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Thursday, March 11, 2010


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Kathy Nieder

Gosh, these are all great ideas. I would add: listen to the podcasts at Excellent series for intermediate speakers.

Donna Peters

A big Thank You to Kristin for her inspiring e-mails. They will certainly give me a boost when I arrive in Isle-sur-Sorgue this June to paint.
I have enjoyed several CD programs, but find it very entertaining to casually read a French dictionary. I bought several from the thrift stores and scatter them everywhere including the car.

Christine in Salt Lake City

I forgot to mention another favorite way to learn: Children's videos. For those in North America, the "Bob the Builder" and most Disney DVDs have a track in French (you can get them from your library). Also, there are a few things online. Check out the children's videos on this site, they are pretty cute and fairly easy to follow:

Cold (high of 45) and sunny in SLC today

Chris, Utah

You need to learn it like a baby wanting his needs met...the first phrase you should learn is "J'ai besoin de...." (fill in the blank) and then the phrase "s'il vous plait" because it gets your need met much faster. "J'ai faim" and "J'ai soif" are also very helpful.

The other thing to do once you learn some language is to say the phrase out loud, exaggerating the words, mocking how the French say it. The phrase will stick with you. (You'll never sound as good as they do, so this is the only way you'll even get close).


Best tip - don't stop once you have got going (again) with french! I go to Alliance Francaise here in Christchurch and have done so for 6 years. France is a long way from N Z but New Caledonia is only 3 hours away and you have to speak french as many of the locals don't speak english. One web site not mentioned which has been good for my vocab. is - is for 12 to 14 year olds but plenty of new words for me. Agree with the watch french films with french sub titles.
I also watch the half hour per day french news and this year my goal is to sit DELF B1 - quite a challenge but is keeping me focused


My wife and i started a French Playgroup here in Sydney Australia, for local Francophone families. It's been a great success, but we spend so much time administering it, that we hardly have time to learn French any more! Doh!


WE do a mixture of things: We took the big jump, and bought a house in France. But not in "Dordogneshire" where seemingly every second person is English (speaking). This has forced us to learn, and fast. But when we're there we keep a dictionary in the car, or my handbag.

Sadly, we're not there frequently enough to improve much, and every return sees us clawing for words and there is no Alliance Francaise, or French-speaking group, where we live (the Virgin Islands where, incidentally, it is finally sunny after a week of heavy rain). I tried to start one, but to no avail.

So instead we make do with the occasional French film with subtitles and a brush-up using Rosetta Stone before we go back to France. And then of course there's Kirsten's word-a-day for a tiny slice of life and language to keep me going!

Roger Kowalsky

I lived and worked (the French computer company --Bull )in Paris for 4 years during the late 1960's..I learned French on the job with a private teacher fairly quickly .After a few months I visited one of our plants in Angers and was complimented in a meeting on my French and asked --how did your learn French so quickly??.I thought the word for teacher was "maitre" and since my teacher was a female I said I had a very good "maitresse".Needless to say that brought quite a few laughs..Perhaps this is a way to learn French??

suzy white

Don't be afraid to make mistakes!My mother-in-law is French so I practice with her through conversation and e-mails. If I make a mistake she will correct me and that's how I am learning. I also try to think in French,do French crossword puzzles and work on my conjugation.I'm going back to France this year so we"ll see how well the lessons worked!!


I agree with Suzy. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and just go with the flow. Sometimes adults have so many inhibitions and are afraid of sounding stupid. Children don't have those inhibitions. We lived in Belgium for three years in a town with no other Americans. "Have to" is a great motivator. I had to shop in the local stores, pay bills, talk to the neighbors, etc. I took French lessons at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels but really just talking to my neighbors helped so much. One linguist we met at NATO told us to just get some children's books in the language you want to learn. I also really like the Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone programs.

Katy George

total immersion is what does it for me. when i lived in paris, i always had a list of 10 new words stuck up en face of the toilet. it usually took only 2 days to master all ten, and put up a new list.

Bob Fowler

Years ago I responsible for our California company's dealings with Canadian government officials (all of whom were bilingual). After one meeting I asked a few of them the best way to learn French. They replied "Get a French lover". When I said I was married they said "Well, your wife should get a French lover also". Instead, we enrolled in the French class at the local community college -- not as exciting perhaps, but at least we're still married!

joie  carmel,ca

Since I need all the help I can get these are some of the things I try. Magazines, watch the news in French (no subs there), rent movies, try free on line tutorials, and I do have two different sets of CD's for learning. I also have 3 friends that speak it much better than I from Algeria, another from Paris. I am a little embarassed at my pronounciation. Somehow it comes off with a little Italian twang to it!
All of this and I am still not well versed at all. I truly think the only way is come live there for 6 months or longer. That way it is sink or swim.

joie  carmel,ca

I live on the Monterey Peninsula where we have the DLI...Defense Language Institute. Unfortunately, unless you are married to someone who is taking courses there classes are not available to the general public. Occasionaly they are....I keep waiting for a French one. It is 8 hours a day for 6 does work.

