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What is a ‘MOOC’ and how can it help you learn French for free?

The courses, some of which are run in association / link with the French government, are available to anyone with an internet connection

You could improve your French from the comfort of your own home Pic: fizkes / Shutterstock

Learning any new skill can be a struggle, and French is no different. 

There are multiple ways to improve your language skills, but learning online has become increasingly popular, especially since Covid. 

Lessons through smartphone applications, hiring an online tutor for one-to-one video lessons, or even self-teaching via YouTube videos are all popular methods, but there are others. 

One of these you may not have heard of is learning through a ‘MOOC’, where you can attend classes with hundreds of other people through your phone or computer.

There are even MOOC classes run by the government that can help you improve your French.

How does a MOOC work?

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, and is a class set up for anybody to be able to attend from a distance. 

MOOCs are usually run through affiliations such as universities, special online websites, or even government and professional institutions, but are not limited to members of the organisation. 

There is no limit to how many people can join a MOOC, and no restrictions on who can join the class.

Almost anything can be a topic for a MOOC – the main providers such as edX, Coursera and Udacity list thousands of courses, ranging from maths and philosophy to computer science and archaeology.

Alongside pre-recorded lectures and class materials that are available to download, MOOCs often include shared spaces (such as a group on Facebook or a chatroom) for enrolled students to communicate.

Courses usually run anytime between six weeks to three months, and are usually free to join. They open a certain number of times throughout the year, and you will need to sign up for the classes before they run next.

On top of this, the lack of structure of the classes (not having live lectures, but pre-recorded ones, for example) gives people the flexibility to complete it at their own pace and own time.

In some cases, you may receive an official certificate at the end of the course to prove your new skills, although this is more so for skills relating to your professional life, and often you must pay for the certificate.

Using a MOOC to learn French

Language learning classes are some of the most popular MOOCs, usually covering levels ranging from an absolute beginner to an intermediate. 

Most course providers (including universities and the dedicated MOOC websites mentioned above) offer French language classes, as well as specific smaller classes for certain situations or professions. 

The informal structure of the classes allows students to also focus more on areas they struggle with. 

For example, if you have a difficulty with a certain tense, you can spend extra time working on it yourself with the course materials, and breeze through the parts you find easier. 

One downside when compared to traditional learning methods is you are unlikely to have a dedicated teacher to help answer your questions, so may have to get a little extra help elsewhere. 

Read more: Five social media accounts to follow to improve your French

Government-backed MOOC classes 

France is a strong backer of MOOC classes and has an official list of classes offered by institutions in France, covering almost 500 different topics.

There are also specific MOOC classes that have been created by the government to help people learn French.

Hosted by FUN (France Université Numerique, or France’s Digital University), there are in total five official MOOC classes recommended by the government.

There are three classes corresponding to absolute beginner (A1 on the CEFR language learning framework), beginner (A2), and lower intermediate (B1). 

The next programme will run from October 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023, and you have to sign up before the start date.

There is also a class geared towards professional vocabulary (for A2 and B1 level students), and another aimed at helping people look for a job

Related articles: 

French courses to improve your language skills

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