How To Speak French Online

Is it even possible to learn French online?

Yes - absolutely. There’s nothing in the air in France, Canada, Monaco or Belgium that will help you learn French any quicker. Sure, it’s great to be surrounded by the language and to be able to immerse yourself in the culture but with today’s technology, you can do that from wherever you are on the planet, as long as you have a decent internet connection.

Yeah but does that mean that I can learn to speak French online?

Definitely! Every day tons of people around the world learn French online using a variety of different methods. Some people like to take courses, others have tutors, some people read books or listen to podcasts. However you personally choose to do it, you can rest assured that you absolutely can learn how to speak French online.

How beginners can learn French online (completely for free!)

For the purposes of this blog post, we’re going to assume that you really want to learn how to speak French. Reading and writing might also be important to you but really, what you want to know is how you can have conversations with native speakers in French.

The issue you might find as an absolute beginner is not knowing enough words. This is quite common and although it will definitely get easier over time, you might always find that there are some words that you don’t know (or remember!) no matter how much French you learn.

If you want to improve your French speaking skills, you have to practise speaking French!

Unless you’re particularly keen to dive straight into conversation (and if you are, good for you!), the best use of your time is learning phrases that you can learn in conversation.

There’s a great French phrasebook on Speak Languages which will give you a few phrases to get started. However, there’s an even better phrasebook on that site which is hidden in plain sight.

Instead of looking for the French phrasebook on the English version of the site, instead, check out the much more extensive English phrasebook on the French version of the site! It has a lot of the phrases you’d need for a simple conversation and learning these will be particularly useful if you’re travelling to a French-speaking country sometime soon.

How you can learn and speak French from the comfort of your own home

These days, you don’t even need to be in a French-speaking country or city to be able to practise French. You can do everything from home via the Internet.

Now with video call technology such as Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime and WhatsApp, you can practice speaking with native speakers via video calls wherever you are - as long as you can connect to the web.

If you want to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, you'd better learn some French before you go!

Below we'll expain in greater detail how you can learn via online courses and some of the best practices to bear in mind when you're having a language exchange.

How to learn to speak French online with online courses

If you don’t want to learn via phrasebooks to get started, you can always try an online course and can learn that way.

If you’re looking for a more structured course with great reviews and instructors that you can ask questions to, our recommendation would be to check out Udemy. There’s a wide variety of both free and affordable online French courses and you’re sure to find something that will help you progress with your French and help you learn to speak in no time.

You’ll often find most people using something such as Duolingo in order to learn the absolute basics. Although it's very popular, it probably won't get you much further than a low intermediate level.

If you know some basic French already and are looking for something a bit more challenging, TV5Monde has an online course that you can try.

TV5MONDE has an online course you can use to learn French

Can you really learn to speak French with an online course?

We’ve got to be honest here - an online course alone isn’t enough. If you want to improve your speaking skills, there’s only one way to do it - by speaking.

That doesn't necessarily mean you have to speak to someone else, however. You could speak to yourself in the mirror, or record yourself talking, or even pretend to have a phone conversation with someone in French (hey - it’s an easy way to get some practice without looking like you’re crazy). The only issue with all of these methods is that you’re not getting any feedback.

Here’s what can happen. Let’s say you see a squirrel in a park and you practice talking about it in French. The French word for squirrel is “écureuil”. It is notoriously difficult to pronounce for native English speakers (but, if it makes you feel any better, French speakers struggle to say the word “squirrel” so it all balances out).

You could practice saying the word “écureuil” over and over again...and you could be pronouncing it incorrectly. Unless you have someone to correct your pronunciation, you’ll have no idea whether you’re pronouncing words correctly. This can be a problem when you have a real conversation with a French speaker as they likely won’t understand you. (Have you ever spoken with a French speaker and they’ve tried to switch the conversation to English? Perhaps your pronunciation wasn’t as correct as you thought it was!).

Online courses can be a great way to pick up the basics of the language. After that though, we’d suggest that you speak with native speakers as much as you can in order to get as much feedback as possible.

One way you could do that is by signing up to swaplang. We offer unlimited language learning practice and will help you schedule a language exchange with a French native speaker. The way it works is that you speak for half of the time in English and half of the time in French so that you both get to practise - and neither of you feels too embarrassed about making mistakes.

If you think that could be helpful for you, why not sign up for a free trial to check it out?

Can I learn how to speak French with free online lessons?

Theoretically, yes - the biggest issue is finding someone that will teach you online for free. You might be able to find a decent YouTube course to learn some of the basics but a) that’s not exactly a lesson, it’s more of a course and b) you still won’t get any feedback.

Online French lessons can be very useful but it's unlikely you'll find any great ones for free.

What you’d definitely benefit from is having conversations with a native speaker but since French is such a popular language around the world, you’ll likely have to pay someone some money for their time in order to get them to help you.

If you do find someone kind enough to give you their time and teach you French for free, you’ll have to find a way to repay their kindness in another way in order to not take advantage of them.

But I want to learn how to speak French online for free!

We know, we know - we all do. However, we live on an economical planet (croissants cost money) and a lot of the time, you get what you pay for.

Previously, we’ve tried free language exchanges on other sites and found that our language partners didn’t show up or would mysteriously disappear after a week or so because it was free. After all, if they weren’t paying anything to attend, they had nothing to lose by not attending.