Lisa Richtmann


I am already fairly fluent and teach French at a Montessori School. Whenever I get the chance to speak with a native speaker, I do. There are many French families in my community and many Hatians in the Boston area too. (We have a French School nearby.) I am not worried about making mistakes. You can only improve by speaking. I am going to start taking my children to the French Library/Alliance Francaise in Boston too. It is a great resource! I enjoy French films and try not to read the subtitles! I was much more fluent when I worked at a French school but I do my best to keep up my language!


fall in love with a frenchman!


I have wanted to learn French for a long, long (really long) time and took a year of French in high school (1967-68) and 3 semesters of French in college (1984-1986) but never learned to SPEAK it. I just hit that WALL...of fear, mostly.

So, I subscribed to your blog several months before I went to Paris in June of 2008 and I utilized some of the books that you suggested there: your book, Words in a French Life (of course) plus another you recommended, Easy French Reader. (Did you also recommend Quiet Corners of Paris? Wonderful book!)

I also listened to and learned the lyrics to several of Edith Piaf's beautiful songs (it was the year of La Vie en Rose at the movies) and I ordered a few other helpful CDs (Bien-Dire Essentials series: Time, Numbers, Social Conversations, etc.) so I could HEAR the pronunciation as well as SEE the words.

Most importantly, I bought (and USED!!) the Rosetta Stone set of French tapes (I bought levels 1-3 but only got through levels 1 and 2 before my trip) -- they were great...MUCH better than my classes in school. I found these courses truly excellent for getting past the wall of fear.

When I got to Paris, I had one major objective: I wanted to conduct at least ONE simple conversation or negotiation, however simple, in French every day that I was in France...and I DID! I was not successful each time, but I had some interaction with French speakers EVERY day! One very real result of my attempt to speak the local language: I had practically NO experience of the legendary-to-Americans-but-perhaps-mythical Parisian rudeness.

And I had a lovely time...took hundreds of pictures...and have wonderful memories. I have meant to thank you, Kristin, for YOUR part in making my trip so fabulous. Your blog is an enjoyment and an encouragement for all of us. Mille mercis!

Although my French is fading now, if/when I have another opportunity to visit France, I know that I have tools at my disposal to refresh it!
Merci beaucoup...


For Canadian students the government offers the five week Explore program to learn French. All expenses except for transportation to the location (often in Quebec) are covered. Students take French classes during the morning and have cultural activities in the afternoons and evenings. Homestays with French speaking families are available.

Susan from Canada

A very attractive 30-something young man from France, a new Canadian, began teaching evening French at a local university. Like most evening class attendees, we were mostly middle-age women - many of us there under the obligation of our Canadian government employers.

Well that group of women followed this young man for more than two years, from four levels of beginner classes through four levels of intermediate and into advanced classes until he secured the full-time day-teaching job he was striving to qualify for since his immigration.

The young man was not only attractive but vibrant, fun and energetic. Most importantly he made us feel young, fun and attractive again.

I can't speak for the others, but I know my French training since then has been sporadic. I know I wouldn't have come as far as I had without the happy luck of being in his first evening class, one week after he arrived on our shores.


When we lived in Paris, I took private classes, one-on-one, and small group classes and then realized that I would rather SEE and experience Paris than practice. Upon returning home to Texas, I enrolled in a French class at a junior college and much to the dismay of my Parisian French teacher, the instructor was from Bordeaux. She was horrified that I would have a provincial accent! Since that time, I have had exceptional native French teachers at the junior college level and the classes were inexpensive, easy to follow and enjoyable.


I have purchased all the usual French books, French Now!, The Ultimate French Review and Practice, Easy French Reader. I have Drive-time French, too. But the best practice I’ve gotten, aside from going to Paris and trying out what I could, has been watching French movies and listening to French music (Natasha St Pier, Nolwen Leroy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Axelle Renoir, to name a few).
I’ve done what some here have done, watch a movie I know well with French voice-overs, too.


…And I forgot, I’ve used the BBC Languages French pages… a lot! Ma France is pretty good!


Great suggestions. I live in Australia, and I agree with an earlier poster who mentioned the french news on SBS. I have some other ideas as well.

I got a part-time job as a waitress at a french restaurant. It certainly forced me to learn, but it was tough and I didn't last long.

I began learning french at an adult education facility (one lesson per week of 2.5 hours duration). I got my Certificate II in Applied Language (French), but it took 4 years. I was in a class of 20, and the same people seemed to get the opportunity to speak, while others missed out. The teacher in the last year was a tyrant and everybody was scared to answer her questions, just in case they got something wrong, which is NOT the way to learn. I switched to private lessons, which were expensive but which I highly recommend. I gained my Certificate III then Certificate IV in Applied Language (French) in about 9 months.

I have a Nintendo DS and I recently bought the intermediate version of My French Coach. It wasn't available in Australia, I had to get it on eBay UK. It works out to about 40 minutes per day of french. It's another useful tool.

I have an advanced french course called "Ultimate French - Advanced" by Living Language. It contains 8 cd's and a 400-page course book. I highly recommend this. I have tried Pimsleur, but I didn't find it as good as Ultimate French, but that is probably because in addition to audio resources, I like having something in writing that I can refer to.

I guess practice is the key, along with good listening skills. A french-speaking man couldn't hurt also!!

