Updated: Apr 21, 2019
Here's your guide to FREE sites you can use to learn and practice French! Most of those included on the list also have other languages. I'll tell you which sites are best for what kinds of practice, and give you tips for maximizing your learning.
The most popular and comprehensive free language learning site available, Duolingo is an amazing resource for language learners. The most recent update for Spanish and French (Tree 4) has aligned the program with CEFR standards, so that students work on A1 and A2 skills progressively. After completing the "tree," students can work on B1 and higher skills by reading the stories. Duolingo is not adequate by itself for high school credit, especially for languages other than Spanish and French which have not yet been upgraded to Tree 4. I'll write a separate post explaining what you need for high school credit! But Duolingo is an excellent supplement.
This site has content for over 15 languages! From the home page of any language, you will find tabs for vocabulary, grammar, and readings. I find that the grammar pages are only helpful in conjunction with outside instruction or just for reference. The readings are useful for intermediate-high and advanced learners. (They are more difficult than the Duolingo readings.) Beginners will find the most value in the vocabulary section of the site. It is a bit like a talking picture dictionary. Choose a topic and scroll your mouse over the images to hear the words spoken in French. Many of the topics have a “listening challenge” that you can do after studying the words. I suggest concentrating on numbers if you are just starting out. Take ten at a time and practice them on the site. Then, write the numbers 1-10 on scraps of paper and draw them out of a pile to practice saying the numbers out of order. It’s too easy if you just recite counting them! When you’ve mastered 1-10, move on to 11-20. Be sure to always go back and review 1-20 even as you move on to higher numbers. Always practice the numbers out of order. When you get to 30, you are prepared to learn to give the date in French. When you get to 60, it’s easy to learn to give the time. Warning: in French the numbers 70-99 are quite difficult as they involve a little bit of math. It is important to master the numbers 11-20 before attempting 70 and up. Once you think you’ve learned all the numbers, try the listening challenge.
The wonderful thing about this site is that students can specify whether they are reviewing a topic or approaching it for the first time. That means they get different types of practice depending on their needs. It has many useful topics for beginners. I do find that some of the topics aren’t really useful without outside instruction, but many of them are fun and helpful for everyone. The animals, colors, and numbers activities are great topics for absolute beginners.
This site has a lot of great content for beginners. He is always adding content and improving the site! I recommend that you start at the beginning of his vocabulary units and work your way through all of them. He also has a YouTube channel that explains grammar.
I love this site and assign activities from it frequently for my students. However, since it lacks audio, it should not be used by absolute beginners unless they have someone with them who can pronounce the words for them. It is important that students don’t begin reading activities in a language when they have not learned to decode the words in that language. They would be mispronouncing words in their heads! There is a lot of great content here, and several languages are available.
This site has several languages available. It can be a lot of fun and it has a lot of great content. The site is a little bit awkward to use at times. For some activities, the instructions are hard to find or hard to understand. I expect most students to need help figuring out how to use the site. Other than that, it is well done and a useful tool for beginner students.
This site is absolutely fabulous for adolescent and older learners. The creator offers it for free but accepts donations. He begins right where you should begin when learning a language independently – with pronunciation.
Conjuguemos is a great supplement to a structured class or curriculum. This is another site that should not be used by completely independent beginners who haven’t learned decoding skills, because it does not have audio support. However, as a supplement to a class, tutoring, or structured curriculum with audio support, it is a great tool. There are flashcards and games to correlate to all of the most popular textbooks. The vocabulary games are a lot of fun! The conjugation tool frustrates me because it could be so great, but the problem is that it has too many infrequently used verbs thrown in, and I think most users will get frustrated with it. But, give it a try anyway! If you don’t like the grammar section you can stick to the vocabulary. Personally, I am addicted to Splatman.
It is great to learn as much French as you can using free online tools. Eventually, though, you’ll need some conversation practice and some individualized instruction if you hope to really progress. At that point, I hope you will reach out to me! Tell me which sites you’ve used, how much you’ve learned, and what your goals are. I might have the perfect group for you! Or perhaps you prefer private tutoring. Whatever your needs, I would love to help you in your French language journey. When you're ready, add your name to the priority list so you can be worked into the next available class at your level.