We spent 40 hours taking beginning and intermediate level French lessons with the ten best language programs.
We began the testing process for French learning software by downloading and installing the software while taking note of how easy or difficult each product is to get working properly. Next, we took was a tour of the user interface and evaluated the help section in case we needed to ask the program for advice.
We found all the programs we reviewed to be relatively simple to navigate, but there were a couple, including Easy French Platinum, that we had issues getting the software downloaded and installed.
Most of the programs we reviewed have moved to an online platform which don’t require download or installation, and we prefer that interface option, especially if you have a temporary need for a language learning software. We awarded higher scores in our ease-of-use testing to programs that are easy to navigate and login to.
The last step in our testing process for French learning software was to take the prescribed beginner lessons, in the order suggested by the manufacturers. We took a few intermediate lessons, but most of our evaluation was based on the efficacy of beginner lessons because the more advanced lessons build on the learning base you get from beginning lessons. Our recommendations for the best overall, best value and best software for travelers are based on our impressions while testing these products side-by-side.
While everyone has different learning preferences, we feel confident recommending Rosetta Stone as the best French learning software. Its immersive-style learning makes it easy to quickly recall words and phrases because your brain associates them with an image rather than an English translation.
The new Rosetta Stone mobile app is easy to use and includes the same lessons as the desktop app, so you can learn on-the-go.
Editor's Choice: Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone has all the lesson content and learning tools we look for. You can learn vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and writing skills quickly with its immersive learning method.View Deal
Rosetta Stone has all the lesson content and learning tools we look for. You can learn vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and writing skills quickly with its immersive learning method.
Duolingo is completely free and breaks the lessons into small, manageable chunks so you can learn at your own pace. The persistent reminders are a good tool for someone who needs extra motivation.
Fluenz has a beautifully designed interface and teaches you situational conversation topics that can be helpful when you travel to a French-speaking country.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Lesson Content||Learning Versatility||Teaching Tools||Ease of Use||Purchasing Options||Conversation Practice||Pronunciation||Speech Recognition||Flashcards||Timed Exercises||Mobile App||Live Tutors||Personalized Curriculum|
|Rosetta Stone French||View Deal||5/5||10||10||10||A||Online Subscription||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Duolingo French||View Deal||4.5/5||9.8||10||5||A-||Online Subscription||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓|
|Rocket Languages French Level 1||View Deal||4.5/5||9.3||10||5.5||B+||Online License||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓|
|Ouino French||View Deal||4.5/5||9||10||5.5||B||Digital Download||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓|
|Fluenz French||View Deal||4/5||9.3||6||5.5||B+||Digital Download or CD ROM||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||-||✓|
|Easy French Platinum 11||View Deal||3.5/5||7.8||10||1.5||C-||Digital Download or CD ROM||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||-||✓|
|Pimsleur French Unlimited||View Deal||3.5/5||9||2||8.5||B||Digital Download or CD ROM||✓||✓||-||✓||-||✓||✓||-|
|Living Language Online||View Deal||3/5||6.3||6||5.5||B-||Online Subscription||-||✓||✓||✓||-||✓||-||✓|
|Instant Immersion French||View Deal||3/5||3.3||10||5.5||C+||Digital Download or CD ROM||-||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||-||✓|
|Michel Thomas Total||View Deal||1.5/5||2.6||2||5.5||C+||CD ROM||-||-||-||✓||-||✓||-||✓|
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.
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, but we found Rosetta Stone’s to be the most accurate. It uses the microphone in your mobile device or laptop, and if you are using a desktop computer, we suggest adding a USB microphone to your setup so you can take advantage of this feature.
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, or if you prefer, you can burn the lessons onto a CD and play them in your car. 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, but it’s a good way to perfect pronunciation and sentence structure.
Rosetta Stone recently moved to a subscription-based fee, which seems expensive if you plan on paying every month. However, you can cancel your subscription at any time, without penalty, which makes it cost-effective if you plan on learning basic terms and phrases before traveling to a French-speaking country for business or leisure.
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.
Best For Travelers
We identified Fluenz as the best French learning software for travelers because of its multi-device capability and situational conversation exercises. The first few lessons teach you important phrases that help you navigate a train station, order food at a restaurant and interact with a taxi driver.
These lessons are delivered through a wonderfully designed user interface in the desktop application and an easy-to-use mobile app.
The entire package of French lessons from Fluenz is more than $350, making it the most expensive French learning software we reviewed. However, Fluenz has the most diverse purchasing options of all the programs we tested. You can purchase a perpetual license and download it on your computer, or you can buy a boxed copy that includes an installation disc. Both of those options give you access to the desktop and mobile app that can track your progress through the lesson plan.
Another handy feature of this French learning software is the non-linear learning path. You can jump around the lessons and learn about specific topics that are most useful for your situation. Sonia Gil and Caroline Janin are the virtual tutors for the French courses, and although some of their explanations can be long-winded, we found the pre-lesson explanations useful for picking out the important parts of the lesson.
If you are interested in learning French on the go, Fluenz has all the same lessons as the desktop application available on the mobile app, including reading, writing, vocabulary and speaking exercises. You can also download audio-only comprehension and pronunciation MP3s that you can use in places where Wi-Fi and cellular data aren’t available, like an airplane ride to a French-speaking country.
Best for Self-Guided Learning
If you learn best on your own and like to customize your lessons, Ouino French is the best choice for you.
It uses a non-linear, self-guided learning path that lets you choose from modules covering pronunciation, vocabulary, verb forms, grammar and conversation. These modules build on each other and culminate in the conversation module. At the end of each lesson, you rate yourself on a scale of one to four so you know which topics were confusing. Unlike other programs, there’s no voice recognition feature – you record and then compare yourself against recordings of a native speaker. Ouino costs around $100 for a one-time download.
Best for Interactive Learning
If you learn best by interaction and activities, Rocket Languages is the best 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. Rocket Languages costs $250 for a lifetime license or $100 for each individual level.
Why Trust Us
Since learning software can be a tricky product to review we point out the best and worst features of each product to help you make a more informed buying decision. I recently traveled to France, and spent more than a week navigating travel hubs and talking to locals about culturally significant events and day-to-day topics like how the local “football” teams were doing. I have some experience speaking and listening to a few languages besides English, but French isn’t one of them. Being fluent in a country’s native language can open opportunities to meet the people and find the places that make traveling fun and memorable.
This trip also helped me identify the important features of language software that make traveling and conversing easier. We recommend software that teaches important conversational topics about culturally relevant topics. Not only did we test the desktop applications, but we downloaded the companion mobile apps and took lessons on the mobile platform. I spoke to the VP of marketing for Rosetta Stone, Julia Randhawa, and asked her about the popularity of mobile learning platform and she suggested that learning a new language with an app on a phone or tablet has become more popular than the desktop app because the mobile app is updated more frequently to include new and relevant content and because the mobile app is a more familiar platform for the next generation of language students.
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 a 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.
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.
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
I 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 me 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.