FrenchPod101 is a podcast-based learning app, which helps you practice French while you're on the move or doing chores at home. The good news is that anyone can learn or improve their French with FrenchPod101, but it’s particularly effective for beginners and, if you’re savvy with your choice of subscription, it could be cost-effective as well. Once you’ve decided on your choice of subscription, Basic, Premium, or Premium Plus and decided how long you want it to run for (see costings further down the review) you’re offered four levels of training subdivide by their difficulty: absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate and advanced. It's a novel way of learning a language, and that alone earns FrenchPod101 a spot on our best learn French software list.
FrenchPod101 review: Method
All the subscriptions behave in the same basic way: you listen to, or watch, a weekly French-learning podcast. The more expensive the package you buy from FrenchPod101, the more additional features that you get, which help you to a learn a more solid grasp of the language. For example, the Basic plan doesn’t have the quiz feature, the Premium plan comes with interactive tools, and the Premium Plus gets you a personalized teacher.
Once you’re set up, you can choose from one of hundreds of video and audio lessons (1370 and counting) with downloadable lesson notes so you can follow the on-screen/in-ear action. Each lesson (depending on the package) comes with flashcards and a handy comments section to ensure the information is locked-in, but the pièce de résistance is the cunning ‘pathways’ feature.
Each lesson leads on to a series of ‘pathways’ (there are as few as eight and as many as 20) that allow the user to follow a topic of interest, like fine art, or get the necessary language required for something like a business trip. These pathways come in audio or video form in ever-increasing levels of difficulty until you reach the end. If you do start a pathway and it isn’t working for you, you’re free to stop and start another one… Flexibility is a good thing but there is no incentive for you to stay on the pathway. In fact, there is no incentive for you to even stick with the course, which could lose the interest of the less determined pupils.
FrenchPod101 review: Cost and app
There is a limited free trial, to test out the app, but you will need to pay eventually. When you have to pay, a subscription is $8 per month for Basic, $25 for Premium and $47 for Premium Plus. Commit to a two-year subscription and that drops to $4 per month for Basic, $10 per month for Premium and $23 a month for Premium Plus. It's far more expensive than other programs, and we recommend Rosetta Stone in terms of value. Of course, if you want to pay nothing at all, Duolingo is a compelling offering.
And the app itself? Despite the rather uninspiring looking homepage, the FrenchPod101 app interface is clean and well designed. If you're at home, the PC or Mac app works well too, but we prefer the smartphone/tablet version.
Should you try FrenchPod101?
If you’re self-motivated and you’re able to work out how to get the best out of the Premium Package (we think the Premium Pro package is a bit too expensive for what you get) then FrenchPod101 is one of the better packages out there. It manages to marry the traditional ways of learning French spiked with modern technology in the form of podcasts and videocasts. This makes learning French efficient and entertaining, but the lack of rewards or progression indicators means you need to be self-motivated to really make it work.