Susan Radatz

I did employ most of the suggestions you made, but I would like to tell one more which I found very helpful, if not everywhere available. I was priviledged to study French at Purdue University. In doing so, I was able to sit in and use the facilities of the language lab. I believe my accent is much better than one who has not done this sort of work. The headset let me hear my own voice in addition to the French speaker's voice, and compare the two. I found it very helpful.

Nancy from Mass

My favorite way to learn (and brush up on ) French is to listen to french music or movies. Watch Amelie (try to turn off the captions) or listen to Emmanuel Moire, Benabar, Christophe Mae (just to name a few) and pay attention to the words. Some of the videos on Youtube have the french and english translations that are on the video. Even if you pick up a few words every day, that's a few more words you didn't know the day before!

carole Fitzgerald.

Hi , I agree Michel thomas c.d,s are wonderful. I am also learning Italian at my local community centre . Choosing a subject that you like is very helpful.


Lots of great ideas here. I went the classic route: majored in French in college, lived in France for several years. But I never stop learning. Currently I love to watch France 24 on my iTouch (free!) and also subscribe to TV5 on Dish Network.

TV5 web site has great language resources. There is SO MUCH available online. BBC has excellent language lessons. Many library systems have portals to language learning sites. Ask your local librarian.

Alliance Française courses are expensive, but they also sponsor a variety of free and open events. Of course travel to France is my favorite way to keep exploring this wonderful language and culture.

Maureen McCormick

Do your everyday tasks in French . . . grocery list, post-it notes, diary, whatever. Jot down what you are wearing every day in French. Increase your level of detail in describing your clothes.

If you have French-speaking friends, send every email to them in French and speak to them in French as much as possible.

Join the French Library (we have a fabulous one in Boston) and just go there and talk to people about anything!

Read the directions to your new appliance in French.

Get a French TV channel, such as TV5MONDE, from your cable company. Start with the news and weather (perfect grammar, Parisian accents, stories you are probably already familiar with). Work up to movies and talk shows.

Listen to a French radio station over the web. Try RFI. It's on the iTunes menu under Radio/International.

Bonne chance !


Nothing replaces full immersion in a place that speaks French, but you could try practicing online with interactive software, like (, which is a favorite of mine.

Connie Germano

I listen to French podcasts on my iPhone while I am running or commuting to work. I find I sometimes walk into work speaking French to my coworkers!

Pat Kates

Watch your DVDs on the computer -- it is much easier to hide the subtitles for a few moments and it is much easier to rewind as needed.

Try "Learn French by Podcast", quickly found on the web. It is perfect for the intermediate learner.

Lilas Conuts

I did the opposit I've learnt english but learning a langage follows always simple rules
Being passionate
Dig in and never let go
Never be shy
Lesson speak breathe the langage
Never cease to learn

Rocket French Review


I would honestly say that the best way to learn french is to go and live in France for a couple of months.

The next best thing is to get a french girlfriend (or boyfriend if you are a girl).

After that, I resorted to learn french software that helps me stay on top of my french so I dont forget everything I've learnt up to now :)

Merci beaucoup!


At least a few of you have made reference to podcasts, which I heartily recommend. For those truly committed to learning French or any other language, making it a part of your daily life - every day - is critical, and an iPod or other MP3 player can serve as a wonderful tool when immersion isn't possible. Buying one of these devices, downloading free iTunes software, perusing the iTunes store for free podcasts and investing in an FM transmitter for your car - following those steps have taken me far in my study of several languages. Most of the podcasts are 10 minutes long or shorter - parfait for commutes, shopping errands or a walk around the lake. I practice pronunciation as I listen and drive (no laws against that yet, as far as I know.) For French, I recommend and its many podcasts - One I listen to everyday is "Le journal en francais facile," a 10-minute broadcast of international news is slightly less complex language. Other podcasts I'd recommend:,,, BBC offers wonderfully thorough (and free) sites for studying languages, including French (just Google BBC and French and up it pops), that appeal to a range of learning styles. And offers a broad menu of vocabulary by topic - just hover your mouse over each word to hear the pronunciation. On the low-tech front, I simply speak words and phrases out loud (when I'm alone) based on cues around me - focusing on simply looking at an object and saying, for example, "un arbre," while making an effort to shut out the English "tree" from my mind. Or imagining a range of questions and considering what my responses might be. People may see my lips moving and think me mad. "Tant pis!"


For intermediate-level users one of the best tools for becoming fluent in French is, in my opinion, a wall-chart system based on the idea of a calendar. I've used The Essential French 1 calendar a lot and I have to say it works. It can be ordered from


Sorry, that link should be


I am at the very beginning stages in learning French, at times it seems I'll never get it but I keep trying by listening to Podcasts, French songs. I find reading it most challenging. The fact that I don't have anyone to practice with makes it difficult too. I'm happy I found this blog, hoping it helps me further along in my wish to learn French

Jacqueline in Lake Oswego

Bonjour~I don't know what works for adults. However, I was put in a French class when I was about 4 years old, and some of my greatest memories are from that class. A woman who moved from France to our small town decided to teach French classes to kids. Jean's French classes opened up a whole new and exciting world to me through words. When I hear people speaking French and I understand much of what they are saying. I have taken many language classes in my life since and languages seem to be pretty easy for me to learn. I guess, what I am telling you people with little ones, is put them in a French class. I just happened to be lucky enough to be in Jean's classes. Au revoir. Jacqueline

John Oswin

I started learning French 2 summers ago using the Michel Thomas CD course. Listening every day..all day to RTL in the car and 2 other radio stations on 162am and 621am wavebands while I'm on the move. Have bought a french novel and a parallel text book with stories by french authors. Haven't been to France since 1970's but am intending on visiting nxt year. Buy several french mags and newspapers every so often, and look at the bbc website on languages. Do SOME french in whatever context everyday no matter what. I wish I knew what I know now when I was younger!!

