If you are anything like us here at Brainscape, you probably spend hours on your phone every day, emailing, texting, and using a ton of apps.
While there is something powerfully addicting about candy crush, and while swiping left on Tinder can be awfully satisfying, these maybe aren't always the best use of our time. Thankfully, there are mountains of fantastic educational apps out there for a more productive phone session.
We especially love using our downtime to learn new languages. We've previously made a comprehensive list of language-learning tools, but we realize that may be a beast to read, and that you may be looking for just apps that are particularly good at studying French.
For all the newbie Francophiles out there, don’t despair. Here's our list of the best 9 beginner apps to learn French. They're sure to get you started acquiring and mastering the language in no time. And of course be sure to read our monster guide on how to learn French more efficiently overall.
On y va!
1. Brainscape's Learn French
Of course, we have to start with ourselves: we're proud to make the best app to learn French. Brainscape’s adaptive French flashcards app is the most effective way to introduce and internalize all the nuances of the French language (or any other language). Using its custom adaptive learning technology, Brainscape will drill you on thousands of French vocab words, pronunciations, and grammatical concepts, such that you spend more time on words you don’t get and less on those you have already mastered.
It really is the best way to learn French more efficiently. According to extensive scientific research, the key to foreign language retention is spaced repetition, and Brainscape is the only app on the market that uses the custom algorithm shown to be the best-designed to foster this type of learning.
Not only does Brainscape French have verb conjugations and thousands of vocab cards with audio, it also has a Sentence Builder component that will build up your mastery of grammar through the constant translation of increasingly advanced sentences (with each card supplemented by a grammatical explanation). Brainscape has also recently added flashcard decks for listening comprehension, as well as others tackling French history and pop culture.
This is the best app to learn French if you're a serious learner. If you want to build a robust vocabulary, Brainscape’s unique language-learning methodology is the proven best way to get started.
If you want learning to be fun and in a game-like setting, Duolingo is a great place to start. You can learn vocabulary, conjugation, reading, writing, pronunciation, and listening skills on the app in a way that is competitive and fun.
Duolingo has been ranked as the highest-rated French learning app on the Apple App Store for good reason. It’s free, fun, easy to use, and gets you the basics fast.
Just be aware that while it may be fun to make learning a competition (with prize badges and everything!), the app isn’t too great for really learning grammar or retaining what you learn. It's great for casual learners just starting out, but if you really want to learn French, you'll need to supplement Duolingo with other French activities.
3. Learn French with Busuu
Busuu is a French learning app with more functionality than Duolingo. While it has similar French practice activities as Duolingo, it builds in a better language community aspect where you can connect with French speakers that are learning English. It also is better for letting you choose what you're interested in: French for business or travel. This ability to customize the app makes it better than Duolingo in some respects.
However, the app has changed its model in the past few years. While it used to allow you access to native French speakers who would listen to you and correct your written work, they don't anymore. Instead, they now use have a speech recognition tool.
While Busuu's program is superior to Duolingo, it's also more expensive. You can start using the app for free, but for the real features, including speaking with native speakers and more advanced activities, you need to purchase a membership. Memberships start at €10 per month (about $12 USD).
Another downside is that it focuses mainly on grammar exercises and traditional ways of teaching French. The gamification of language learning isn't always the most effective way to teach. Brainscape is much superior in terms of applying cognitive science to learn languages most efficiently.
Still, this app can be useful for the busy professional that just wants to learn French for ten minutes a day. Beginners might benefit from it the most. The ability to interact with native speakers also makes it better for people who are a bit more advanced or who are reaching the limit of what Duolingo has to offer.
4. Classics2Go Collection (French)
Reading in a language you are trying to learn is a must. That’s why the free French Classics2Go Collection app is so great. It has a large selection of fairy tales and other simple, classic children’s stories that you can read at an early stage in your French learning.
Not only are these stories familiar, which makes it easy to absorb new vocabulary and grammar concepts, but Classics2Go even cross-links with its English app so you can read the versions side by side for a refresher. Plus, once you are getting more fluent, you can easily explore the library for some more complex books like Les Trois Mousquetaires or Madame Bovary.
This app is perfect for those that need reading material. It's probably not a substitute for apps that actually teach French. But it's a good addition to your French learning app set.
