Top 10 Apps for French Language Learners!
Website, iTunes App Store (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch), Google Play Store.
VidaLingua’s “French Dictionary & Tran +” puts a dictionary, translator, phrasebook, verb conjugator, and flashcards into one convenient and well-designed app!
Take the word ‘ébauche,’ for example. ‘Une ébauche’ is a rough draft, a sketch, a copy. VidaLingua’s app will provide an extensive list of both noun and verb forms of ébauche (including different conjugations – sometimes finding an add conjugated form of a verb provides the seemingly insurmountable task of discovering the infinitive form in order to arrive at a proper translation or definition). Clicking on ‘ébauche, n’ provides the nominal definition and links to the infinitive verb form, ébaucher with conjugation tables (since many French nouns are derivatives of verbs and vice versa, this is essential).
Clicking on the internet logo populates definitions from WordReference, Wiktionary, and Wikipedia. You can also ‘like’ a definition to save it for later, add your own notes, share the definition, and select pronunciation parameters from this menu.
We always encourage students to add sentences/paragraphs from articles and books where they originally discovered a new word for more context. This feature helps to make this app a personalized learning powerhouse. You can type sentences with “Add a note,” take a photo of the book page itself, or even record yourself, a video, or a native speaker pronouncing your word and/or example sentences thanks to “Add audio.”
“French Dictionary & Trans +” is certainly the best all-in-one go to for everyday needs and for quickly accessing nuanced information on words and verbs while reading, traveling, and interacting with other learners and native speakers.
Website, iTunes App Store, Google Play, Chrome web extension
WordReference is my longtime go-to application for simple dictionary definitions of words and verbs. It’s strength lies in the amount of context added to the main translations.
Looking up the verb “mettre,” you immediately see the myriad of possible English translations; WordReference provides a French synonym along with the English translation and finally an example sentence. The first translation of ‘mettre’ shows us placer [qch] which translates to ‘put,’ or ‘place’ as evidenced by the example: “J’ai mis les documents sur le bureau.” If the verb is used reflexively, you will see those definitions listed as well (and since the meaning changes slightly when used reflexively for many verbs, this is essential – i.e. se mettre à vs. mettre).
Scrolling down to the section entitled “Formes Composées” shows many common phrases using the verb or word you’ve looked up. Last but not least, you can find longer locutions containing your searched term with the WordReference forum suggests at the very bottom. While the information on the forum is populated by WordReference users and is therefore not akin to a definition (these are more how said users use the word/phrase/verb or their own interpretations), it’s still useful as an intermediate/advanced French learner to understand how native and high-level speakers use words versus how they are prescribed in the dictionary.
If you’re researching a verb, you can also click on “Conjugueur” at the top of the page for complete conjugation tables! Selecting “Collins” just below that will populate a further selection of example sentences, phrases, and compound uses from the Collins French Dictionary. Don’t forget to click on the “ECOUTER” button next to the searched word at the top for a recording of the pronunciation accompanied by the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transcription.
WordReference is my defacto ‘simple’ dictionary app for quick definitions and always provides accurate, contextualized translations.
ReversoContext deals with translating phrases and complex ideas. While VidaLingua’s app and WordReference are fantastic for single word and short, fixed phrase definitions, they do struggle to bring accurate meaning to groups of words such as you might find in a novel or article.
Looking up a single word in the ReversoContext app will not only give you multiple contextualized translations with example sentences, but click on the ‘s’ symbol to the right of the search bar produces a list of synonyms. If you look up a word, the small graph table icon to the right of the search bar will provide you with a full conjugation list. Lastly, the sound icon will pronounce your word/verb.
ReversoContext’s strength lies in it’s ability to provide accurate definitions and translations of long phrases. We put the tongue-in-cheek idiom “avoir le cul bored de nouilles” to the test here and ReversoContext didn’t disappoint! The very top as two more general English translations followed by seven distinct example sentences each offering a different and nuanced context + translation. Many times when reading a novel or article, we encounter groups of words that we recognize despite not understanding how their being used together carries a different, specific meaning; plugging that text into ReversoContext will get you the information you need!
The ReversoContext website also contains a feature not found on the app called ‘spell check’; plop single sentences or entire dissertations into ‘spell check’ and Reverso will call your attention to any spelling or grammar mistakes! This is exceptional for triple-checking your work before submitting it for school, pressing ‘send’ on a work email, or to gain more insight into your areas of opportunity with learning French.