Joseph Lira

I like your tips, you can tell you have spent time in France, merci pour partager votre connaissance!

Greg Kruse

A tip for more advanced speakers is to get yourself a Petit Robert dictionary, and read French literature or popular fiction or newspapers or anything, looking up words you don't know in the Robert. It's a literary dictionary, so for every definition, you get quotes from French literature to illustrate the various uses and meanings of the word. And it is not a translation dictionary, so you are immersed in the language.


Bonjour! I am trying the Fluenz French language system. I have learned other languages in a classroom and with a private tutor which also have advantages but I have to say the Fluenz method seems to be working for me. I am impressed so far. It is a little easier to work in to spare timeslots if you have a busy schedule.

Ro DePaola

HELP!!! I am looking for an intense French conversation course to take in Provence, France during October 2010 for about 2 weeks. Please send all recommendations to me at me e-mail address:

Many thanks,

Bill Lauterbach

Arrgh! I have been saving my F W-A-Days since this Feb, when I first learned of this fabulous spot, nay, artistic and worthwhile website. Today I pushed the wrong button and they have all gone into the black hole!!! It has been so valuable in preparation for my trip to visit relatives in Bordeaux this they have disappeared! Is there any source for all those emails I've lost? Help please! Merci, Bill

joy dolce

I have just finished reading all the comments and enjoyed them so much. I have Michel Thomas CDs but especially love the Pimsleur....
the voices are wonderful and I feel comfortable with these people. However, from all of these comments which I appreciate, I understand that a trip to France or close contact with a French-speaking person is necessary. In the meanwhile there's lots to do! Thanks so much.

Alexia Oliveira

Yes, I agree about marrying a frenchman and living in france. Is the best way (;p).
I also did Assimil and other online resources.
I think we need a good mix of different resources otherwise we get bored.
I also started very soon to search info in internet using just the few words I knew. Is very good to read it into different contexts.
Well just my 2 cents, congratulations for the site, I am coming back for sure.


1. Of course, subscribe to this site.

2. Learn grammar. At school I was never taught all the parts of speech, and a good part of the battle to learn French is knowing what things like a subjunctive and a past participle are.

3. Be brave. Don't worry about how bad you are, just go for it anyway. The efforts you make will be appreciated, and you will get a much better reception in French towns if you at least try.

4. Give yourself a working holiday. I did a two week intensive French course in Antibes, which was surprisingly inexpensive. You can organise your own accommodation, stay on site, or stay with a French family, to really get your speaking skills up to speed! They have courses that are really focused, or ones which involve classes in the morning, and fun explorations and activities in the afternoon.

5. Purse your lips. Seriously. Try saying "merci" as you normally would. Now try it again with your lips more pursed forward, and hear the difference.


Ok, I've one that I've not seen as I've scrolled through the lengthy post thread: I have a Blackberry and downloaded the Verbuga Francais verb tool........... I spend hours standing in lines or waiting for things in my business and rather than be bored I practice my verbs. It's brilliant, and having it so handy makes sure that you use it frequently. It would be good for commuters too.

We spend 3-4 months a year (in 2 periods) at our business in France. We deliberately bought in an area where there are few Brits (we've been expats for over 40 years), so speaking French is a requirement. We've made friends with the owners of our local bar and the staff of the local bricos too. I have no problems in picking something up and asking "comment dit-en ..?" They are so happy that we try so hard and never do us the dis-service of speaking English to us. A pocket dictionary in my handbag, and a superb dictionary of French building terms in the loo helps enormously.

We've tried Rosetta Stone and, to be honest, I didn't like it. It's too much rote learning, and no facility to understand why things are done for my taste, but, to be fair, I will say that it did wonders exhuming ancient and rusty school-girl French before we first went over.

Back to France on 3rd April. Yippeee!


First off, I just want to say that I heart your site. :) I stumbled upon it while googling for French resources and was delighted to see your puppies and other tidbits.

Personally, I'm using a modified version of Barry Farber's approach to learning languages - that is a multiple track attack. I agree with several people who commented about the Pimsleur programme - I love that I can confidently say stuff right away, something my high school classes could never help me with. I'm also working on the Berlitz program: I have the basic and intermediate books. I also have a couple of French grammar books which I've been reviewing side-by-side with the other programs. Also, I'm a bit of an app whore, so I download whatever freebies I can get my hands on to do on my iphone or ipad while commuting, waiting in line at the grocery, etc.

I also appreciate flashcards. Berlitz has some that came with my deluxe language pack, but I also make my own when I come across words or phrases I want to remember. Then I carry them around and read as I go about during the day.

