How to use podcasts to learn French

You’re wondering how to use French podcasts to learn the language beyond just listening? With “My Polyglot Life en français“, I’ve created a podcast for intermediate to advanced learners who want to hear about critical societal issues in French.

In today’s post I also want to share my advice on how to choose podcasts to learn French. It’s based on the Comprehensible Input principles. In addition, I’m suggesting activities you can do to consolidate what you hear. The end goal: natural progress!

Although passive listening is helpful, I think it’s necessary to also engage in more active learning. I’ll give you a few tips on how to combine both!

  • First, let’s see how listening to podcasts will help improve your French over time.
  • Create French immersion by listening to authentic and interesting content. I will give you tips on how to choose the right podcasts.
  • Find the list of my favorite podcasts at the end of the article.

Why listen to podcasts to learn French? A useful & pleasant activity

* a French idiom: “Joindre l’utile à l’agréable”

In the process of learning a language, it’s important to maximize exposure to the target language. Podcasts are some of the best tools to achieve this. You can listen to them anywhere to familiarize yourself with the rhythm of the language and its sounds. In addition you’ll expand your vocabulary on subjects of interest to you.

There are plenty available these days! The hardest part is finding the best podcasts for you to actually learn French by listening! Here are a few criterias to guide your choice.

best podcasts learn french

Which podcasts should you listen to?

Of course, it is important to choose podcasts adapted to your level which, in my opinion, means two things:

  • First of all, it’s best if you can understand between 75 and 100% of the content, even if you can’t grasp all the nuances.
  • Pick topics you know and are interested in. As a result, you’re familiar with the context (you know the vocabulary and ideas expressed). Therefore, you can more or less predict what will be said.

At the end of this post you will find a list of suggestions sorted by themes and levels.

How to use podcasts to learn French?

Passive learning (subconscious) vs Active learning (conscious)

This activity will obviously help you a lot, but I think it’s not enough. Indeed, it is a rather passive activity, your subconscious will record a lot of things. However I recommend engaging int active learning in addition (study, exercises, oral and written practice…).

To make the language stick to your long-term memory, you need to be active with the language. It includes struggling to form your own sentences and using the vocabulary you just heard. You’re building a connection with the words and the language.

You’re creating new neuronal connections. The more you use them, the faster they’ll get. You’ll be all the more able to retrieve information quickly the next time you have to speak about the topic.

Get cozy listening to a podcast then challenge yourself!

Listen and reuse

You’ll find that your vocabulary grows. Indeed as you’ve learned words in context and used them quickly, they’ll get saved in your long-term memory.

Some people can learn a lot just by listening. Personally, I have to make the effort to write down the new words or concepts or use them in conversation. It’s important to know your own learning style(s)!

You will make rapid progress in both vocabulary and fluency.

Speak in a more intuitive way

Indeed you will progress in fluidity thanks to all that your brain has recorded over the listening. For this reason, when you need to speak you will speak in a more intuitive way instead of trying to remember all the grammar rules.

If you also want to work on your writing skills, why not take some time after listening to a short summary? Or, if you are preparing the DELF/DALF/TEF/TCF, imagine writing a personal response to this podcast to express your opinion.

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Why not combine working independently with podcasts and sessions with a language coach?

  • First of all because a coach will be able to decode and explain the subtleties of the language or ideas and the cultural context.
  • A coach will guide the conversation to train you to express your ideas and debate.
  • We’ll target recurring grammatical errors. You’ll understand and correct the influences of your mother tongue.
meilleurs podcasts pour apprendre le français
Coaching via Skype or Zoom, any time anywhere!

How to transition from podcasts to learn French to podcasts made for native speakers

To begin with, it is best to choose audio with the following characteristics:

  • full transcript
  • only 1 or 2 people speak in a quiet environment with clear sound
  • the presenter doesn’t speak too fast. For example, even as a native speaker, I find the podcast “Change ma vie” very fast although she articulates well.

As you progress, you can then move on to subtitled videos. Although automatic subtitles are not very good in French, they can help you understand better when the speaker articulates well. However I do not recommend using them if you do not have an advanced intermediate level.

For example, the French Youtubers Norman and Natou post subtitles themselves so they are correct. They sometimes speak a bit fast and use slang but it is possible to decrease the speed in the Youtube settings. After watching, don’t hesitate to ask your coach for explanations if you want to learn colloquial French!

Common problem: I can’t focus for a long time and I stop paying attention after a while

In order to listen in ideal conditions, I choose moments when there is not too much noise around me: in the car, on public transportation, when I walk or exercise, when I clean the house (except for the vacuum cleaner!)… In other situations, I will rather choose to listen to songs in my target language (currently Spanish and Japanese).

Do you find it takes a lot of effort to focus for the whole duration of a podcast? Why not listen to it in several 5-minute portions. In this case, try to choose short podcasts, less than 30 minutes.

About Cathy

Cathy Intro is a certified Neurolanguage® coach helping aspiring French speakers improve their language skills to live their life and socialize in French with confidence. She has a strong focus on active listening, cultural awareness and self-understanding. She believes clear grammar foundations are key to reaching fluency in French but that it shouldn't be taught with a linear textbook-approach method. Her role as a coach is to empower the learner, ignite curiosity and provide support to reach the objectives with no waste of time and efforts, in a positive and fun environment.

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