3 Useful Resources to help you improve your French (even if you last studied 10 years ago)

Mesdames et messieurs, I bet you have dreamed about the French many times. It’s the ultimate language of chatting in a streetside café or watching the sun go down over the Atlantic. But French is for more than just a fun trip, as it counts as a leading world language too.

French is the World's Most Taught Language

The French Embassy to the US delivers a fun fact about France in its list of 10 Reasons to Learn French:

French is the only language, alongside English, that is taught in every country in the world.

This means that almost all of you readers are likely to have studied French at some point in your lives. It's widely taught in Europe, in Africa and throughout Northern America. Personally, I have been learning French since I was 13, which makes it nearly 20 years now. It’s not always been easy, but throughout my journey I learnt a lot of awesome things and also realized that I can make myself understood in Belgium, Canada, Northern Africa and the Caribbean with the power of this one language. For example, the language became so much easier for me once I started explaining grammar as much as I was studying it. The French grammar can be aligned very well with that of German, my own native language. Explaining grammar became a true specialty of mine. If you check out my course Easy French Grammar for Beginners, you’ll get a glimpse of how I do it. I put the learner first and focus on outlining how things work step-by-step.

Why Study a Language on Udemy?

I often mention Udemy as a great resource for online learners on this blog, and as an instructor and student on there I do know what I am talking about. The courses on Udemy are open to a learning community of over 6 million people. In my experience, this has made for a great advantage to the learner. You get to study your language whenever you want and repeat lectures as many times as you need, but at the same time there’s a tutor available in all courses so you can ask questions and get them to add more materials.

Step 1: Review the Basics

As students join my Easy Grammar for Beginners course and progress through it, I see that many of them were using the course as a refresher. The videos allow you to rediscover older concepts that you may have learnt in school, and to reframe them if things didn't make a lot of sense first time round. This is a wonderful way of getting back into a language. You're not overwhelmed, but you get that sweet confidence of taking the second chance. I particularly enjoyed the many reviews and emails I got from the students who said that they had a little bit of confidence, but felt their French skills improved by 100% after they took these classes. Many have asked me what the next step could be, so in today's blog post I wanted to recommend three great next step resources for intermediate French learners.

Step 2: Add a Course about French tenses

Once you are confident making basic sentences about yourself, your environment and your immediate situation, I bet you'll want to grow that knowledge into something new. That's where the verb tenses come in. You’ll need tenses for sophisticated communication. In my own French grammar course, I focused on the A1 range of grammar. That only contains three tenses, but in fact there are about 11 of them to master in French. So once you have covered and understood those essential nouns, verbs and adverbs from the Easy Grammar for Beginners course, you should cast your eye over tenses.

If you like the Udemy platform then stay and try French Tenses Simplified by Scott McElroy, a fellow French teacher on the Udemy platform. Believe it or not, this one is actually his smaller course. It covers those 11 important moods and tenses you need after finishing level A1. Scott’s course would be the perfect follow-on if you are ready to move on from my French grammar explanations.

The French Tenses Simplified course is about three hours long altogether, but Scott has broken his lectures up into simple 3-6 minute videos. It features even more than just French tense explanations. He has thrown in simple vocabulary lists, a full PDF of the course contents and four downloadable Flashcard videos. So all in all, we’re talking about a nice package.

 Screenshot from the course  French Tenses Simplified.

Screenshot from the course French Tenses Simplified.

I tested this course on an aspect of French grammar that I’ve always found particularly difficult: the subjonctif. He approaches the topic with an awesome sense of humour right from the start. The topic is first introduced in English, with examples that demonstrate when you would use a subjunctive in French. To me, the reasons made a lot of sense here. There are clear rules saying “if this…then that” which is always something we can appreciate in language learning. The lecture could have benefited from slowing down, though. I paused it and took notes several times. Regarding the way the subjonctif is formed, Scott’s lecture was a fab refresher. I got 83% in the final quiz. Maybe you can beat me?

Instructor Quality

Right from the start, you will know that you’re in good hands with Scott’s explanations. He gives a comprehensive course overview to introduce you to French verbs and has SUCH good pronunciation.The thing that really stood out to me was the ease and friendliness in Scott’s explanations. When you take a video course, it’s always important that the instructor sounds like a nice person. You have to listen to these people for ages! Scott comes across as a friendly guy who knows his stuff right from the first second. I really liked his narration and French accent.

Beware if you’re a Beginner

If you’re a French beginner and have never come across any concept of French grammar before, then watch out. The course French Tenses Simplified goes through a few big concepts at qui[e a fast pace, so that I imagine a complete beginner would have to stop and slow it right down. For example, the course presumes that you as a learner are aware that French has three different verb groups for the regular verbs. It also skips over the fact that some verbs are irregular and introduces only three of the irregular ones.

So count yourself advised: If you are a complete beginner, start with my course Easy French Grammar for Beginners (it’s from zero) and arm yourself with a Bescherelle book before diving into the tenses.

Step 3: Analyze Content from natural French sources

In the past 2 steps, you saw options to use for getting your French grammar level up to a pretty sophisticated standard. And moving on from video courses, it is time to start working with real life content. Skip the Rosetta Stone and instructional podcasts, and start looking for simplified French sources. One of France's cultural strengths is their dedication to la bande dessinée (comics), and you'll find some awesome content in books like Astérix. I also like the TV5Monde series for French learners a lot.

The key at this stage is that you should make sure you recognise the stuff that you have learnt in the first two stages. Grammar is not abstract, it is a key to how language really works. If your goal is to speak confident and sophisticated French, then you must observe how the rules are applied in real life. That's what learning in step 3 is all about, so watch out for all those little things. Where is the speaker using an adverb? Can you spot all the -ent endings on 3 pages of comic? Challenge yourself here and enjoy playing language detective.

Do this at any Stage: Leave the Classroom, enter Life

After you have masstered the hard study and review of French grammar concepts, it's really time to break out from the classroom. If you have not done so already, start opening your eyes to natural French language content online and offline. With such a huge international community of speakers, it's incredibly easy to find a meetup of the French community. Here in Lancaster, I have practiced my French at the local language café and you can find your nearest European café at www.languagecafe.eu. The next opportunity to meet native speakers is just 3 miles away at the local university. Where is your nearest college hosting international students? If you aren't aware yet, consider contacting their student associations and meeting the French society or even the International Society. And should all those outreach options fail, there's always the language exchange option through sites like Speaky or Interpals.

For some learners, it's a confidence builder to get the grammar foundations ready before you go out.But in the grand scheme of things, I encourage you to go out and play in the real world right from day 1. You don't have to challenge yourself to do the impossible or conduct a full French conversation straight away, but I encourage you to make sure you keep an eye on the real world while you're studying the basics.

Re-Cap of the Resources in this Article

  • If you are a complete beginner in French, you'll benefit from my own online course Easy French Grammar for Beginners, which you can pick up for $19 using the code MOTIVATION.

  • More advanced learners looking for the next step should check out French Tenses Simplified by Scott McElroy. It's a fast-paced refresher course run by a positive online teacher, and contains lots of extras. For more help with the tenses and verb forms, the Bescherelle books can be invaluable. Get the course at 70% off if you use the link tiny.cc/step2french.

  • At several intervals in this process, you should work with real native content. Don't go out reading the French newspapers right away, but ease yourself in and find simplified French language resources.

  • No matter where you are at in your French study, you should also make sure that you make time to see those actual real French speakers. You can find them on each continent and everywhere around you in international hotspots like universities and meetups.

The key is to get a good balance between video or book study and real life experimentation. And of course, I wish you bonne chance with that.