Get the best learn French online options in this guide which will help you to find the ideal way to learn the language as you need. From apps and podcasts to websites, it's all here.
Learning French online means you can do so from wherever you have a device but also whenever you find the time. That makes this ideal for those short on time, on the move a lot, or anyone that doesn't want to commit to a physical class regularly.
While you might not get that face-to-face time, you do get other benefits, like Rosetta Stone and Babbel offering AI tools that assess the accuracy of your pronunciation, or a high-end Busuu subscription that gives you access to live lessons.
All the options are laid out with benefits clearly labeled so you can pick what you need. Advanced French speakers, note that our podcast selection will have the best options. For beginners, it's Duolingo and Busuu basic that'll cover your needs while keeping costs down.
You may also want to check out the best learn Spanish online courses (opens in new tab) and the best learn English software (opens in new tab), or more general best online learning platforms (opens in new tab) overall.
Best learn French online apps and software
1. Rosetta Stone: Best learn French online software
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Rosetta Stone has an easy-to-use desktop application and the best mobile language learning app we reviewed. Once you login, your progress is saved across all the learning platforms, which can allow you to start a lesson at home and finish it on the app during your lunch break or morning commute. It's method is to immerse you fully in the French language - all the text and speech is in French - and to give you visual cues to learn. It also relies on repetition, to make sure all the lessons stick in your memory.
The speech recognition feature utilizes Rosetta Stone’s TruAccent technology and can help you perfect your pronunciation so you can confidently interact with native speakers. Most of the programs we tested have a speech recognition feature, and while it was far from perfect, we found Rosetta Stone’s to be among the most accurate.
The audio companion is a great feature if you want to take French lessons without using Wi-Fi or cellular data. You can download these audio-only lessons to a mobile device or music player. Downloadable lessons are also a good option if you want to brush up on your vocabulary during a flight to a French-speaking country. If you are having trouble grasping some of the lesson concepts, Rosetta Stone offers live tutoring. You can converse in real time with a native French-speaking tutor. The live tutor service is an additional fee (unless you're a business customer), but it’s a good way to perfect pronunciation and sentence structure.
- Read our Rosetta Stone review (opens in new tab)
2. Duolingo: Best free French software(opens in new tab)
Duolingo delivers French lessons through a fun and easy-to-use interface. You can use the online application at home on your laptop or desktop computer, or the well-designed mobile app if you prefer to learn on the go. Both applications track your progress through the lesson plan, so you won’t miss any concepts. The learning tools and lesson content are comparable to the best for-pay programs we tested.
You can use this as your primary language learning software or, because it’s free, you can use it as a supplement to face-to-face instruction or other language learning programs. If you want to remove the ads and get access to downloadable lessons, you can subscribe to Duolingo plus for less than $10 per month.
This French learning software uses a linear method to make sure you get a good learning base that you can build on with more complex topics. Linear learning methods don’t let you skip around the lesson plans, but Duolingo does let you test out of skills that you may have already learned. Duolingo has lessons for beginners and advanced students alike. The Duolingo Stories are a good learning tool for advanced and intermediate students that need a little help with listening and reading comprehension skills. The stories are, currently, only available for a few languages, but French is one of them. You can find the Duolingo stories under the Labs tab in the online or mobile app.
- Read our Duolingo review (opens in new tab)
3. Rocket Languages: Best for interactive learning(opens in new tab)
If you learn best by audio interaction and activities, Rocket Languages is the right option for you. This program uses interactive audio lessons and a voice recognition algorithm that helps you develop and refine your pronunciation. Rocket Languages has one of the most accurate voice recognition algorithms of the programs we looked at.
We also like that it includes cultural lessons, which may be useful if you plan on travelling. In addition, its Survival Kit lessons focus on words and terms that are essential for getting around in French-speaking countries. It's a very practical learning tool, and is great for anyone who plans to put their language into practice when travelling or doing business with foreign clients.
It is relatively expensive, but comparable to the likes of Rosetta Stone, and it takes a certain amount of willpower to see the Rocket course through. However, if you're looking for a great place to start, and you're willing to commit your time and money to learning, this is a superb option.