Apart from listening to music, watching movies and reading books, I also like to go through magazines. At first, I was just trying to understand headlines and captions. But now I pick on article and slowly go through it, highlighting words I don't understand, trying to figure grammar patterns and what not. Google translate has become my best friend for this, even if it gets things wrong once in a while - I appreciate the Listen button at the bottom where sometimes you can hear how a word is supposed to be pronounced.

Finally, since I'm mostly self-studying, I've made it a point to study everyday. Most of the time it's listening to my Pimsleur lesson while I workout. Other times, I'll sit down to do a lesson from Berlitz or a grammar book. And sometimes it's just as simple as making a point to browse French websites like Vogue and Elle - I get my fashion and French dose rolled into one.

Hope this helps!!

John Tabbernal Tasmania

Something I found helpful,once you have some basics, is to buy yourself a monoligual
dictionary,which gives you synonymes,antonymes, and the contexts in
examples.Many french words are explained in terms which are easy to understand.
I have a Larousse compact, which has been a great help to me in the last 2 years.


This is slightly unorthodox but I found one of the best ways to gain a level of comfort in speaking was to debate with native speakers. When involved in a passionate debate I didn't think about speaking perfectly, I just jumped in spontaneously to voice my opinions.

No matter what errors I might have made, I always felt a great fluency in the moment. Generally my friends corrected me if I made an egregious mistake but didn't interrupt the flow of conversation.

It really helped me get over that dreaded self-consciousness and translated to greater confidence in general conversation.


Would love to know about various immersion programs in France, and in various locations.

That seems like the route for me!
thanks for ALL THE GOOD TIPS.

Gary N Rodan

Learn French with a song a day. Teacher sends students a line by line copy of lyrics in French and an English translation underneath each line. Students watch and hear music-videos, and are instructed to lip-synch or sing along, thereby copying the rythems, timbres. intonations,of the native speakers. They are also responsible for looking up words in each song in an online dictionary. I like the Oxford Univesity Press, availanle in several languages. Start with > introducing the È and the dipthong OI. Follow with > introducing the (nomal) e as sung and pronouced, and as spoken. Follow with > and > adding the nasal OIN and ON and so on. Ten minutes a day.ebery day< to brush your mind with spoken French.
Now go find up whats up with Kristin, Jean-Marc, Braise & co. Drink a glass of red Wine. and dream of retiring to St. Cecile-les Vignes.!

Gary N Rodan

The songs did not post. In my example first songs were "Äprès Moi",Ëartha Kitt; Äuprès de ma blonde", nursery rhyme; "Lui et Toi",Alizée; and "Ët Moi Dans Don Coin", Charles Aznavour.
Sent by request to an email.

Derin Gemignani

I subscribe to the tv channel TV 5 Monde, USA and keep it on as much as possible, in particular the news programs and of course the subtitled cinema is always fun. But what really helps are the game shows which feature word play and the children's cartoons for their more simplistic and humorous approach.


These are wonderful suggestions!
I also downloaded an app for my iPhone, a dictionary "Accio French English Dictionary" that was very handy during my last trip. I'd read the French in a museum, etc. and easily look up words I didn't know.
If anyone has found an app for verb tenses, I'd be interested. So far I haven't seen one that looks easy to use.

Jenny Symons

I am attending weekly French conversation classes with a group of 6-8. It's very helpful as well as enjoyable. I also found the Michel Thomas tapes extremely good, especially for understanding - and learning to use - correct grammar. I have also recently downloaded the Larousse dictionary on to my Ipad and found that the ease of access made it much more likely that I look up words when i'm reading in French.

Alberta Boileau

I was raised by bilingual parents who were very proud of their knowledge of both English and French. Our first language was French but we learned English once we were in school and old enough to mix with the Anglophones on our streets. (I was raised in Western Canada where English is the language for everything.)I was the only one of us five girls who married a man from Montreal who had a beautiful french name but could not speak the language. After 37 years of married life I was tongue-tied when I had to speak to unilingual Francophones until I remembered "La Bonne Chanson" which is a collection of french folksongs in which there is a lot of repetition. Most are very lively and require a lot of mouthing to get the proper pronunciation.... I found the exercice excellent and my accent has returned to an acceptable level. If there is a French Book store or music store in your area check it out. I find that the mouthing of the french words is the greatest drawback to feeling comfortable in speaking out.....Open your jawbones and let your tongue sing....


VOCABULARY. The spaced repetition system is the way to learn vocabulary. The principle is that you can memorize a word (or a fact or a date), but if you don't revisit it regularly, you won't retain it. Spaced repetition started out as a paper-based flash card system, but now there are various computer programs. The one I use is Mnemosyne, a free download from, where you can also read about memory research and the efficacy of spaced repetition. You enter the vocabulary (if you have lists in Excel or Word, you can import them). The system shows you the English, you say the word in the target language, and then check to see if you were right. Depending on how quickly you were able to respond, you assign the word a value: 0=you didn't know it at all, through recognizing it but not able to come up with it, to knowing it but with a struggle, to 5= got it and will likely now retain it. Those values (which change as you become more familiar with the word) tell the system how often to repeat the particular word in your sessions.