While it handles single terms and verbs with ease, use ReversoContext for those longer phrases and situational-specific uses of words.
Linguée is extremely similar to ReversoContext, so I’ll keep my description here a bit more short! It is just as powerful of a tool and provides even more exceptional, contextualized sentence examples.
Looking up the word ‘ébauche,’ you will see the term listed as ‘nom, féminin’ along with how the word appears in plural. The four provided translations are accurate and accompanied by sentence examples in both French and English. It’s also great to have the ‘plus rare’ definitions as you do encounter less-common uses of words and verbs depending what you’re working with.
It’s also fantastic that Lingée provides the verb form of the noun ébauche as many French nouns are nominalized forms of a verb and it’s important to know all forms of a word/verb! Below the verb form you will find some common phrases (ébauche de travail and ébauche de rapport in our case).
Linguées force becomes apparent in the dozens of nuanced sentence examples that are sourced from genuine French-language sources from all over the web to provide as full an understanding of a word/verb/phrase as possible.
The idiomatic phrase ‘avoir le cul bordé de nouilles’ doesn’t work as well on Linguée as with ReversoContext, but you’ll still find a myriad of useful sentence examples.
Choosing to use Linguée or ReversoContext is more a personal choice based on the two app and site interfaces, but I frequently recommend that students crosscheck phrase translations between the two to ensure accuracy.
An App and website designed to teach the basics, the fundamental rules, and the exceptions to those rules.
The Memrise platform follows the evolution of a growing flower. Similar to a students development towards proficiency in a language, a seed is planted, watered and develops into a beautiful flower. The imagery presented motivates the students to advance in their individual challenges to grow their garden and in doing so, their knowledge of the language.
Memrise uses a series of grammar and vocabulary lists from other users of the app and instructors from their company. The range of subjects is vast and quite varied. Depending on the selection of the list, students can develop their grammatical skills and improve their vocabulary at their own pace through reinforcement and repetition. For beginners, this platform serves as a great way to learn some terms that might not appear in every-day textbooks. To challenge the more advanced students, Memrise offers a series of lists involving complex constructions and idioms that will expand your French-speaking abilities.
For out multi-lingual friends, Memrise is a great tool to switch fluidly between multiple languages of study in any combination. For example, students can choose to go between a foreign language and English, or any combination of foreign languages. This flexibility is rare and something that makes Memrise attractive to students of multiple languages.
Native speaker speaking slowly with accompanying transcriptions
Johann is a native French speaker with a soothingly slow voice (rare to find since the French tend to speak at a breakneck speed!). As an intermediate or advanced student, one of the more difficult skills to acquire is associating quick, natural speech and pronunciation with the spellings you are used to reading and writing. Image seeing the words “I don’t know” for years and then hearing someone utter “Idunno.”
Because Johann’s videos come with downloadable MP3 audio files and full transcriptions, you can practice associating his fluid speech patterns with the written form. Practicing this can be tedious, but is imperative for accurately understanding your interactions with native speakers and producing a more native-like French accent.
Johann also focuses his videos on idiomatic French phrases and advanced grammar points, so you are able to reinforce grammar and learn new ways of expressing yourself all while reprogramming how your language-learning brain associates aural comprehension to visual (reading) comprehension.
Overall, FrançaisAuthentique is fantastic for working on listening comprehension thanks to the slow pace of Johann’s speech, learning new and advanced phrases and grammar uses, and associated fluid speech (which often cuts out sounds and syllables, etc.) with the words you’re used to reading and writing.
Native speaker speaking slowly with accompanying transcriptions
Clickable translations of words/phrases
NewsInSlowFrench accomplishes many of the same goals as FrançaisAuthentique thanks to the MP3 audio recordings of male and female native speakers discussing current events with accompanying transcriptions.
While the app’s main page asks you to sign into your paid account, clicking “Free Content” will bring you to hundreds of free podcast episodes.
As you listen along, follow the written transcription to train your ear and associate native speech patterns with the written form. Potentially-difficult words, verbs and phrases highlighted in blue and, when clicked, show an English translation.
While FrançaisAuthentique’s podcasts cover the French language itself, NewsInSlowFrench (as its name suggests!) is daily news episodes which provide priceless cultural information about French life as well. We recommend using both apps to become stronger at understanding both female and male voices at different pitches (something that is hard to do at first!).