- Read our Rocket Languages review (opens in new tab)
4. Babbel: Best for young learners
Babbel has a free trial period of seven days, after that it costs anywhere between $6.95 - $13.95 per month, depending on the length of your subscription. This might seem pricey, but it’s a lot cheaper than some other learning platforms – and the platform packs in a few nice features, too.
We like that you can mix up your learning sessions with games and podcasts that are curated to fit your level of language apprehension. It also features some nice revision tools, which track the words (or grammar rules) you keep getting wrong and encourage you to revisit and relearn them. On top of that, getting a subscription to this platform will allow you to learn all of the languages available, which is a grand total of 14.
However, we did also find that lessons can become a bit repetitive, as the majority of classes feature a familiar structure. Users also have to pay to access live lessons, although you can usually try a couple for free. We did find that the AI tool on the Babbel app was remarkably accurate, though, picking up any slight slips in our accent and encouraging us to try again.
- Read our Babbel review (opens in new tab)
5. Mondly: Best for travel and phrases
Mondly features a friendly, modern interface alongside some great features. Lessons are comprehensive and just challenging enough to keep you motivated. We also enjoyed the chatbot function, which allows you to replicate a conversation in your chosen language.
We did find that lessons sometimes throw you in at the deep, with unfamiliar phrases or words being used. This is a fairly normal teaching method, as sometimes grappling with a new piece of knowledge can help you remember it in the future, but it could feel frustratingly difficult to the more casual learner.
Our only minor problem with the app is that we didn’t get a sense that it scaled for more advanced learners. Instead, the repetitive lesson format – which is appropriate for beginners – seems to be repeated across all language apprehension levels. We also found lessons to be heavily weighted towards learning new phrases and vocab, rather than establishing grammatical rules. If you’re a learner, this is a helpful approach, but again it might not appeal to a more advanced student.
- Read our Mondly review (opens in new tab)
6. Pimsleur: Best for audio learning(opens in new tab)
Pimsleur is an academically grounded learning method that uses audio as the primary tool of teaching (with only a handful of visual cues thrown in). In this way, it's very different to the likes of Rosetta Stone. However, it's proven to be effective, and isn't subject to any of the trends or 'attempts to be quirky or different' that a lot of learn French software attempts.
It uses a lot of sample conversations, so if you're looking to learn French for a specific topic or scenario it's really handy. The audio nature means it lends itself well to conversational French, and it does a good job of folding the vocabulary you learn into useable phrases and chats.
The downside is that it lacks visual cues, and it can get a little stuffy and boring at times. It's relatively expensive too, so try the free trial to check that audio learning really is for you.
- Read our Pimsleur review (opens in new tab)
7. Memrise Languages: Best for busy lives
Memrise is a mostly-free app, similar to Duolingo, and is ideal for anyone hoping to learn some basic French during their spare time. Because it doesn't require long periods of concentration, it's good for fitting in around chores. The downside is that it doesn't give you a fully coherent grasp of the language, so isn't really suitable for people who want a comprehensive grasp of French.
Memrise uses flash cards and other cues to prompt learning, and it scales lessons the more you progress, so you improve by mastery rather than any kind of reward system. It's playful too - users will find it easier to learn words and phrases if they're attached to unusual or funny visual cues.
There are plenty of lessons, but these are also fleshed out with user-created lessons, 1-1 tuition, and other helpful information that can take your learning further if you like the Memrise system.
8. Frantastique: Best for entertaining learning
How do you feel about seeing Victor Hugo naked? If the idea is silly or it makes you want to be a little sick in your own mouth, Frantastique probably isn't for you. If the idea is funny, and you think you could learn from an app with a bit of a sense of humor, then it's well worth a try.
Frantastique teaches via stories, comics, and videos, but does so with a distinctly unusual twist. Naked Victor Hugo, who has been thawed out by aliens, is one of the main characters in an app that uses more modern media to help you learn a language. It uses complete immersion, much like Rosetta Stone, so there is a lot of science and data behind the method. And it does work, if you enjoy the style, and you even get customized tests and reports based on your performance.
The downside is that it's expensive - one of the most costly on our list - so if it appeals to you, definitely take advantage of the limited free trial before you hand over too much cash.
