10 fun ways to learn French on the go

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Most of us spend lots of time commuting. And we tend to waste this time doing nothing or watching people around us. What if you used your daily commute to learn French instead? Here are 10 ways to learn French during your daily commute.

1.Listen to podcasts

Podcasts are one of the best ways to learn French. You can listen to them while on the go and learn some useful vocabulary and interesting facts about the language and the culture.

Frenchpod101 is my favorite, but I heard lots of good things about Coffee Break French too. Both podcasts use real French, that is French you can use when you visit a French-speaking country, and not some weird and absolutely useless sentences such as “he lives inside an apple”.

The advantage of podcasts is that they are made for French learners like you, so you won’t struggle to understand them if you pick the right level of difficulty. That is a level at which you can understand enough to be interested, while still learning new words and sentences.

Be sure to check out the top French podcasts if that’s something you are interested in.

2 Listen to French radio

France and other French-speaking countries have a great choice of radios. While listening to the radio is often harder than listening to a podcast, this will make it easier for you to understand French people, because people tend to speak faster in radio shows than podcasts. If you regularly listen to content made for French people and not for French learners, you will easily understand French people when you go to France.

RFI broadcasts news and programs in easy French. These are made for intermediate French learners who would like to practice hearing French but have a hard time understanding normal French. Other programs from RFI include “mot de l’actualité” (word from the news) and “fait du jour” (daily fact). You can also find a written version of each program if you have a hard time understanding the audio version.

When you choose a French radio, make sure you choose one where people actually speak French. Most radios mainly broadcast music, which is great, but it won’t help you learn French in most cases.

3. Listen to French music

Okay, so I just told you not to listen to music and now I suggest the contrary. Well, the thing is, the majority of the music you hear on French radios is in English. Not ideal to learn French.

The best way to learn with French music is to go to Youtube and look for French songs with subtitles in English or French. Usually, typing the name of the song or artist followed by “English” or “subtitle” is enough to find English subtitles. For French subtitles, type “sous-titres” after the name of the song or artist.

You can also subscribe to French Together’s Youtube channel to find cool  French songs and videos with subtitles.

4. Watch French TV

You can easily watch French TV from abroad. Many TV channels are available online from anywhere in the world. Other are restricted to people in France, but you can discover how to avoid this problem in this article explaining how to watch French TV from anywhere in the world.

Watching TV may sound like a waste of time, but it actually helps you get used to the language, improve your French pronunciation and expand your vocabulary. Perfect for days when you are too tired for radio and podcasts.

5. Watch great French videos

Sometimes, you may not find anything you like on TV (I know I rarely do). For those times, your best bet is again to go to Youtube and watch French videos with English or French subtitles.

This can be any kind of video. The most important is for it to be in French so you can learn more and more. Again, French Together’s Youtube channel contains an increasing collection of videos in French.

You could also watch Hollywood Speaks French, a series created specifically for French learners like you. It’s fun and full of useful and natural French vocabulary. Here is the first episode :

Another solution is to use Fluentu, this website features a large choice of French videos with subtitles. You can see the definition of each word as you watch and save the word to study it later.

6. Read news in French

If you prefer reading than listening, why not read news in French? You can find news written for children if you are a beginner, or read traditional French newspapers if you are an advanced learner.

If you are an intermediate learner, browser extensions that give you the meaning of any word you click on will greatly help you.

7. Read a book in French

Feel like reading today? Read a French book! Reading a book in French can be tough so I advice you to :

  • Read a bilingual book
  • Read on your phone or tablet using an app like Kindle to quickly see the translation of unknown words.

It’s important that you choose the right book for your level. Don’t go for something too complicated if you know you will take one hour to read a page. It’s better to take something easier that you will partially understand. This way you will have a great time and will naturally improve your vocabulary.

On the contrary, if you choose a book that is too easy to read, you will have a nice time, but there won’t be any challenge and you won’t learn French as fast as you could.

8. Listen to a book

The idea to listen to a book can be surprising. When I discovered Audible, the first thought that crossed my mind was “what for?”, “why would I listen to a book when I can just read it?”. It turns out that listening to a book can be amazing…provided that the narrator is talented;

Even more amazing is the fact that you can now listen and read a book at the same time. You listen to the book and each word is highlighted as the narrator reads it. This is extremely useful to learn French, because you will understand words you wouldn’t have understood with audio only, and you will memorize the pronunciation of each word much faster.

Audible is quite expensive, luckily you can get your first audiobook for free.

9. Expand your French vocabulary with a SRS software

You discovered SRS softwares in the Ultimate Guide To Learning Vocabulary. These softwares remind you of the exact time when you need to review words and sentences to make sure you memorize them long-term. Students who regularly use SRS softwares typically know much more French words than students who don’t.

You can use SRS softwares on your phone and simply review your vocabulary in the subway or while you are waiting somewhere. This only takes a few minutes and will tremendously improve your learning speed.

You may already have your favorite SRS software, but if you don’t, here is a quick presentation of three of them :

  1. Anki lets you enter your own vocabulary and is the software with the most options. It’s free for all platforms except IOS (sorry Apple fans).
  2. Memrise contains many pre-made decks so you don’t have to enter your vocabulary. This makes it easier but not necessarily better. It’s free on all platform.
  3. Mosalingua is a paid app containing all the French words and sentences you need to reach a good level. The pronunciation is also available.

10. Study French with an app

Most French courses give you the possibility to study French on the go with their app. Duolingo allows you to learn French by translating the web, while babbel and rocket French adopt a more traditional approach.

They all possess apps that you can easily use when you are not at home.

 Over to you

How do you spend your commuting time? Do you use it to learn French?

Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters. You will also find him giving blogging advice on Grow With Less.