Throughout my teaching career, I have noticed that many students tend to concentrate on grammar and vocabulary whilst learning a language.
This is of course very important, most of all to acquire the basics of a language. But, I think that it is also necessary to use other means in order to develop your language skills and progress quickly, especially if you already have a level of French superior to A2.
It’s important to listen to native French speakers in various situations, to be able to read an article about French news or to listen to a song sung in French. This will help you develop your language skills, and gain a quicker understanding of the language and French culture as a whole.
There are many resources that can be easily found on the Internet.
In this article, I am going to speak about some of these resources, such as movies, TV series, songs, magazine and newspaper articles and news.
To begin with, movies are a great source of information and a useful tool to progress in French.
You can begin by watching American movies dubbed into French. These are usually much easier to understand than original French movies because the language used by the translators is generally simple and basic.
In the beginning, you can watch them with the English subtitles. As you progress, I would advise you to use French subtitles and eventually no subtitles at all. The reason for this is that although subtitles are useful when you are a beginner in French, they can later on slow you down in your learning.
Why? Simply because you will be concentrating more on reading the subtitles than on the movie itself. Also, your brain will not perceive the dialogue in the same way that it would if you were watching the movie directly, with 100% concentration and without the subtitles.
When you have passed this stage and you feel more comfortable with the dialogue in French, I strongly advise you to watch original French movies, where the actors speak just like normal French people would in everyday life. The use of typical French expressions, slang and the different intonations and accents of the actors is something that will be very useful for you. It will basically immerse you in the French-speaking world.
Many students have told me that they had actually never heard French swear words before watching French movies. And they were happy to have this opportunity because these words are part of the language too. A very important part, in fact. You’ll know this if you have already heard French people speak together!
The French film industry has given birth to many great movies, both in the past and more recently. There are great comedies, dramas and documentary films. They are quite different from Hollywood films and many students have told me that they have a “French charm” and are more sentimental.
Here are some of the French movies that I recommend to you. You can buy them or download them from the Internet. You can also find many online. Just type the word “streaming” after the film title in your search engine. ;)
- La Chèvre, de Francis Veber, 1981, Pierre Richard, Gérard Depardieu
- Le Gendarme de St-Tropez, de Jean Girault, 1964 , Louis de Funès
- (This is a film series. If you like the first movie, you can watch the other ones such as Le Gendarme à New York or Le Gandarme en balade J )
- L’auberge Espagnole, de Cédric Klapisch, 2002
- Les poupées russes, de Cédric Klapisch, 2005
- Casse-tête chinois, de Cédric Klapisch, 2013
- (This is a trilogy. All three movies have the same characters, and all three are great!)
- Les Intouchables, de Olivier Nakache et Eric Toledano, 2011
French TV series are also a great way to get familiar with the spoken language. You can find most of them on Youtube, or through online streaming sites. Here are some of the ones that I recommend:
- Un gars/Une fille, de Guy A. Lepage, Alexandra Lamy et Jean Dujardin 1999-2003
- Scènes de ménage, de Francis Duquet, 2009-today
- SODA, Jean-Michel Benssoussan, 2011-today
There are many more series which you can find on Youtube in the column on the right hand side while watching these. Be curious and check them out!
French songs are not only beautiful and romantic but are also another great resource for you, a French learner, to use in your learning journey. Listening to the language in song form may seem a bit more difficult than in spoken form at first, but it’s a very effective exercise and will bear fruit very quickly.
Most French songs with lyrics can be found on Youtube (yes, that again!). To find them, just type the word “paroles” after the song title in the Youtube search bar.
You also have sites like this where you will find the English translation of the song next to the French lyrics.
You can also listen to songs on French radio stations. There you will also hear the ads. As annoying as they may usually seem to you, take this opportunity to use them as learning material as well.
Here are some French and Swiss radio stations that you can listen to online:
Magazine and Newspaper Articles
Articles are a great way to improve your reading comprehension skills in French. You will discover new words and expressions, and will become familiar with French news.
When reading an article, try to choose a topic that is really interesting to you. This will motivate you more in your reading. Use a dictionary to look up the words that you don’t understand.
Try to read the article schematically first, running quickly through in order to get the general sense of the story. When you have done this, read it more in detail, concentrating on each sentence and looking up any unfamiliar words.
This is a great vocabulary exercise and it will give you further opportunity to use the new words that you have learned in your conversations or texts.
If you are also taking French lessons with a teacher, ask him or her to give you an article to read at home and work on it on your own. Later, in the next lesson, you can discuss the issues addressed in the article with your teacher and ask any questions that may have had during your reading.
This is also a great way to get familiar with French texts, in order to be able to later read French books.
Here are some of the magazine and newspaper websites where you can find interesting articles in French:
Last but not least, another rich resource for French learners is French TV news. You can easily find French news reports on various news channel websites and on Youtube.
Also, if you have some French channels at home on your TV, such as ARTE or France24, watch them!
Even though you might feel a bit insecure at first listening to the French news because the reporters and presenters speak quickly, this exercise will enable you to understand natives speaking in everyday life.
On Youtube you can look up particular news topics that interest you (for example: Refugiés syriens, or Eléctions présidentielles) and watch them directly there.
Another great resource are news flashes. They are a concise roundup of the most important information of the moment. They are short and usually composed of the four to five main news topics of each day. These force you to concentrate only on the essential information. A good exercise to go along with them is to, after watching them, try and be able to say what you have understood and remembered from the five minute video.
As with articles, you can watch these videos on your own and later work on them and discuss them with your teacher during class.
They are also a good way to get familiar with French news, politics and French life in general.
Here are some of the websites where you can see French news videos:
I hope that you have found this article helpful and will make good use of my advice.
I sincerely think that learning French (or any other language) is not only about focusing on grammar and spelling. It is also, most of all, about getting to know the culture and the mentality of the speakers, listening to natives speak, discovering new words and expressions and being able to communicate with other people in French.
Learning through media and art is not only informative but also fun and diverse. Learning a language should never be repetitive or boring. Therefore, I always encourage my students to use different media resources, be curious and have fun while learning!