5. French Translator Dictionary +
Any language-learner needs a solid dictionary companion to their learning and study tools. And as much as we love Google Translate, it's not always reliable for the real meanings of words or for slang.
Our favorite French translation tool is French Translator Dictionary + by Vidalingua. The Translator provides accurate phrase translations that you can star for offline viewing. It also includes a Dictionary feature that provides heaps of translations and examples for head words including slang and regional dialects. And you can tap on pretty much anything to hear it pronounced at the speed and in the accent you select.
The app also includes a verb conjugator with over 400,000 verb forms, as well as quizzes and flashcards to help you build your vocabulary. French Translator Dictionary + is ideal for anyone: students who want to ace their classes, expats who are preparing for a date, or anyone trying to follow a French recipe in their kitchen. It's perfect for a quick trip to Paris, too! It won't teach you French, but it's a great reference!
6. Le Conjugueur
French verb conjugations are tricky. If you ever learned it in school, you might remember being terrified by Bescherelle. That’s what makes Le Conjugueur is so fantastic: it's comprehensive without being overwhelming.
This is the best app to learn French grammar and conjugations; it allows you to practice translating verbs and identifying the appropriate tenses to use in different scenarios. Again, it's not going to teach you French, but it's a really useful reference tool. Use it to supplement your verb practice and ensure you become a well-rounded conjugator!
7. Rosetta Stone
It’s almost impossible to talk about language learning without mentioning Rosetta Stone. Not only has Rosetta Stone’s app been around the longest, but it also offers a balanced approach. You get to practice speaking, writing, and reading at each skill level.
Rosetta Stone offers a completely immersive language learning experience, which means that no English will be found anywhere in this app. This has its advantages (such as learning like you would as a child), but it can be frustrating or even ineffective for some new learners, so consider what kind of learner you are before committing. There are also some criticisms of not using your mother tongue to help learn a language.
Another downside is the cost—a whopping $199.99 for all the features. However, there is a 3-day free trial, so you can try it and see if it's the best app for you to Learn French.
You might think of Spotify as an app for streaming music, but it's also one of the best apps to learn French. Why? Because it can give you access to unlimited French listening texts.
Of course there's all the French music you could ever want. There are the classics, like anything by Edith Piaf, but there are also fantastic modern artists that you should check out like Carla Bruni, Angèle, and Jérémy Frerot. You can find all the lyrics on YouTube or on sites like Lyrics Playground.
But don't stop at the music. Spotify can connect you with thousands of podcasts in French at all levels. Podcasts are a great way to learn a language and you can find them on all kinds of subjects that you might be interested in.
One of our favorites for beginners is Learn French by Podcast. They mix in both French and English to help you learn. If you're at a more intermediate level, try Inner French. The host, Hugo, speaks about all kinds of different subjects that you'll be interested in if you want to learn about French culture. He speaks only in French, but he speaks clearly and a bit more slowly than usual.
Spotify, by itself, won't teach you French, but it will provide you with all the listening practice you could ever want. You can use Spotify on the web or download it for free on iPhone or Android. It's free, but you can subscribe to get rid of the ads.
One of the most difficult things about learning French is finding someone to speak it with. Not all of us are living our best lives picking grapes at a vineyard in Reims or working at a small start-up in Bourdeaux. Some of us don't get much opportunity to actually speak to native French speakers.
Tandem is the solution. Tandem is a language learning community. You join, identify what languages you speak, choose those you want to learn, and then look for a conversation partner. For example, you might look for a native French speaker who is learning English. Then you chat with them. Even beginner French learners should be speaking it regularly.
We love how easy Tandem makes it to find a language partner. And it's free! The only downside is that, afterwards, you'll want to to spend your salary on trips to visit your new friend.
The best app to learn French
None of these is really the best app to learn French—they're all good in their own way. While we are, of course, partial to Brainscape's own adaptive French flashcards app (because we know how much it can help you!), using a few of these apps—and turning them into a regular study habit—is going to support your learning the most.
So they're probably best used in conjunction with each other. For example, you could:
- Use French Translator Dictionary + to practice your reading.
- Use Tandem to practice your speaking.
- ... and use Brainscape to really internalize vocabulary and grammar!
Together, these French learning apps can help you get well on your way to speaking French couramment in no time.
For more resources, check out our huge and comprehensive guide on how to learn French more efficiently.