The key is to use the computerized flash cards EVERY day. Ten minutes a day every day is better than an hour once a week.

If you have kids who need to learn dates, world capitals, U.S. presidents, monarchs of England, or other fact-based things, Mnemosyne would be great for them too.

Jill Colonna

Just discovered your blog and it's super! This comment arrives a bit late but mieux tard que jamais.
When I first arrived in France I was plunged in the deep end and not allowed to speak English. Best way even if frustrating. My best way forward was to just blurt out words (I know this sounds silly) without thinking of the grammar and of mistakes. Be prepared to make tons of mistakes and sound silly since it's the way you learn fast!
20 yrs later, I still make mistakes and my kids now correct me. I love trying out things that work in English and literally translate them into French. Sometimes it works and it's great. Other times it just makes people realise you have a British sense of humour ;-)


For me learing french would be amazing. I speak very little French, but the little i do know I know from worksheets with the english, french and pron.


I love this resource:

You can watch these short videos online for free.


I really like the podcast Coffee Break French. There are other podcasts and resources on iTunesU. You can also watch Disney shows in French (Je crois que c'est I also have sticky notes around with the words for the objects in French (la balai, la douche, le lit, etc.). I'm trying to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in French (although I'm not always sure what it says) and keep a little notebook of some new words/phrases from various places. has a mot du jour as well as other lessons. I also like to talk to my pets in French....they don't seem to mind if I say the wrong thing or have a heavy accent :)
It doesn't hurt that I have a great French teacher too :) J'adore le français!


You can also set your Facebook to french.

Anne Lester

This has been the most useful site, thank you so much. I enjoy the french word a day, and I've taken up some of the very useful suggestions about improving my French. and have been the most useful to me so far, and I've just started trying out, which I think would be the most useful if you were a complete beginner, and especially if you were more interested in getting by in spoken french for a holiday. I've had to skip quite far forward to find a point where I'm progressing my knowledge rather than covering ground I already know, the podcasts are quite similar in style - with a scottish accent - to Michel Thomas. You can try out all these sites for free, the only one so far that I've subscribed to is Yabla. I like the videos, and hope they will "tune" my french ear.

Jess - a beginner learning spanish little by little everyday

I learned french is highschool, and I am currently realizing how useful it is for other languages,particularly now that I am learning spanish, but I know it is also relatively similar to Italian, that is the next one on my list. I mean, I know they are not the same, but they are definitely more similar than english.

great site, I will share it with my oomates on facebook, merci!!

Peg Byron

I'm another chronic student of French--and adore our French Word-a-Day communiques. Can anyone suggest best ways to learn French while in Paris or elsewhere in France? (An apartment swap may let me temporarily live there.) Milles mercis! Peg

Steve Aronoff

When I studied Spanish in high school we chose two Spanish songs on record (dates me) We were to listen to the songs several times and write down what we believed we heard. We then compared the lyrics to the English translations until we were confident we understood what was being said. Then we were to go back and listen to songs without the aid of the translations. It was a great tool for me. I see no reason why it would not work for French as well. (My French teachers didn't use the technique.)


I decided to learn French to speak to the family or my step daughter. I had studied French 30 years ago or so in High School and college. In those days you had to pass a foreign language. I was never fluent or even close. I knew that a class would not do it. Going to France was not an option. So I decided to create my own immersion. One of my goals was to not spend a lot of money. "Je n'aime pas dépenser beaucoup d'argent" was one of the phrases from the Penton CD's.

Ma France from the BBC.

A series of short videos with subtitles in French and English which can be turned of and on. Filmed in and around Lyon.

Penton International, "Learn French in Your Car" A set of 9 CD's. I have listened to them hundreds of time over the last 3 years. Trying for immersion. This has helped with pronunciation. Chien is truly different from chaîne. En sounds the same as an, etc. And oh those r's. The e in venir.


cont. I seem to have a lot to say

I did livemocha for awhile that was ok, but slow going.

I found two friends with whom I speak by Skype once a week. One in France and one in Guyane. France is 6 hours ahead by the way. I got the time backward for our first meeting. I returned for a play at midnight and logged in to check my email in case there were any changes. Dominique was online. She had got up at 6 in the morning. I told my wife I can't come to bed now I need to talk to a woman in France. I have not yet heard the end of that yet. Patricia is only two hours ahead making weekday conversations possible

Have a coworker from Senegal. As many have said always be on the look out for french being spoken.

Acoustic on This is an unplugged like show of francophone musicians. There are always short interviews. journal en français facile. It still does not sound that facile to me.

I second Our group is a great aid.

"L'actu en Patates" Someone said that understanding humor is the most difficult part of learning a another language. I found this bande dessiné in which all the characters are potatoes. It takes as its subject French politics and cultural life. There are commentaries by readers.

A second for French in Action

read Le Monde or other online newspapers

Google translate - almost always wrong but often helpful

Use a french online dictionary


Apple iPod cast DailyFrenchPod, I have subscribed for the free feed. I have not paid for the additional services, sorry Louis. A variety of different lessons. Louis explains things very clearly after saying them at a normal pace.


cont. and even more!

