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Best Apps To Learn French (2023 Reviews)
Find the best app to learn French with our rankings of the most popular online courses and programs
French is one of the most popular second languages on Earth to learn. Whether for the food, warm southern beaches, art, or the energy of Paris, people simply love France. Yet, for those Francophiles that want to learn the language, French can be a very difficult second language to master. As such, choosing the right language app can make or break your learning experience. In this guide, we break down the best apps on the market to learn French, covering everything you need to know.
In the above video, John (from the TPI team) provides a high level review of each French program on our best list and explains why they make the cut. Please continue reading our full written guide below for more information regarding French language courses.
After evaluating over 10 French programs, our #1 pick and editor’s choice is Rocket French. When considering all the important factors, their French course is the most comprehensive and well-rounded from A-to-Z.
Powerful Interactive Audio Lessons
The most beneficial aspect of Rocket’s program is their interactive audio lessons, in which you get exposure to fluent speakers and conversations through the use of simulated conversations.
In my opinion, these mock conversations are extremely useful and practical. They’re great for improving your listening and verbal skills, and go well beyond the standard lessons you get with other apps like Duolingo, for example.
You’re essentially asked to use the French language under pressure just like you would in real life circumstances. That’s the key point: you get simulated, real world experience with Rocket’s audio lessons.
Follow-Up Exercises To Drive Retention
Beyond the audio component, Rocket also offers a bunch of reinforcement exercises and drills to help improve your reading and writing abilities.
After the audio lesson is done, you complete flashcard drills, speaking exercises and other fun, fast-paced assignments, all of which really help to hammer home language retention.
Powered By Google Web Speech API
One other beneficial aspect of Rocket’s course is that their lessons operate in tandem with Google’s Web Speech API, which is one of the most cutting-edge speech tools in the world.
Here’s how it works: as you complete the audio lessons and various reinforcement exercises within the program, Rocket’s tech records your speech and then uses Google to determine the accuracy of your pronunciation of French words on a scale from 1 to 100.
It’s actually pretty amazing awesome. The instant feedback is super useful for ensuring you’re pronouncing words correctly and using the language properly. In my opinion, it’s one of the better uses of speech software out there (even better than the tech from Babbel).
Focus On Grammar
The final positive that I’ll note is surrounds Rocket’s grammar usage. I like that Rocket makes grammar insights and instruction a major part of its coursework.
Both their audio lessons and digital textbook lessons are packed with helpful explanations and tips to help you master all the various grammar rules and principles in the French language (which FYI, can be pretty different from English).
Effective, Though Not Cheap
Really, the only flaw I can point to regarding the Rocket French course is price. Simply put, their lifetime plans are more expensive than the other apps and courses on this list.
However, it is important to note here that the standard prices you see on Rocket’s website are a little misleading, as Rocket is almost always running some sort of deal or special promotion. I generally see this course discounted by at least 50% (if not more), which ultimately makes Rocket very competitively priced.
Pimsleur French Is A Close Second To Rocket French
Taking the #2 spot on our list is the app from Pimsleur. In fact, their French program is neck and neck with Rocket’s app in several respects.
For example, Pimsleur also offers engaging, interactive audio lessons that really help improve your listening comprehension and conversational skills, as well as a variety of drills and exercises beyond the audio lessons.
When you boil it down to the core elements, their French program is very much like Rocket’s. However, Pimsleur does differ from Rocket in a few key areas.
Better For Visual Learners
For one, the Pimsleur lessons, exercises and drills incorporate more imagery and graphics than Rocket’s French lessons.
To be clear, neither course is visual-heavy like Rosetta Stone. Nonetheless, if you’re more of a visual learner but still want powerful audio-based lessons to drive your studies, Pimsleur may be the more appropriate choice for you.
Driving Mode For Commuters
In an attempt to kills two birds with one stone and make use of lost commuting time, the Pimsleur team has added a special driving mode feature. This feature allows you to knock out lessons while on the road directly your through your car stereo.
Thus, if you find yourself on the road a lot, whether for work or pleasure, then Pimsleur may be the more convenient choice. Again, this allows you to kill two birds with one stone and finish lessons while you’re on the go – something I found to be a major benefit.
Therefore, if you want to take things slow and sort of feel the course out before fully committing, Pimsleur is going to be the cheaper option to start out. Plus,
Pimsleur even offers a free 7-day trial period so you can take their course for a test drive before buying if you want.
Bottom line, think of Pimsleur as a cheaper alternative to Rocket French. Their lessons are similar to Rocket’s in several respects, but their French course overall is just not quite as extensive as Rocket’s, especially in regards to grammar instruction and speech recognition technology. However, all in all, Pimsleur gets two big thumbs up from our team.
Third up on our list is Babbel, and they take our pick for best budget French course. To be clear, their French program isn’t quite as thorough as Rocket’s or Pimsleur’s when it comes to overall content, but really, that’s just because their course curriculum is a little light on verbal practice.
