If you have always wanted to learn French, you’re nowhere near alone; tens of millions of people study the language every day around the world. And it’s no wonder! French is a language that captures a rich culture and history. The French language can take you around the world, from Europe to Africa to North America and even to the islands of the Caribbean.
But you might have a lot of questions about how to learn French or what it takes to get started — or why it’s even worthwhile at all. The good news is you can rest assured that learning the French language is an effort worth undertaking. With the right technology to guide you in your journey, you’ll see your efforts pay off in so many ways.
With Babbel, you’ll be on your way to having real-life conversations in French before you know it — without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you can have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson.
We add new courses on a regular basis so the opportunities to learn and improve are always growing. And if you own a smartphone, the key to learning French and speaking it with confidence is already in your pocket.
Why Learn French?
Learning any new tongue is a challenge that can open up your mind to new perspectives and help you connect with all types of people across boundaries of land and language. When it comes to learning French, these reasons are especially true. Here are just a few of the reasons why it’s a great idea to learn French: -build new connections with hundreds of millions of people across the world -get a leg up in learning about other related languages, including English -experience culture and history of the French-speaking world through a linguistic lens -spruce up your French business skills to help you compete in the global economy -travel to and even live in French-speaking countries with confidence -stimulate your brain and keep your mental muscles sharp
Learning French To Join A Global Community
To start, if you know the French language, you open yourself up to a whole world of speakers that span continental borders. There are slightly more than 300 million people on Earth who speak French to some degree, making it the sixth most spoken language worldwide. It’s the official language of 29 countries, the most of any language behind English (and it’s also the second most studied language worldwide behind English!).
You can find French speakers spread around the planet, not only in France but also in many other countries around the world, including throughout Africa, mostly a result of the French colonial and imperial legacy of the 1800s and early 1900s. Today, about 50 percent of the planet’s native French speakers live in Africa in countries like Algeria, Tunisia, Djibouti, Niger, Mauritius, and Côte d’Ivoire, and with the continent’s massive population growth alone, it’s projected that there will be more than 700 million global French speakers by 2050.
After German and Russian, French is the most widely spoken language in Europe; huge proportions of speakers can be found in Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, among plenty of other countries where French speakers have laid roots, including Poland, Greece, and the Czech Republic.
Across the Atlantic Ocean over in North America, Canada has about 10 million native French speakers, many of whom are found in the province of Québec, where French is the only official language (it shares co-official status with English in most other provinces). If you’re in the United States, a whole swath of French speakers isn’t hard to find; it’s the fourth most spoken language in the country, with major populations of native speakers of dialects of French in places like Louisiana. And if you head further south, you’ll find roughly 10 million speakers of Haitian Creole, a variety of the French language, in Haiti. There’s no shortage of French speakers wherever you may choose to travel!
Learning French As A Link To Other Languages
French, a Romance language, is closely related to all of the other languages in the same family, like Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, to name a few. They all derive from Vulgar Latin, the vernacular variety spoken by the common people of the Roman Empire. That means these languages share a whole lot of cognates, or words that are spelled and sound the same and that have the same meaning across more than one language.
Though English is a Germanic language, more than a quarter of its words come from Latin, and roughly the same amount come from the French language (so, indirectly from Latin). And there are thousands of Greek words that have made their way into both English and French, too. That means you’re going to find a lot of Latin- and Greek-derived words in French you already recognize. When you see the French words artiste, académique, or génération, for example, you’ll probably have no trouble guessing their English equivalents.
Whether it helps you master other Romance languages faster and more easily or it gives you a new understanding of the English you already speak, there’s no doubt that if you learn French, you’ll have a learning advantage right from the start!
Benefits Of Learning French
Picking up a new skill can help you express your creativity, stimulate your mind, and discover new sides of yourself along the way. Learning a new language like French is no exception! Here are just a few of the many ways you can make a positive impact on your life if you learn French.