RFI is a great app for teachers and students of French at all levels! Available in desktop and application mode, RFI gives you free access to podcasts, articles and audio stories in French. They range in difficulty from simple stories about wine to complex reportages about the news of the day. Navigating the app might be tricky as a beginner, as it is completely in French.
One of the best aspects to this app is the audios are arranged based on different objectives. The first distinction is based on different themes such as culture, the francophone world, history etc. This allows us as tutors to choose an article that interests the students individually and gives the students freedom to explore these sites on their own in the theme that interests them. Another distinction that the website makes is your objective when looking for audio articles. Whether your purpose is teaching French, learning it, or simply gaining some extra knowledge with the fait du jour, the easily-navigable website allows you to choose your goal and discover an appropriate audio article and activities that suit those needs. The third category they use for organizing their information is the type of media offered to accompany the audio article. From exercises and quizzes to bilingual courses to specific training for standardized language tests, the site includes activities alongside audios to help learners of French in testing their comprehension of the text with immediate feedback.
As a tutor, I oftentimes incorporate RFI into my lesson plans because it engages the student in learning an aspect of Francophone culture while enforcing certain grammatical rules and testing their comprehension skills. Truly a winner for students and tutors alike!
Similar to RFI Pure Radio, the FranceInfo radio station on the RadioFrance app live-streams local French news! This is rapid-fire news stories and interviews with no pause-rewind features or transcription; once you’ve worked through bulking up listening comprehension via FrançaisAuthentique, NewsInSlowFrench, and RFI Pure Radio, take the plunge into the ‘real deal’ and put your skills to the test.
I love having students practice pronunciation through a technique called ‘Shadowing’ with FranceInfo Rado. Shadowing involves mimicking the speech of the person you’re listening to at their exact pace with their intonation, etc. This is not about attempting to understand what they’re saying, but to force yourself to copy their sounds as close to immediately as they produce them. The goal is training your speech muscles to produce native-like French intonation, sounds, speed.
I also love using FranceInfo to stay up-to-date on the goings-on in France which inevitably becomes a lesson on French culture as well!
The most all-encompassing advanced learning experience is found through the M6 6play app. M6 is a French TV station broadcasting all kinds of fun shows; this a mix of TLC, HGTV, and MTV, if you will. You can watch dating shows, makeover shows, house and apartment hunting shows, baking shows (it’s a smorgasbord of mediocre and trashy TV shows!). They have talent competition series, comedians, crime shows, sitcoms, soap operas, documentaries, kids’ shows. You name it, they have it. And in French!
Let’s say you enjoy cooking shows. Watching ‘Le Meilleur Pâtissier’ is great for bulking up your aural comprehension skills even more because you are familiar with the context and goals of a cooking competition series. You need only to focus on absorbing the language itself. Something like ‘Le Meilleur Pâtissier’ will also teach you lots about French baking tradition and cooking techniques.
As a tutor and teacher, my goal is to help students speak the type of French they would if they grew up in France. What kind of slang would you use or avoid, how formal would you speak, what hobbies would you indulge in? An aspect of discovering your ‘French self’ is being immersed in French popular culture; watching these TV shows helps to familiarize yourself with the current stars and trends in France.
6play can be the pinnacle of intensive study with a focus on perfecting listening skills and picking up nuanced cultural info, or it can be a way to kick back and relax while absorbing some French and finding out who wins the bake-off!
With Quebec being one of the largest economic partners to the US, speaking French and understanding Francophone culture can be massively rewarding to your career. Offices large and small are more and more internationalized so it’s extremely beneficial to be able to navigate cultural boundaries and work and interact with French-speaking counterparts.
A good number of differences exist between the French spoken in France and Europe versus the French spoken in Quebec, Canada; the website ‘Du Français Au Français’ translates Quebecois-isms back into ‘standard’ French and is therefore a great took if you work with or around French-Canadians.
The verb ‘chialer’ is super Quebecois – plug it into Du Français Au Français and you’ll have an entire page (en français) explaining that it means ‘to complain,’ along with the different ways it is typically used in Quebecois.
Expanding your use of French to different dialects and Francophone regions can only help your professional aspirations as they relate to French and increase your understanding of the world.