That’s one of the reasons that we created swaplang - to charge a small amount to people each month to keep them accountable, as well as make it easy for language learners to schedule language exchanges between themselves and help each other learn languages at a time that suits both parties.

If you haven't got much money but still want to learn French, swaplang could be an option for you.

How to speak French online for free

OK, OK - if you really want to learn how to speak French online for free, one thing you can do is message users on Reddit. They have a forum dedicated to organising language exchanges where you say which language you’re offering and which language you’re seeking.

It’s probably one of the best places to learn to speak French online for free but the problem can often be that it’ll be hard to find someone who is offering French and is looking for English language practice. In order for you to find a partner, they’d need to have a Reddit account, know that this particular subreddit exists and need an English speaking partner right now.

Let’s say you did find someone to chat to. What happens if they’re not available at a time that works for you because they’re in a different country?

If you somehow manage to find someone who is available and wants to do a language exchange with you, hold onto them! Unfortunately (we speak from experience), we often find that the people who don’t pay money, don’t pay attention so even if you have a great language partner, there’s nothing stopping them from just quitting one day. Then, you have to go through the trouble of finding someone else - and hoping it’s someone you actually enjoy talking to.

You can learn how to speak French for free online by finding a language partner on Reddit...if you're lucky

It’s for that reason that swaplang was created - to make it easier to find language exchange partners and have language exchanges. Rather than having to fight others for a partner, you can simply accept the language exchange which is at a time which suits you. The best part is, if you can see it, you know it’s still available!

How to practise speaking French online

If you’re not particularly confident, you might be looking for online chat services where you can speak French with natives. This is a good starting point but ultimately, it won’t help you very much with your speaking skills.

You probably know this already but if you want to improve your speaking skills, you have to speak. There are many ways you can chat with your partner - Zoom, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facetime or even Microsoft Teams - but what seems to be most popular amongst language learners is Skype.

Skype allows users to call each other completely for free, either as an audio call or as a video call. Not everyone likes being on camera but we highly recommend having a video call if your internet connection can handle it. French can be hard enough to understand at the best of times but being able to watch people’s lips move as they speak makes it much easier to understand!

Once you’ve set up a Skype account and have found a partner, we’d suggest taking it in turns to practise speaking French for half of the call and English for the other half. It doesn’t really matter which language you start with as long as you practise both.

These days, you can easily practise French via Skype.

While your partner is talking to you, it can be useful to type any useful corrections to mistakes that they make. This is much less intrusive than interrupting to correct them which can get pretty annoying very quickly.

If your partner doesn’t understand something that you say, either repeat it or try to phrase it in a different way. There’s no need to be embarrassed - this is a perfect time to ask your partner for help. One of the best questions that you can ask is “How would you say that?”. Often, the way that you may have learned may not be the way that real French is spoken. By asking a native how they would say the same thing, you can instantly make your spoken French sound more native and natural.

So what’s the best website to learn how to speak French?

There are plenty of wonderful websites that will help you learn French and although we’re probably supposed to be super biased and tell you that swaplang is the best, ultimately, you have to decide what the right fit is for you.

It’s one of the reasons why we offer a free trial on our annual subscription. We want to make sure you’ve had a chance to check out the service and see if it works for you.

There are plenty of sites out there which have more features, and fancy videos, and huge marketing budgets but, at the end of the day, none of that matters if you don’t end up learning French.

So now, we’re going to do something that no one else would ever do. We’re going to recommend a “competitor” (gasp!).

In reality, we’re not competing against anyone: We’re here to help you learn French. If you learn French on our website, great! If you learn French on another website, that’s still great.

Who’s the competitor?

Our favourite website which isn’t swaplang is italki. In fact, we still use it regularly! Why?

  • One of our favourite French tutors, Valou, is there. Since he’s not looking to improve his English right now, he’s not on swaplang (yet!)
  • When it comes to language lessons, italki is probably the best site ever. It’s great to have a wide selection of teachers and tutors with tons of experience
  • Somedays, you just want to focus on speaking French instead of having to speak for half of the time in English too

Having said that, it’s not all rosy. One of the things that we hate about italki is how much it costs. After all, someone has got to fund that huge marketing budget. You can easily spend more than £80 a month on italki just having informal conversations with their community tutors. Community tutors aren’t teachers, they’re just native speakers who will chat with you and correct your mistakes. For that reason, to get more conversation practice in, it can be much more cost effective (more than 10 times cheaper) to practise on swaplang instead of italki.

italki is great but the cost of lessons can add up very fast - even when you buy in bulk.

italki also charges you every single time you buy a lesson. Every. Single. Time.

That’s one of the reasons that swaplang allows for unlimited language practice with no hidden fees. You either get charged a low monthly fee or you can access swaplang even cheaper by signing up for an annual subscription. Either way, you can cancel any time.

Also, italki has made it virtually impossible to arrange language exchanges on their site now - perhaps because they don’t get paid when you do. swaplang, on the other hand, makes it as easy as possible to arrange language exchanges. Language exchanges are all we do.

We don’t say these things to bash italki - it’s a business and it has to make money, we get it. It would be fair to say that italki is one of the best websites out there for language lessons, and swaplang is a great supplement if you’re looking for language exchanges. On swaplang, you can get more conversation practice at an even more affordable price.

If you want to learn how to speak French online, you can’t go too far astray with either italki or swaplang.

We hope this guide has been helpful for you. If so, please share it with someone you know is looking to learn how to speak French. We hope to see you on swaplang soon!

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