only does she speak very clearly, she also often repeats phrases, asks listeners if they’ve understood, and stops to define certain words in English, making this an ideal podcast for intermediate and advanced intermediate learners.
I also appreciate the personal touches, like in one episode when we can hear Morimoto’s cat meowing in the background and she mentions that her cat “won’t stop talking” and asks listeners to enjoy the episode – and her cat!
That said, the topics covered tend to be more general than personal, related to French language, culture, and learning, although there are some exceptions, as in a recent episode, Un Français chez les Samouraïs, when Morimoto discusses her bi-cultural heritage and the role Japan has played in her life.
Cost: The podcast is free, but you can only get episode transcripts through Patreon.
This roughly 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.
Many French Together readers like Duolingo’s French podcast. It’s easy to see why. It’s a unique combination of a host speaking pretty much entirely in English, and the people he’s talking about speaking in slow, easy-to-understand French. The wide variety of topics is on-brand with Duolingo’s fun, often unexpected language exercises and examples.
For instance, a few recent podcast episodes run the gamut from an interview with a chocolate maker, a rapper, athletes, and an advocate for the preservation of the Breton language.
This variety also made me think of shows like NPR’s “This American Life”…but with a French twist. And speaking of “French”, this is one of the few mainstream French learning podcasts I’ve come across that includes speakers of French from different Francophone countries and regions, regularly.
On the downside, I personally found it strange that everyone “interviewed” in the episodes I listened to spoke in relatively slow French. I absolutely understand why this would be helpful in a French learning podcast, but in reality, not everyone speaks that way and it was a bit jarring, making me question whether we were really listening to these people speak, or if they were just actors.
That said, regardless, the overall concept is an innovative and interesting way to practice French, so bravo to Duolingo for that.
Cost: The podcast and transcripts are free and easily accessible on Duolingo’s site. And of course, Duolingo also offers a paid course.
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.
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.
Two very popular French learning podcasts that aren’t free
When I reviewed FrenchPod101 a few years ago, it was very clear about what the site was and what was free and what wasn’t. The site today is strangely sparse, just featuring an ad for its learning program. It’s hard to find its podcasts – in fact, I had to find it on Apple Podcasts, click an episode, and then click “Episode website” to find the page on FrenchPod101’s own site.
Then again, since FrenchPod101 is mostly a paying site, maybe if you sign up it’s easier to access the podcasts from their site.
Once you’re on a podcast page, you can see that all additional material besides a transcript is blocked unless you’re a paid user.
This isn’t totally uncommon, since some of the other sites on this list work in a similar way. But what strikes me about FrenchPod101 is that the quality of the podcasts seems to have plummeted since I last reviewed it. The two or three episodes I sampled featured podcasters who were not native French speakers.
There are some non-native French speakers who are gifted enough to pull this off – for instance, Mark of Coffee Break French. But even he often calls upon native speakers to read texts and say vocabulary words.
If FrenchPod101 were a totally free resource, I’d chalk up this lack of native speakers on the podcast as “You get what you pay for”…even though the other free podcasts on our list are hosted by or feature native French speakers…. But for a paying site to offer such low-quality resources is nul.
To be fair, it could be that the site is in transition. Its homepage seems to tout personalized teachers, for instance, rather than its podcast learning system. But still.
Cost: If you want to try out FrenchPod101 in spite of this review, $10-23 USD per month, depending on your subscription plan, although there was a 30% off sale when I reviewed the site, so you might get a deal.
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: $19.90 USD a month for access to the podcasts (different levels available) and other learning materials.
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 could start looking for a French podcast to listen to on Spotify France’s list of the most currently popular French podcasts.
Or, 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.
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.
Unfortunately, while I can’t find any official statement about this podcast being canceled or going on hiatus, the most recent episode dates to about two months ago and there’s no news of new ones to come. That said, you can still enjoy the episodes that are online.
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.
If, like me, you’re a fan of fun facts and deep dives into the origins of everyday objects and customs, Mourir Moins Con is an excellent podcast to listen to. Each episode explores a question – for instance, Pourquoi les poches des jeans des femmes sont-elles plus petites ? (Why are the pockets of women’s jeans smaller [than men’s pockets]?)
Bonus: Although Mourir Moins Con is for the general French public, I personally think its host speaks clearly and at a reasonable speed, which makes it an easier listen for French learners than many other French podcasts.
Where can I find more podcasts in French?
Despite the fact that podcasts are popular, they aren’t always extremely easy to find. Luckily, an online search for phrases like “meilleurs podcasts 2022” will lead you to some good suggestions, often included on lists with other podcasts.
One good source for French podcasts could be a podcast you already like. For instance, I’ve mentioned that Coffee Break French has a number of different podcasts. So does Slate.fr, the producer of Transfert. Here’s a list of Slate.fr’s podcasts, which cover all sorts of topics and tones.
You may also find some good recommendations on this list of French podcasts, this list of French podcast suggestions from the French edition of Elle Magazine, or Buzzfeed’s list of French podcast recommendations. And here’s a list of culture, knowledge, and trivia-related French podcasts that may catch your fancy.
If you’re not an advanced-level French speaker yet, remember that some English-language podcasts may cover things like French history, culture, sports, movies, and cuisine. An online search for “podcast about French” plus the topic of your choosing, is a good place to start.
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?