- Read our Frantastique review (opens in new tab)
9. FrenchPod101: Best for podcast lovers
FrenchPod101 is - as the name suggests - heavily weighted towards podcasts, videocasts, and audio learning. The idea is that you can listen while you're doing other stuff, or just check it out when you have five spare minutes to yourself. This is its greatest strength and biggest weakness.
It's very convenient, and fits in around your life, but it does require an awful lot of personal willpower to absorb the knowledge and to persist with the course. It's quite expensive too, so maybe the cost will be motivation enough for some people, if they enjoy the method.
It has a pathways feature, which allows you to dig deep into certain subjects, if you need French language for a specific reason, like a business trip or a vacation. The app is good, and there are loads of lessons to access.
- Read our FrenchPod101 review (opens in new tab)
10. Busuu: Best for certification
Busuu feels fairly similar to both Duolingo and Babbel, following a familiar pattern in terms of lesson styles and teaching methods. Where it departs is in its certificate offering; unlike the other platforms, it offers its paying subscribers the chance to earn a McGraw Hill certificate to confirm their language fluency.
In our tests, we found the lessons to be engaging and simple. We particularly liked the tool on the platform that detected any recurring mistakes in your lessons, and then encouraged you to learn the correct spelling, pronunciation or grammar around this. Busuu also makes it easy to switch between your laptop and phone, as your learning is associated with a profile rather than a gadget.
You can only learn one language on the platform if you’re using the free-tier membership, but premium subscribers can access all 12. Premium users also have the option to download content, so they can learn offline, and they can also pay extra for live tutoring. This platform didn’t score as highly as some other language learning apps because it doesn’t feature many additional features, like games or podcasts, so the lesson structure might start to feel repetitive after a while.
- Read our Busuu review (opens in new tab)
Best learn French online apps and software: FAQs
How we tested the best apps and websites for learning French
We tried out both the desktop versions and app versions of the French-learning platforms, so we could evaluate the overall experience. We then spent a week using the product, assessing its features, teaching methods and overall approach.
After we've spent this time with the product, we assess how much we've learned and retained of the language, as well as how much we enjoyed the process of learning through the platform.
It's tricky to do a direct comparison here, as language learning apps can be so different. Because of this, our reviews focus on the best features of each app, along with what we think is missing, and how well we think the platform engages new learners.
How Much Does French Learning Software Cost?
Prices for French learning software vary widely but really depend on what you need. You could spend as much as $300 for a top end subscription or go for a free app and not spend anything at all.
Subscriptions options are generally more affordable than downloaded software choices. This latter choice can be worth the extra if you want to learn without time pressures and if you want to go to a more advanced level.
Important things to consider when buying French Learning Software
Ease of Use
Downloading, installing and singing up and using software can be different across platforms. That's why it's worth using this guide to check that you're getting the level of simplicity – or rich options – that you need for the level you're at.
Online subscriptions are the best option for anyone that wants the most flexibility. That applies to payment options as well as devices you can jump between and ways you can learn.
If you've got a longer term goal, for serious fluency for example, then downloaded software is a good choice. This is also ideal if you want to share with others.
Many options offer apps with them which mean a dedicated program which lets you learn on your device. These usually offer the most up to date and engaging content as well as, in some cases, downloadable content which works offline.
Classroom vs eLearning
We interviewed Shannon Kennedy, a language encourager for Fluent in 3 Months (opens in new tab), about the advantages of using software to learn a language instead of face-to-face instruction. She told us eLearning lets you work at your own pace, without needing to coordinate two calendars to arrange a lesson or meetup. "With face-to-face instruction, there's the pressure of responding quickly. But with software, you have a little more time to reflect and respond."
Whether you’re learning a foreign language for business, travel or simply to expand your understanding of a different culture, learning in a comfortable environment at your own pace is a significant advantage. One disadvantage of eLearning compared to classroom instruction is the need for self-motivation.
Learning French for business travel comes with important motivating factors, such as avoiding awkward conversations with important colleagues, but it also requires you to learn specific topics quickly. I asked Kennedy which software features make it easier to learn quick and conversational topics for business travel.
She didn’t single out one specific topic but suggested, "Lots of repetition, but done in a way that isn’t boring." The best French learning programs we tested allow you to skip around in a curriculum to focus on the most common business travel topics and use timed, game-style exercises to help you attain conversational fluency.