Looking to learn a new language? The best learn French software and apps are a perfect place to start, especially as we're all doing more at home during 2020. Most French learning programs are available on PC/Mac and smartphones and tablets, meaning you can take lessons and quizzes regardless of where you are and what you're doing. If you're an adult with a busy life, learning a new language is more of a challenge, as you may not have the spare time and headspace to devote to it, so the best app for you might be one that you can listen to or interact with while you're catching a quick ten minute break or doing light chores.
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 ON Rosetta Stone
The best learn French software options all have free trials, but you will end up paying for almost all of them. Even the 'free' options have premium elements and, if you're serious about learning the language as a beginner, you will need to pay at some point. Some French learning apps can be used to top-up your existing knowledge, or just give you a few choice phrases for a vacation, and in these instances you may be ok with just the free versions.
While most learn French apps offer virtual rewards and various incentives to persist, the success of each one really depends on how willing you are to commit to it. We find that some learning methods work better than others, and it's this factor (along with cost and how much content you get) that was the most important when choosing software for this list. While we recommend Rosetta Stone as the best French app for most people, you should definitely try a few apps to see what learning style works for you. If French isn't quite right for you, we also have a guide to the best learn Spanish software and apps too.
1. Rosetta Stone: Best learn French software overall
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
2. Duolingo: Best free French software
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
3. Rocket Languages: Best for interactive learning
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
4. Pimsleur: Best for audio learning
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
5. 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.
6. 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
7. 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
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. 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 us 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. We spoke to the VP of marketing for Rosetta Stone, Julia Randhawa, and asked her about the popularity of mobile learning platform. 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 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
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.