Build Your Business French Skills
Today the world is more connected economically than ever before. The sweeping tides of globalization mean that companies and organizations today are operating across international borders and boundaries. If you’re a professional looking for ways to stay competitive and current in the global market, learning a new language — especially French — is a no-brainer for success. Western Europe and the African continent are both emerging markets full of opportunity for businesses. Learning the French language is a fantastic way to connect with colleagues in other countries, score new clients, build strong relationships with French-speaking partners and investors, and to show off the multicultural, international, and inclusive nature of your brand.
Use Language To Train Your Brain
Learning any new skill is a surefire way to expand your intellectual horizons. Picking up a new language is an especially sound way to keep your brain flexible and nimble, especially as you grow older. Don’t give in to the argument that you’re somehow worse at learning languages after your youth! Picking up a new language is more than just memorizing lists of vocab (though you’ll certainly sharpen your lexical recall along the way). It involves making connections between those words and what they represent, taking apart and putting together grammatical structures, spontaneously speaking and thinking on your feet, sticking with a challenge when it’s frustrating and confusing, and a whole lot of active listening. If you’ve been lacking intellectual stimulation, there are few better ways to exercise your mental muscles than by learning French.
Open A Window To History
To learn French is to trace historical developments in language across time and geography. For example, many English words trace their etymological origins back to French — a reflection of the Norman conquest of the British Isles about a millennium ago. If you are an English speaker who is learning French, you’ll be better able to understand the dynamics of how languages change by coming into contact with each other and to learn about history in the process.
Immerse Yourself In French Culture, Unfiltered
Learning French opens you up not only to a better understanding of the language itself but also of the arts and culture of the world that speaks it. To read the literature of decorated French-speaking authors like Victor Hugo, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Charles Baudelaire is to engage with the language in some of its most beautiful and poetic expressions. Through the lens of French you get a more active immersion in more contemporary French-language media like podcasts, radio shows, audiobooks, and TV shows. The stories and recipes of world-renowned culinary creations, the dialogue of famous French films, and the most sweeping currents in French-language journalism all become accessible to you when you learn the French language. And if you’re from a family with French-speaking elders and ancestors but you don’t know the language yourself, learning French is an excellent way to connect with your heritage.
Learn French For Travel
When the spirit of adventure strikes, don’t let language barriers hold you back. When you have French in your back pocket, you have a passport to a whole new world. Learning French not only means you’ll be able to navigate new cities by reading road signs, menus, and train tickets; it also lets you connect with the new people you meet there. It’s often said that the best way to explore a new place is through the eyes of a local, and learning French lets you branch out of tourist hotspots and into the real world as the native speakers see it. Whether it’s the rocky beaches of Brittany or the romantic streets of Paris, you’ll be more equipped to venture off the beaten path and explore all the excellent food, world-class wine and inexhaustible country charm France has to offer when you have French in your linguistic repertoire.
Live The French Language Abroad
Whether you’re looking to enroll at a foreign university and have a more alternative college experience, find a job at a hostel that lets you hit the beach by day and work at night, or retire in a place with a slower pace of life, living abroad is hands down the best hands-on approach to getting the most immersive language experience possible. By placing yourself in an environment where you’re obligated to speak French, you’ll fast-track your journey to fluency. Your life can take on new twists and turns when you move to an unfamiliar place, and there’s so much of the French-speaking world to explore. When you learn French, you open up a gateway to a robust, colorful, and novel life adventure!
Learning French For Business
A lot of business involves knowing how to crunch numbers, analyze data and make predictions using quantitative trends. But there’s a whole side to business that revolves around effective communication — often considered among professional “soft skills,” but no less important. How well do you interact with business partners? Do you make a good impression when you meet them? Do you feel confident negotiating and striking deals? These aren’t necessarily things we all do well in our own language, let alone in a second language.
