The best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in the language. If you’re travelling to a foreign country like France, you may not have the luxury of taking classes at your local adult school or spending time with French speakers before visiting the country. Fortunately, numerous podcasts exist for learning basic French, intermediate French and in some cases, advanced French.
Out of the dozen or so that I tried out, I found these podcasts the most helpful:
SurvivalPhrases – French
A great resource for learning the basic phrases you need as a tourist in France including saying please, thank you and asking “Where’s the bathroom?” Each lesson is only 5 minutes and is a good way to get a quick start. The free download includes 12 lessons, the $25 premium download includes well over 60 lessons as well as any new lessons added to the podcast after you begin your subscription.
One of the best podcasts for increasing your vocabulary, increasing comprehension, and learning a little about the French culture. Unlike SurvivalPhrases, FrenchPod is designed to help you learn about a broad range of subjects in French rather than focus on just what you need to survive. While the free version will help you get started, the $9 a month subscription will give you access to vocabulary drills, additional reviews as well as access to intermediate and advanced levels.
Learn French with Coffee Break French
I found some of the lessons a bit laborious though relatively thorough. Many of the lessons are 20 minutes long and felt more like I was doing college level homework than having fun. Also, it’s a little strange to hear the hosts teach French with a Scottish accent, but in general their French sounded great.
Learn French By Podcast
This podcast has a large number of free lessons, well over 90 the last time I checked. The lessons vary in length from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. The lessons also vary in technical difficulty and subject manner. Some parts of it I found to be structured for an academic approach to language rather than basic survival French. This podcast might make a good supplement to other sources of learning French.
Free Flash Cards
I’ve created a set of free French flash cards for you to help you get started with basic French. You can download the flash cards by clicking on this link . The PDF requires Adobe Reader 5.0 or later. Print the cards out on a set Avery 5351 labels. Peel the labels off and apply them to index cards.
French Television in America
If you’re the kind of person who likes to surf strongish language channels on television, even though you may not understand everything that’s being said, you may want to tune into some of the podcasts made by native French speakers. I enjoyed watching programming from France 3 on my AppleTV in order to get exposure to national French news and politics.
Learn French with a DVD
An additional resource is McGraw-Hill’s Le Chemin du Retour also known as Debuts. It’s a 3 DVD set with enough video to get you started in learning a little French. The DVDs contain a movie Le Chemin du Retour designed to introduce a non-French speaker to the basics of the language in a natural setting. It’s ISBN number is 0-07-328274-X and you can buy it from Amazon.
Watch French Movies
Also, you can give yourself some more exposure to the French language and French culture through renting various popular French language movies. Watching a foreign language film will help your ear adjust to the sounds of the language at its standard pace and pronunciation. For French language movies, I suggest the following:
Amelie – Romantic Comedy
Apres Vous – Romantic Comedy
Babette’s Feast (mixture of Danish/French) – Drama with humor
Seducing Dr. Lewis (takes place near Montreal) – Comedy
The Girl From Paris – Drama with humor
Each of these films will give you some basic introduction to French culture and exposure to the language. I was able to get them quickly and easily through NetFlix.