Tower of Babelfish
Learn French

Learn French with these resources

To learn French, you’re going need a way to learn correct pronunciation, a frequency dictionary to form your base vocabulary, and a good grammar book.  You’ll also benefit from a thematic vocabulary book for specialized vocabulary and maybe a book or two, once you learn your first 1000 words.  Make sure you read the Method sections of the website, then check out some of these recommended resources (pictures are links):

1. Pronunciation

First off, get a feel for how pronunciation works in English.  The video tutorials here should help. Once you understand that, start working on French.  Check out my French sounds video, and then try out these resources:

I used this series (Phonetique Progressive Du Francais) from CLE International, and found it really excellent.  Be warned, it’s French only (which can be nice):CLE French Pronunciation CD (Intermediate)CLE French Pronunciation Book (Intermediate)

Just get the Intermediate version; it’s phonetics,  and you might as well do it right and do it completely if you’re going to buy a book (and CD).  It did wonders for my pronunciation.  Highly recommended!
Pronounce it Perfectly French
If you want something in English, the Pronounce it Perfectly series comes with Audio CDs, all the pronunciation rules, and I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t excellent. I’ve also heard *wonderful* things about a DVD series by Penny Sewell. Just be aware that it’s a PAL DVD, so your DVD player might not play it (it should play fine on your computer, though).

If you want to jump to free internet resources, you have a few options.  Check out Wikipedia’s French Phonology page and either this pronunciation guide or the Foreign Service’s Institute French Phonology course.  You can also find recordings for fine tuning work here.

2. Your base vocabulary

I’ve made a base vocabulary list of 400 words to start you off! As I talk about in that article, I find it easiest to translate those words using the short dictionaries at the end of a Lonely Planet Phrasebook; they’re cheap, short and give you good, standard translations for your words (just ignore the ridiculous pronunciation guides). Later, when you’re ready for sentences, you can go back to your phrasebook and grab some.  After that, try some of these resources:

Frequency Dictionary:Routledge French Frequency Dictionary
The Routledge Frequency dictionary series is excellent, with example uses and everything.  Get this at the beginning to direct your vocabulary work!

The best free internet-based list I’ve found is here.

Thematic Word List:Mastering French Vocabulary
The Mastering Vocabulary series is a wonderful set of books that contain core vocab for just about any field/topic you can think of.  They’re great for adding to your vocab once you get your first 1000 or 2000 words from a frequency list.

3. Grammar book
French Grammar Book (CLE, Intermediate)French Grammar Book (CLE, Intermediate answer key)

Grammaire Progressive Du Francais with answer book.

I used this book (Intermediate Level) at Middlebury.  They’re wonderful. Completely in French, with clear explanations and examples for the whole range of French grammar.  They’re just great books.

Here are links to the beginner books:

French Grammar Book (CLE, Beginner)     French Grammar Book (CLE, Beginner answer key)

4. Book-type book
Ionesco - The Bald SopranoHarry Potter in French

You can read anything that you enjoy.  I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter series in translation, especially if you can find an audiobook version to listen to at the same time as reading.

In terms of French literature, La Cantatrice Chauve by Ionesco is hilarious.

5. Other Resources

Movies:24 TV Series in French

The TV series 24 has been dubbed into French and makes for some addictive TV!  Shut off subtitles and it makes for 24 hours (well more like 18 hours) of solid French listening practice.

If you’d like to have French scripts handy for your TV watching, check out; they have scripts for just about everything.

Anki Decks

I’m making my personal Anki deck available here.  Please read the notes!

Monolingual DictionariesFrench Small Monolingual DictionaryFrench Monolingual Dictionary

My favorite online monolingual dictionary is actually Wiktionnaire.  (Many other language’s Wiktionaries are pretty incomplete)

In terms of a print source, the gold standard is Le Petit Robert or its little brother, Le Robert Practique (Used to be called Le Robert Micro).

Linguee is a lovely dictionary resource, in that it shows you multiple example sentences for each word and tells you about each word’s relative frequency in the language. (Currently in English, Spanish, German, French and Portuguese)

AssimilAssimil French with Ease

The Assimil series is a sort of special language learning resource that I discuss in a blog post here.  It doesn’t quite fit into any of the categories above, and I think it works best as a sort of supplemental source of French input.  Here’s the beginner French version with CDs.