Learning a few words of a language in any country you visit for business can carry a very significant professional value, and French is by no means an exception. Whether you’re giving a presentation to coworkers in an international office or selling your product in African markets, you’ll find there are plenty of great opportunities to apply business French to accelerate your career. French for business can cover a very wide range of skills in the language, from simply getting a meeting off to a good start by introducing yourself in a client’s native language, to combing through the finer details of a contract.
Pursuing a second language is proof of your willingness to engage with the world. It’s proof of an open mind and an ability to learn new things and see things from different perspectives. So when it comes to finding a job, knowing a second (or third) language will give you a leg up and set you apart from the rest of the field.
Not only will adding French to your résumé — and being able to back it up with actual language skills — go a long way to convincing potential employers of your open-mindedness and passion for learning, but it will also give you the confidence to take on new challenges in the future and might even present you with some business opportunities you never would have imagined.
Ways To Learn French
There is no right answer when it comes to how to learn a new language. With so many options for your language journey, it’s no surprise that choosing a learning style or method can be overwhelming!
Of the roughly 120 million people who speak and study French as a non-native language, you’ll find folks who have used all sorts of resources to learn the language, some free, some fairly cheap, and some more of a financial investment. There’s no right combination, and it’s up to you to decide which methods work best for you.
Learning French In The Classroom
French is by far one of the most studied languages in school systems and universities, especially in the United States. Classroom learning is the most popular option for learners in grade school or university settings. It allows more intensive, regular study with feedback from teachers who know the language and can correct mistakes as they happen and teach content in an interactive way. Depending on how large a class is and how engaged the teacher is, learning in a classroom might be a less personalized experience, but having other students to talk to and practice with is a valuable resource for a learner of any language.
Though students make up a large proportion of classroom learners, plenty of adults enroll in language classes, too. Many cities and communities offer free or fairly cheap language classes, and you’ll be very likely to find them in popular languages like French. Though a full-time job might limit your schedule, a commitment to a once- or twice-weekly class after work or on the weekends can really improve your language skills in a measurable way.
Learning French With A Private Tutor
Private tutoring offers a more tailored learning experience than traditional classroom learning with many of the advantages. Having a skilled tutor at hand who can help you perfect your pronunciation and work with you closely on the aspects of French that cause you trouble is a great way to improve your skills fast — without a teacher needing to split time and attention among multiple students. And tutoring doesn’t have to be inconvenient at all; many sessions can and do take place over video call instead of in person.
But the often steep costs of such individualized instruction can be a barrier to many learners. Well trained master tutors often charge high hourly rates for their lessons, so finding a top-quality, budget-friendly option can be challenging.
Software And Online Courses In French
There are many top-notch, expert-designed online courses and programs that run from reasonably priced to very expensive. They allow you to learn on your own time and are often more interactive and engaging than many free courses and resources. Plus, many of the best products out there are constantly updated with new, fresh material, so you can get the most relevant learning experience available.
Can You Learn French For Free?
All of the above options have one thing in common: they cost money. For those learners who want to be more conscious of their budgets or are okay to spend more time finding and working with more cost-effective content, there are still plenty of options!
Learning French With Tandem Partners
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who speak different native languages meet up to help each other learn, swapping roles as teacher and student. For example, if you spend one hour teaching a French-speaking friend something about English, he or she would then spend the next hour teaching French to you. This is an effective method when both people are able to commit significant time and thought to the partnership, but keep in mind that not everyone is a good teacher. Explaining why your native language works the way it does is often easier said than done; you might understand English grammar subconsciously and use it flawlessly all the time but not be able to explain to a non-native speaker the rules that govern how you’re supposed to use that grammar.
Immersion French Learning
This technique is definitely the most extreme and intensive, and it’s not for everyone. (It’s also not technically free if you count airfare to a new place and all the costs of living associated with wherever you go.) But without a doubt, immersing yourself in a new culture and a place that doesn’t speak your language will force you to make rapid progress in your target language as you struggle to communicate and understand those around you.
Of course, you’ll want to start with at least a little foundation in a new language before picking up your life and plunging yourself into a completely foreign locale. Using resources like Babbel, language textbooks and classes, and practice with native speakers can all help you prepare before you make a big transition.
