Many students ask about ways to improve their French while they aren't in class. As a student of the French Cultural Center, I too am always looking for ways to retain what I am learning and progress. I know that sometimes having days or an entire session off can feel like a major setback. Plus most of our students, like me, are balancing French language learning with work, family, school, and other obligations. Bref, we all want something fun that can fit into our busy schedules so that we keep learning.

Over the past year, I have received and tried some suggestions that may help. Depending on your personality, schedule, income, and level, some of these may work better for you than others, but I think all are worth trying.

“You can continue to learn French while you aren’t in class…hopefully this list will give you some new ideas. No matter what you choose, the best way to improve is to keep at it.”


Watch French TV or films with subtitles...IN FRENCH

There are a ton of Francophone shows and movies and multiple ways to access them. Besides our Médiathèque, which has a great selection of DVDs, there are also options like TV5Monde or France 24, to which you can subscribe or watch here at the Center. You might also want to look for programs on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or YouTube. Now here’s the trick…watch the show with subtitles turned on, but in French. If you are an absolute beginner, try a 30-minute TV show that you know, like Friends or CSI, dubbed in French and then turn on subtitles in French. This last part is key...it is so easy to default to the English subtitles, but fight the urge! How much can you understand? After trying this for a while, have you seen any improvement or have you learned anything new?

Listen to French Radio

One of our most-read blog posts is on French podcasts, but there are other ways to listen en français. If you have a smartphone you can download Radio France Internationale (RFI) for FREE and listen to news, stories, and more in French. TuneIn.com also offers a variety of content to listen to in French, from music and talk to sports. If you have SiriusXM satellite radio tune to ICIPremière (Channel 170), which provides French language news and current affairs from Canada. This may sound different from the French we teach here at the Center, but it's a worthwhile experience to expose yourself to the different Francophone accents and cultures that exist in the world. If music is your thing, you can find French music via CD or through Apple Radio, Spotify, or Pandora. Apple Radio often provides the lyrics, which is both helpful and fun. Listen to the songs multiple times and don’t be shy about looking up the lyrics as you sing along. Repetition helps when listening to music in a foreign language and you’ll be surprised at how you pick up the tunes!

Surf the Web…IN FRENCH

When you’re seeking to research something about France or the French language, try using Google.fr to browse the web in French. Note: you may need to go to your settings and switch the language to “français.” Wikipedia lets you switch between languages, which gives you a great way to boost your vocabulary and learn about Francophone culture. To do this, click on “Français” in the left-hand column to change the language of the article, or search your topic on fr.wikipedia.org.

Find Conversation Groups

Nowadays, it is easy to find and meet people who speak and want to speak French. We offer events at low to no-cost to both our members and the public. Consider attending our Well-Red conversation events; Bouillon de lectures (book club); Un Mois, Un Livre; or Atelier découverte (library discovery workshops). Otherwise, you can download a free app on your phone, like Meetup, to hang out with like-minded people in your city or town or attend a French conversation group at a designated meeting spot. Or post on our community bulletin board (near Reception) to find a language buddy!

Read Bandes Dessinées and Magazines

Want to improve your reading comprehension but don’t know where to start? Ask our librarians! Don’t be shy; they love to help. Beginners might like bandes dessinées (comic books) or magazines, which offer limited text with pictures that can make understanding easier. We also have easy reader books designed for French learners from level A1 to B2, with audiobook CDs included so you can practice your reading and listening comprehension! Of course, intermediate, advanced, and native-level speakers will enjoy the full range of our library, or may find something for their little ones in our children’s room.

As you can see, you can continue to learn French while you aren’t in class. Nothing beats learning French from a qualified teacher in an immersive environment, but hopefully this list will give you some new ideas. If you try any of them, or have suggestions of your own, please comment below. No matter what you choose, the best way to improve is to keep at it. We'd love to hear your feedback or suggestions if you have them. Bonne chance !



Jamie Haslett

Former Director of Marketing

Originally from New Jersey, Jamie graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in International Business and a minor in French. She also completed a semester abroad in Marseille, France. Jamie fell in love with the French language as a child when her sister brought home a high school French book, and looks forward to continuing her education at the French Cultural Center.

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