We did go to Lyon. No one asked me to stop speaking French, so I count it as a success. Someone from my group told me the most useful think that I used on my trip. Always greet the people in stores when you enter. "Bonjour". When asking for help start with "Bonjour, s'il vous plait." End by saying "Bonne journée". Kind of like what your mother told you, "Use the magic words." When we were leaving France we were at CDG. I was buying water a the snack bar in the airport. There was a long line that never seemed to get smaller. I reached the woman at the counter, said "Bonjour", paid for my water. She said "Bon voyage." to me, to each customer in fact. So I said "bonne journée". She stopped. She seemed a little startled. Then an a great smiled came over here face and she said, "Également à vous."

Mistakes are your friends. You only make them if you are trying.

Someday I will recount being the interpreter in the bra store, avec ou sans fil.

Courage à tous.


Nancy in Houston

Wow, so many comments! My favorite way to learn is to listen to music - especially anything by Aldebert! His "Enfantillages" CD is "for kids" but not really. Great songs. All of his lyrics are fantastic, interesting - and good vocabulary. I leave a dictionary on my car seat so I can look up words every time I'm stopped at a traffic light. And singing along helps too - imitating the accent. I also love the "Petit Nicolas" books - fun and funny and quite easy vocabulary. Of course, the best way would be to move to France for six months and have to speak it every day!

The French Life

Love your blog! I hear the best way to learn French is to find a french man... That option is out for me though so next option is friends who dont speak english. We'll see how far I get!


I have found 2 ways to learn French: Michel Thomas -- beginning French via Amazon. I love him, and I can now put together some sentences.

I took 101 & 102 French at the Alliance Francais in Portland, OR. I learned a lot, and it is a great organization.

And I think the most important way is to start speaking. So instead of a French friend, my cat is now bilingual.

I plan to go to the Alliance Francais in Paris -- I want to attend their immersion class. I'm going for my birthday in March, 2012!

John Cunnington

Hi Guys, I am going to take a chance and "reverse" the request here - Could someone give me advice on the easiest way to learn the "irregular" verbs or the ways that you found successful ?
Many thanks. John

Linda Packer

I use just about every tool I can, which includes parallel text books, strictly French books (with a French/English dictionary), Google Translate, watching at least one French movie a week, listening to French music A LOT, reading and other French news sites, listening to French radio online, getting emails from sites like this and's French Language subscription service, etc. BUT, about the best tool I've found so far and it's not expensive, is This is the next best thing to immersion (which I would do if I could afford it). They have a trial on their site so you can try it out before subscribing. I use it every day and really am improving dramatically.


Linda Packer

Oh! By the way, I learned about this site by using Yabla, since one of the videos mentioned it.

Janis Pierce

What varied and wonderful ideas for ways to learn French. I'm curious: has anyone had experience with the magazine Bien-Dire? It contains written and audio information about current events, culture, etc. It is advertised in FRANCE magazine, for $150 for 6 issues. Not inexpensive, but if it's worth it for improving both written and listening understanding, then perhaps it's priced appropriately.

Hugh MacKay

There is another great source of videos free on a web site called French in Action. There are 52 30 minute videos. The course was published from Yale 30 years ago but it is very interesting and progresses from beginner. The text books and worknbooks are also available
Hugh MacKay


Don't forget Téléfrancais on You Tube! I bought Fluenz French 1-5 but French 1 & 2 are narrated by a non-native speaker. I just bought Jean de Florette & Manon des Sources on 1 dvd from Amazon for $11 (great movies in French). Skype with French people for language exchange. I bought the entire collection of Sex in the City and watch it in French every night before I go to bed. I have read, and plan to re-read, a book I loved in Jr. High called Flowers in the Attic (Fleurs Captives). I also try to read Steven King books in French and bought most of the Nancy Drew books on Amazon (from France or Belgium). French in Action is excellent and all episodes on dvd can be bought on eBay for $60. I also bought Speedlingua for pronunciation ($100 for one year). You can try Tell Me More French online for one week free of charge (unlimited usage and access to all levels) on their website but I only tried it twice. There are also subliminal French dvds but I've never tried them. Just thought I'd throw some new ideas out there.

Katie Peterson

We will be in Paris in Sept. We have been several times and hope to continue our journies there for longer periods of time. We will have an apartment in Sept. and I'm planning to attend a French language school. I am looking at Accord. Can anyone give me some insight into this school?


Madrigal's Magic Key to French is a book that is out of print and is selling for $100-$200 on Amazon and eBay. The Spanish book is still in print and there are over 120 (5-star) positive reviews on Amazon. I found a PDF FREE version of the entire French book online at this site (you do NOT need to pay for an upgrade to download this, it is FREE):

It was written by a woman who owned and operated a language school and is reportedly what inspired Michel Thomas' teaching methods.

I've just started the book but so far have found it to be the most helpful one I've ever read. It starts off at the absolute beginning but I believe it is for students of all levels. Might be worth a look.

Peter Alvin

Pimsleur Conversational French, checked out from the library, is amazing!!


Hi all!

Although this post is quite old, I'd like to give a tip for those there are already in intermediate/advanced level. is a website with all tv emissions (i'm not sure from which French TV channel, but I don't think it really matters).
There's so much content, you could spend months watching everything there and they're updated daily, which means u can watch sth that went on air today in France.