Now, don’t get me wrong, you do practice speaking with Babbel, but just not in the form of full-blown, mock conversations.
Other than that though, Babbel receives very high grades across the board. Here are the Babbel French key highlights as I see them:
Their practice exercises and drills are diverse and engaging.
The speech recognition technology is swift and accurate.
Babbel’s lessons contain streamlined grammar content and instruction that’s easy to digest.
The mobile app and digital interface are sleek and intuitive.
Not to mention, perhaps the greatest benefit of all is that the Babbel French lessons are fairly short. At just 10-15 minutes each, they are much shorter than the lessons from Rocket French and Pimsleur, which typically run closer to an hour to complete.
In my opinion, this makes Babbel an excellent choice for working professionals or busy folks out there who just don’t have a ton of time each day. Plus, they’re just fast and fun, which makes the language learning experience more enjoyable (a lot more engaging than the Rosetta Stone lessons too).
However, with all that said, perhaps the best part about Babbel French is that their subscription plans are very affordable. To be precise, they’re as low as $7 per month, so that’s definitely a nice bonus.
Bottom line, if you want quick, engaging lessons that won’t break the bank, Babbel is an awesome option and our best value pick.
Finally, taking our pick for best live instruction is Lingoda. Now, Lingoda is not a full-blown language learning course in and of itself. Instead, think of Lingoda more so as an online language school. Their program is centered around live classes with certified fluent teachers.
How It Works
So here’s how it breaks down: you pay a monthly fee and get access to a set number of live classes. You then choose between small-group live classes (with no more than 4 students per class), or 1-on-1 tutoring (if you prefer more personalized attention).
The classes are typically 60 minutes long and accommodate all learning levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced. And what’s convenient about Lingoda is that they offer hundreds of classes throughout the week, all at different times throughout the day. This allows you to pick a study plan that fits your specific calendar.
Then, after scheduling and completing each class, you can download the relevant study materials and take a short quiz to really help the material sink-in before moving on.
Who Lingoda Would Work For
Overall, I was just really impressed with the Lingoda French classes. If you’re not a great self-studier and need live instruction with a weekly study plan to keep yourself accountable, then I think Lingoda is a great option. It’s just a fantastic way to interact with other students and learn from professional French teachers.
If you want to learn French, prepare for some hard work. I’m sorry if that’s not what you were hoping to hear, but I just don’t want to sugar coat it for you. Learning French is not easy, especially for those whose first language is English. Even though English and French share some similarities, there are also significant differences.
For example, there are major differences surrounding language rhythm, contractions, accent, and verb conjugations, among many other linguistic disparities.
As a simple demonstration, in French, you place stress at the end of each rhythmic group. However, in English, stress is placed on a syllable in each word, plus there is stress on important words. In other words, it’s totally different.
The reality is that to learn French, you need to dedicate time and mental capacity, and of course, have some good apps to learn French (hence the purpose of this article). After testing around 20 different language apps, I’ve laid out my favorite app to learn French above, and noted a few others that I think are worthwhile. For example, I am not a big fan of the Duolingo French course (our team prefers Babbel).
Some of the French apps that I tested had a free app, though I’ll say the free apps weren’t always great. Most were plagued by ads and daily limits.
Conversely, I purchased and tested some really expensive apps to learn French as well that turned out to be stinkers. My point is that French apps and programs have different traits and you need to know which one best fits your budget, goal and learning style.
But no matter which French app you select, consistent practice is key to mastery of the French language. You need to finish multiple French language lessons every week, with the ideal situation being a lesson per day (this is especially true if you are a student studying for the AP French exam).
Honestly, to learn French, my best advice is to make language learning a habit. Make it a part of your everyday routine. For me personally, this entailed sitting down everyday over my break at lunch and completing a 30-minute lesson. This is time I usually would have spent playing on social media anyway, so I didn’t mind.
And I know you may be thinking how awful it sounds to “do work” over your lunch break. But frankly, on the point of replacing social media time with language learning, just think of the cognitive benefits of learning a new language like French rather than scrolling through TikTok.
Instead of mindlessly scrolling, you’re exercising your brain (a muscle after all) with language learning exercises and learning French vocabulary.
Because of this, I felt more productive and like I accomplished something. But that’s just me.
So my best advice to you is practice everyday, stay positive (it takes time!), and make using an app to learn French a part of your daily routine.
Tips For Learning French Besides Apps & Courses
Using your language app to learn French is just one aspect of learning, especially if you’re using the limited free version from a company. You can’t rely on those alone.
If you want to become truly fluent in French and able to converse with native French speakers, you’ll need to incorporate some other exercises and modes of learning into your language learning journey. Here are three other tips I have to learn French.
Watch French Television
The advice of watching television in French is not exactly an original concept, but this advice exists for a reason – it works. Clearly, you will have to achieve a certain level of fluency in speaking French in order to watch French television, but once you hit that mark, this technique works really well.