Learning French With Audio Resources
Podcasts and audiobooks are a great way to learn passively while you trudge through your daily commute, cook dinner, or take a walk in your neighborhood. It’s easy to fit learning into your busy schedule when you’re doing it in the background of another activity. Luckily, there are lots of audio resources to pick from, and many of them are free. But keep in mind that to really master a language, you’ve got to do more than just listening to it; you’ll probably want to supplement audio with ways to practice writing, reading, and speaking French, too.
Free Online Courses And Apps For Learning French
There’s no shortage of free French content you can find on the web and on your phone. From French grammar wikis to online forums and classes, you’re sure to find hundreds of options that might do the trick. Some of it is better than others in the ways it’s organized and how thoroughly it explains new concepts, so take it with a grain of salt.
Be aware that the tradeoff of a free product is that it usually sacrifices quality. Much of the content that’s in apps like Duolingo and Memrise or that’s scattered around the web comes from user-generated translations that are rarely verified and are often inconsistent or riddled with errors. These lessons often focus on writing and reading without much of a way to improve listening and speaking skills. And be wary that free interactive lessons like these can often be basic, poorly designed, messy, rigid, and just downright boring — not to mention littered with ads.
That’s not to say these resources can’t be helpful! But it’s important to know how and where to fill in the gaps in your language learning journey when certain content isn’t enough.
Learning French With Babbel
The goal of learning any language is to have real-life conversations with native speakers. So a language learning app should be designed to get you to that goal in the best way possible. It’s important to dedicate the time and effort to practicing with discipline, but outside of your own personal commitment, you’ve got to have technology that knows how to help you most effectively along the way.
Luckily, Babbel is designed by a team of language experts, educators, and designers who know all about what it takes to get the most out of learning a new language — so you are guaranteed a top-quality Spanish learning journey that’s capable, engaging, and yes, even fun.
Here are the key ways Babbel is crafted to get you having real-life conversations in French with confidence, and all for less cost per month than your morning coffee.
The Full Spectrum Of Language Learning
Learning a new language is an endeavor of many dimensions. It takes a lot of skills and patience to learn how to start speaking on the spot, to write a text to a friend, or to translate dialogue you hear from a TV show in your target language.
We know how to make these elements work together to your advantage. Babbel’s lessons are interactive and cover all the aspects of learning French — reading, writing, listening, and speaking — with multimedia content to train your ears and eyes. Our speech recognition feature even helps you hone your pronunciation, too.
French Learning On Your Terms
One of the best parts of learning with Babbel is being able to fit lessons in seamlessly when you want them and where you want them. Our bite-size lessons take roughly between 10 and 20 minutes to complete and can be squeezed into your already busy schedule, whether you’re on your commute or waiting for a pot of water to boil as you cook dinner.
With Babbel, you can pick and choose the topics and themes that are most relevant to you. Taking a trip soon? Brush up on the French you’ll need for travel and navigating new places. Need to sharpen your French for an upcoming business meeting? Our courses have you covered.
The iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. And your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices — so you can learn French anytime, anywhere.
Learn French — And Make Sure It Sticks
What good is committing to learning a new language if you’ll forget it before you even have a chance to use it? That’s why your personalized Babbel Review feature is optimized to help you retain the information you’re learning.
It takes advantage of the concept of microlearning, or bringing back information in short bursts to help you hold on to it better. You can practice writing, listening to, and speaking the terms and expressions you’ve learned in your earlier lessons to lock them into your brain.
For French Learning, Try Babbel
We’re committed to making sure you get the most out of learning French. We offer a free first lesson in every language so you can get a feel for if Babbel works for you. And if you don’t like it, we have a 20-day money-back guarantee — no questions asked.
Try a free French lesson with Babbel and see for yourself how quickly you’ll be on your way to speaking French with confidence — like you’ve always wanted to!