There's a little bit of everything movies, series, documentaries

There are no subtitles available, so I think for begginners, it could be a little bit frustrating, but maybe could be good to practice listening concerning accents, pronounciation and sounds.
Also, it helps a lot cause we know French material isn't something you find all the time on TV (appart from TV5).

I'm not sure it's available in all countries (I'm quite sure last year I tried to watch sth there and I couldnt cause my IP wasnt 'french'.)

Hope someone reads this and enjoys this website as much as I do.


Mark Forster

For learning vocabulary David J. James's Gold List Method is amazing:

I also recommend the bimonthly "Bien-Dire" audio magazine:

and Yabla for shortish video clips which you can use in many different ways:


Still think Pimsleaur is the best! Cheaper then a college course and it is always there. Just wish it had more then 3 levels. But when I go to France I can speak about almost anything and the best is they know I am now French but because of how Pimsleaur teacheds they really are not sure of where I am from. It help a great deal with your pronaciation.


I make a list of all the phrases that I use on a daily basis, for example: asking the cat if he would like something to eat; or "I wonder if the mailman has come yet"; or "Oh no, it's raining again"; and, "now where did I leave it, don't tell me that I have lost it again!"

Having compiled the list I get help translating it, and then start using it everyday instead of the English. Once I have them down pat, I make up another list.

I'm sure that the vet thinks that I am nuts for speaking to the cat in French, but I don't care. lol

George Muir

Let's face it folks and just accept it, we are not talking about learning Spanish or Italian. French is super tough to learn. The only way I learned was by moving to France. I enrolled at Ecole Inflexyon in Lyon France. Only French was allowed to be spoken. I lived in Lyon for 3 months, and my writing and verbal skills really started to come together. I can tell you from personal experience, that just because you are Spanish or Italian, French does not come any easier, as they struggled just as much as the people from USA and Great Britain. To be honest, if you are only taking a few classes in your home town in USA, it may take you years to learn French. But if this is your only way, good luck, and keep studying the grammar over and over.

ron faraldo

I work all day restoring our house alone and only speak French while out walking the dog and a few times a month when we are invited to French friends for dinner.
I actually spoke better French five years ago when we were here only for the summers as I studied in Sweden all winter. But living here now full time ? As I say 10 hours a day slinging chaux and such leaves me little time for socializing. House is looking good though.

adda dada

It is one thing to learn French, and another to learn French culture. One can easily learn the language, though interaction with the French, with their 'rules' is another thing.

Most people who learn how to speak a language, do not take the time to learn the subtleties of manners, etiquette, or culture.

One can take the American out of America, but not the American out of the American.

dorothy  dufour

Wow, such good suggestions! But not one has mentioned my method, which is to mentally translate every thought. It has kept me bilingual for many years, after 6 years in Quebec, ending in 1953. That and keeping in touch with inlaws and determination. As my belle mere said, I am tenace.

KRISTIN, you are doing a wonderful job.


I've been watching TinTin on youtube. Easy French,clear short sentences.

Susan Caughman

A great app is Duolingo. Download to iPhone and practice when you have a minute. Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions here. I am inspired

Eileen Howell

I started learning French at 60 years of age as an anglophone from Canada who could not say one word of French. I am in Paris now for a six weeks and we attend every session of Franglish (wonderful 15 minute sessions of 7 minutes in each language then switch partners. You meet six different people in a natural setting (a romance. ) Also, find a language partner at and buy the Gold membership..about $12/3 months and you will find all the native speakers you can schedule...and make great friends to accompany you along the long journey. Finally exchange hospitality with a French speaking group from France or Canada at

Judith DeLong

I love the French in Action DVD series (mentioned before). Mirielle is a French college student in Paris who meets Robert, an American student studying in Paris. Much of it takes place in Luxembourg Garden. There are 62 lessons. Almost total immersion. It was made in 1987, but holds up well (I'm 59 yrs old, and feel stuck at that age and era anyway). It has acquired a cult following. I bought it through Ebay, but I guess you can now watch it on the internet. And meet some followers!


French language is romance language. I have taken various courses to learn french. Thanks for sharing this best tips.

Gypsy Perry

French K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple S'il-vous-plait) by Robert Fontaine with RAAM Group in Ottawa, Ontario CANADA. Wonderful program. Too much to mention here.
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I conjugate in the bath - that is, I grab my 550 French Verbs tome and practice while I soak in the tub. Very relaxing. Je préfère a nager dans les mots françaises.

Malcolm Wheele

Best tip I've had is wherever and whenever the chance arises 'have a go'
I was also told that in any language there is always more than one way to say the same thing with different words to give the same meaning.
If you're stuck for the correct word do what I do use un truc/un machin le dispositif they all mean thingamijig!
Trips to France have been so much more enjoyable by being able get what I want in shops a being able to hold basic conversations in tabacs over coffee

Eileen Swingle

Sleep teaching. It helps tremendously ! Tape the lesson you are studying and time the CD player for very early hours. You will assimilate it when your mind is clear. I guarantee that your accent will improve.
I enjoy your website, Kristin , your everyday thoughts are so...natural. Eileen,CA

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