Skip to main content

Best learn French online apps and websites 2021

Best learn French online apps 2021
(Image credit: Getty)

Looking to pick up a new language? Downloading one of the best learn French online apps can seriously speed up your learning process. Below, we’ve rounded up apps and websites suitable for every type of learner.

One of the main benefits of learning French online is that you can go at your own pace. However, you do miss out on the conversations that you would normally have in a classroom setting – but the best learn French online apps and websites compensate for this with a mix of clever features. For example, Rosetta Stone and Babbel come with AI tools that assess the accuracy of your pronunciation, while a premium Busuu subscription gives you access to live lessons.  

We’ve tried to outline the strengths of each platform, below, to make it easy for you to find a company that suits your learning style. Advanced French speakers will benefit from tuning into our podcast selection, while beginners should find that free options like Duolingo and Busuu basic are more than enough to get started. 

If you’re looking to pick up a wider range of languages, we also have guides to the best learn Spanish online courses and the best learn English software. And for anyone who wants to experiment with a broader range of subjects, we have a guide to the best online learning platforms overall.


1. Rosetta Stone: Best learn French online software

Best learn French online courses: Rosetta Stone

(Image credit: Rosetta Stone)

Rosetta Stone

Our top pick for French learning software, thanks to its immersive method

Easy to use
Great mobile app
Live tutoring available
Some features require additional fees

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.


2. Duolingo: Best free French software

Best learn French online courses: Duolingo

(Image credit: Duolingo)

Duolingo

Duolingo is free, although you may end up paying eventually

Free
Friendly daily reminders
Fun learning platform
Annoying ads

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.


3. Rocket Languages: Best for interactive learning

Best learn French online courses: Rocket Languages

(Image credit: Rocket Languages)

Rocket Languages

Great for audio and interactive learning, Rocket is highly recommended

Excellent for beginners
Loads of lessons
Good audio content
Expensive

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.


4.  Babbel: Best for young learners

Babbel review: Babbel logo

(Image credit: Babbel)

Babbel

The recent introduction of games onto the platform has given the language-learning app a new edge.

Easy to use
Free games and podcasts
Can learn multiple languages  
Sometimes repetitive 

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.


5. Mondly: Best for travel and phrases

Mondly

(Image credit: Mondly)

Mondly

A modern platform that’s aimed at beginners, Mondly is useful if you’re looking to pick up phrases for an upcoming trip.

Simple to use
Relatively cheap 
Only really suitable for beginners 

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.


6. Pimsleur: Best for audio learning

Best learn French online courses: Pimsleur

(Image credit: Pimsleur)

Pimsleur

An audio-focused learning method, but one that really works

Great for listeners
Tried and tested method
Expensive
Can get repetitive

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.


7. Memrise Languages: Best for busy lives

Best learn French online courses: Memrise Languages

(Image credit: Memrise)

Memrise

A mostly-free app that gives you the basics if you're busy

Free / low cost
Good for the basics
Not a great learning method

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

Best learn French online courses: Frantastique

(Image credit: Frantastique)

Frantastique

A quirky, funny French learning app for those with a sense of humor

Genuinely funny
Doesn't feel like learning
Expensive
Style isn't for everyone

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.


9. FrenchPod101: Best for podcast lovers

Best learn French online courses: FrenchPod101

(Image credit: FrenchPod101)

FrenchPod101

If you love podcasts and audio, this is a good option

Helps you learn fast
Ideal for those who enjoy podcasts
Needs loads of willpower
Quite expensive

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.


10.  Busuu: Best for certification

Busuu logo

(Image credit: Busuu)

Busuu

Although it only offers a handful of languages, a smart and simple approach to learning makes Busuu a good option for students.

Easy to switch between laptop and phone
Simple, modern interface
Premium subscription needed to download content 

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.


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?

The programs we reviewed cost between $0 and $300. Much depends on whether you prefer a subscription or would rather download and keep the software on your computer. Subscription services tend to be cheaper, and you only pay for the program for as long as you need it. If you want the program long term and plan on attempting some degree of fluency, buying the software outright may be a better choice.

Important things to consider when buying French Learning Software 

Ease of Use
E-learning can be frustrating if you can’t quickly access the lessons or if the software crashes frequently. We issued a grade for each program we tested based on how easy each was to download and install, find lessons and continue on the path to fluency without needless searching of help menus. The best programs we tested were easy to login or download and lay out a clear learning path.

Purchasing Options
After testing all the options, we believe the easiest and most flexible way to purchase a language learning software is through an online subscription. Those services don’t require any downloading and can give you the option of subscribing for a short or long period of time based on your needs. The other options are to purchase and permanently install a software from a CD or DVD ROM or download it from a trusted retailer or the manufacturer. Those are good options if you want to share learning software with other members of your family, or if you have a long-term goal for being fluent in another language.

Mobile App
Programs like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo have companion apps that allow you to learn on the go. The mobile apps look a bit different than the desktop applications, but the manufacturers can update content more frequently with a mobile app and you can quickly take lessons in your spare time. Some of the programs we tested, like Fluenz, allow you to upload flash cards or lessons to your mobile device via the mobile app, which gives you access to them without using Wi-Fi or cellular data.

Classroom vs eLearning

We interviewed Shannon Kennedy, a language encourager for Fluent in 3 Months, 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.

Millie Fender

Millie is a former writer for Top Ten Reviews who now works across Future's Home portfolio. Her spare time is spent traveling, cooking, playing guitar and she's currently learning how to knit. Millie loves tracking down a good deal and keeping up-to-date on the newest technology and kitchen appliances.