My best tip for this method to work is to start with French TV shows for kids. Yes, children’s television. Think Sesame Street and the like.
You can of course graduate to French TV for adults once you get more advanced, and watch my personal favorite in French, Friends, but you need to walk before you can run.
Yes, you will feel silly sitting on the couch watching French TV shows made for toddlers, but they are insanely effective to learn French.
Next question: where do you find French children’s shows? There are of course French apps and streaming services to get access to French TV, but my best advice is YouTube.
There are tons of free French videos on the world’s largest video platform. Sometimes the quality of the recording is pretty shaky, and it can be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for, but they are out there.
Also, make sure to turn on closed captioning. The translation isn’t always perfect, but it’s helpful. That was especially useful for me personally to learn French. Make it your goal to turn off subtitles after a few months.
A Trip To France? Yes, Please
The reality is that no matter how many apps you sign up for or watch TV, nothing expedites your learning French like immersing yourself in France for a month.
Of course, I recognize that not every French learner can break free from work for a month and afford to travel around the French countryside. However, if it is at all possible (even for a week), it is absolutely worth it in terms of accelerating your French fluency.
Listening to French being spoken 24/7 for a few weeks is an incredible way to learn the language. Total immersion in France costs some serious coin, but it really does work.
If you do decide to try some immersion learning with a trip to France, don’t be nervous to actually speak and make mistakes. I was very reluctant to use my new French with locals when I first arrived. Hey, the French can be intimidating.
However, I just went for it and used what I had learned the best I could. I stumbled my way through it and probably butchered the French language, but I think the locals at least appreciated my trying.
Not to mention, by the time I left, I did feel like my “ear” as a French learner was better, and my French vocabulary was much improved.
Watch More French YouTube
I know I already mentioned YouTube above for watching French children’s television shows. However, beyond TV for kiddies, YouTube can be a great resource for other types of content as well.
There are dozens and dozens of French language YouTube channels that focus on nothing other than teaching French. Francophiles abound on YouTube. People just love the culture, language and people.
The best part is that many of these French YouTubers are French teachers by trade, so they are very tuned into French instruction. So when it comes to communicating how to speak French, they get it.
These French videos usually discuss important topics, such as vocabulary tips, diction, accent, and a lot more. Besides the French language alone though, I especially like the videos that tie in French culture. I love France and everything related to it, so learning fascinating cultural factoids is always fun for me.
Basically, as part of your plan to learn French, I would build in some time on YouTube everyday to watch videos. They are an effective, free resource.
Other Thoughts On The French Language
I’ve loved France since I first went there to visit my second cousins in 8th grade. We only spent about 12 days outside of Lyon visiting family, but I simply loved it.
I have heard a number of other Americans say over the years that the French are not very friendly, but I’ve never experienced that. Perhaps it’s because I tend to go outside the big cities and stick to the countryside, but almost every French person I’ve ever met has been nice to me. There have been very few instances of negativity.
The French people and native French speakers I have spent any real time with have been down to Earth, engaging, and easy going. They love their wine, soccer, art and sharing a good story.
Besides people though, I also love French food. It is my favorite. From food of the commoners like Ratatouille and Cassoulet, to gourmet dishes like Boeuf Bourguignon and Blanquette de Veau – I love it all. The flavors are incredibly rich and deep, and when paired with the right wine, are simply heaven.
Plus, of course, there are the landscapes and natural beauty of France. There are gorgeous lavender fields, the Pyrénées mountains, and the French Riviera, just to name a few. France has more natural beauty than just about anywhere I’ve traveled.
And lastly, of course, there is the French language. French is perhaps the most beautiful language in the world (right up there with Italian). One of the primary love languages, it is simply gorgeous.
As Bernard Pivot once said, “You get the feeling that many of my guests feel that the French language gives them entry into a more cultivated, more intelligent world, more highly civilised too, with rules.”
A Final Thought On Learning French
As discussed at length in this piece, to learn French is no easy feat. In fact, it’s quite difficult to speak French. It will take you time and lots of hard work, and you will get down on yourself at times, but if you can stick with it, you’ll be happy you did.
What are the best French learning apps?
After purchasing, using and thoroughly testing out over 10 French language apps, we have narrowed down our list of the best to just four: Rocket French, Pimsleur, Babbel and Lingoda. Other French learning apps are serviceable, but these four stood out at the best and got our top grades.
Do online French courses work?
Yes, online French courses absolutely work – assuming you dedicate the time. With the advent of technology like Zoom, AI to assign drills, and speech recognition software, online courses are more effective than ever.
Are there free online French courses or apps?
Yes, there are numerous free French resources online. Apps like Duolingo provide a free version, and some YouTube channels even offer recurring live video lessons. However, in our experience, the most effective courses and apps are paid subscriptions.
How long does it take to learn French?
If you are consistently meeting with a tutor or using a top rated language app, expect it to take around 30 to 50 weeks to learn French.