I have been learning French for nine months and in this time I have tried a huge variety of resources, books, websites, programs and apps. I constantly tried different things because I was either not finding them helpful, or quickly outgrowing things (as you do as a beginner).
The following will be a list of resources and tools that I have used and feel confident enough to give a personal judgement on. It is a long list so to make it readable I have grouped everything into four categories as follows:
- Core. Resources you are almost guaranteed to need no matter who you are and is likely difficult to substitute with another product.
- Recommended. Similar to core except there are more options for substitution.
- Supplementary. Used for the purpose of filling learning learning gaps. Easily substituted.
- Redundant. Completely superseded by something else.
DeepL Translator: Everyone needs a dictionary and translator. I think this is easily the best translator, and serves as a good English <-> French dictionary until you can rely on a French to French dictionary. DeepL translations are more natural, and offers you a couple of alternative options as well. If you type in only one word, it will give you sample sentences and the gender if the word is a noun. Browser based.
Forvo: Type in a word and you’ll get several pre-recorded pronunciations from real people. There are probably other similar apps out there but this one is free and has no fluff attached. Mobile app and browser.
Fluent Forever pronunciation module: I think all beginners should dedicate the time to go through their pronunciation module. It is very comprehensive and without it you would have to cobble together various pronunciation videos/resources together. Mobile app.
Conjugaision Française: Type in a verb and it will provide conjugations in all tenses. No fluff. Mobile app.
Kwiziq: This is the only non “tool” resource that makes it to my core tier. Kwiziq is a guided grammar course that goes from complete beginner up to C1. It teaches and tests you grammar points and adjusts based on how well you are performing in each area. Very comprehensive and serves you what you need to learn without you having to cobble together textbooks, webpages and YouTube videos. It also has writing prompts. It will show you one English sentence at a time and ask you to translate it into French. It will correct you where you are wrong and will link you to the corresponding grammar lesson. Browser based.
Alliance Française: They are an international organisation that promotes and teaches French. If you live in a large city they probably have a presence there and offer lessons at all levels. They aim to teach in French as much as possible even from beginner levels, and this is one of the biggest benefits of attending. The second benefit is the effect it has on your motivation when you meet other students who you might even become friends with.
Easy french reader: Short stories that starts off at complete beginner level and goes up to B1. Despite being written with very basic language it is enjoyable to read and feels rewarding when you finish a story. Getting input is critical and I think we are quite fortunate to have a book like this written for us.
Short stories in French: Same as above but level ranges A2 to B1 level.
Duolingo stories: Duolingo introduced a huge catalogue of mini stories in French. They start off at A1. I’m not sure how difficult it gets as I’m only halfway through myself. They are incredibly short and you could easily read a few in one sitting. The stories are very interesting despite being short and using very basic language/vocabulary. The stories are also narrated by a real native speaker. Mobile app.
Hellotalk: is a SNS for language learners. You can chat with French speakers learning English, or you can create posts asking questions or writing seeking correction. The former is a bit challenging because French speakers tend to be quite good at English already so its hard to keep pace with them. But the latter is very helpful because you’re bound to get stuck and need help from someone. Mobile app.
Anki: In my opinion it is essential to compliment whatever you’re doing with a spaced repetition system, whether it is Anki, Memrise, Quizlet, etc. I like Anki the best because I believe creating your own cards is the best way, and it has the least fluff amongst competitor apps. Mobile app or computer.
Easy French Step-by-step: This is a popular textbook for complete beginners. It is half text book and half grammar reference. It doesn’t hurt to have this, although not necessary if you use Kwiziq.
Italki: Italki can be OK if you don’t have access to Alliance Française, or if you really want to practise speaking with someone ASAP. I personally don’t like to force myself to be speaking so early when I don’t have much grammar of vocabulary. I found the conversation to be rigid, boring, and too demanding on my brain. If you struggle with coming up with your own study routine you may need guidance from a teacher, but it is quite expensive.
Duolingo: Aside from Duolingo Stories which I talked about above, the only good thing about the regular course is to act as a catch for beginner learners who have no idea what they’re doing. It’s fun and satisfying to complete Duolingo lessons, but after a few weeks you’ll realise that you haven’t really internalised anything and you can’t actually say or write anything. If you can’t afford Kwiziq you may use Duolingo as a substitute, but it is only really good as a supplementary tool at best. Mobile app.
French Today: is an audiobook product run by a French woman and her husband. The audiobook is a series from beginners up to advanced. The advantages of this product is 1) has different speed settings from slow, medium, and native, 2) has the same set of characters between difficulty levels, 3) offer a full refund if you find that the product isn’t right for you. This product is however quite expensive. Mobile app and computer program.
Frantastique: If I was a rich person I would probably be using this. They’re lessons are very fun and supposedly learn your strengths and weaknesses as you learn (I never got this far too tell). However even if you fork out the $33 bucks (AUD) a month, you still only get 5 lessons a week and each lesson only takes about 15 minutes tops to complete. Browser based.
HiNative: Is a Q&A app that matches you with people who speak your target language and are learning English. You earn a social ranking based on how many questions you answer, and that social ranking determines how visible your questions become. There was a period of time where I was asking heaps and heaps of questions and I didn’t want to spam my Hellotalk feed. If you only have a couple of questions a day, I’d just stick with Hellotalk. Mobile app and browser based.
Cosmoplite: If you really like learning from textbooks, this is a very comprehensive series that Alliance Française uses.
Youtube teachers: I find Youtube teachers to be pretty gimmicky. The lessons are all over the place and quality is very hit or miss. And watching a video takes a lot longer than just reading an article.
Rocket French: Is a coursed based audio and text learning app. Each lesson is centered around a French conversation that goes for a minute or so. The hosts then break down the conversation into key grammar and vocabulary. Each lesson lasts for about 30 minutes. I find that you end up listening to too much English. It can be ok if you want to have some extra listening practise. Price is also reasonable. Mobile app.
Google Translate: Completely superseded by DeepL.
Fluent Forever flash card module: their gimmick of remembering words using pictures doesn’t work. Once you get onto complicated words such as emotions, adjectives or adverbs, the image system completely breaks down. Their word list is also extremely bizarre. Within the first 100 words it wanted me to learn words like eclipse and cliff. Wtf?
FrenchPod101: This may be a controversial pick, but I think it is ompletely superseded by Rocket French. Same concept except there is less French and more host banter in English. Not worth the time or money unless I guess the hosts appeal to you.
Babbel: Fairly generic gamified mobile app learning program. It’s regular course is no better than Duolingo, and more importantly it doesn’t have Duolingo’s collection of stories. And it is not free.