Reader question: I have been told that it is good to learn French by watching films and listening to the radio but it always leaves me frustrated as I don’t understand much. Are there any resources available that can help?
There is no right way to learn a language and different people find different methods work for them.
That being said, there are now more and more services out there that offer people the chance to learn languages in a more immersive way, through films, TV shows or radio shows.
We decided to try out three such services, spending around 20 minutes on each to get a feel.
Lingopie - Learn while watching TV and films
Lingopie is a platform that uses TV shows, films and podcasts to help people learn languages. There is a choice of eight languages, including French.
It is set up a little bit like other streaming platforms, such as Netflix.
Users choose from a range of different shows and films to watch. However, Lingopie has incorporated special features to the watching experience to specifically help language learners.
For example, there are subtitles in both your chosen mother tongue and your chosen target language.
At any point while watching the show you can click on one of the words in the subtitles to get an instant definition of the word.
You can also slow down the film or TV show to make it more understandable.
A script of the show is also laid out on the right-hand side. I found this feature really useful when watching because when a word was used that I did not recognise, I could quickly get back to it by finding it on the script.
The learning is not just limited to watching either. Every time you click on a word to find out its meaning it is saved in a word bank that you can then go back to later. You can also play games and do quizzes based on the vocabulary in your word bank.
All round, Lingopie is extremely easy to set up and use and it seems to have great potential for learners looking to expand their vocabulary and work on their listening skills.
It offers a fun option for learners, rather than using grammar books or more traditional methods.
There is a relatively wide selection of films and shows to watch, including cooking shows, documentaries, short dramas and films, podcasts, comedies, etc. However, do not expect to find Hollywood films or widely known TV series on the platform.
It seems the service is mostly geared at people whose level is intermediate at most. Advanced learners will probably get more benefit out of just watching films and TV shows in French.
Lingopie offers a free seven-day trial but beyond that you have to pay.
You can either get an individual package just for yourself, or a family and friends package that lets you share the subscription with three other people.
The individual package is currently €59.14 per year (€4.93 per month) and the family and friends package is €127.11 per year (€7.28 per month). These offers are discounted from €87.39 per year and €236.57 per year respectively.
You can cancel any time before the end of your seven-day trial and you will not pay anything. You can cancel in just a few clicks on the platform.
Lingvo TV - Help understanding while watching with subtitles
Lingvo TV is a service that works in conjunction with Netflix, Amazon Video and Youtube.
You watch a show that is in the language that you are learning and that has subtitles (in the language you are learning).
You first have to add Lingvo TV as an extension to your browser – although it only works on Google Chrome.
You then open Lingvo TV on your phone or tablet, and it takes the subtitles from the show you are watching and displays them there. It then allows you to click on any of the words and it gives you a definition for it.
The idea is not that you check every word you do not know, but just to help you learn the odd word without having to look up a dictionary.
The idea of Lingvo TV is good, but in all honesty it is almost as quick to just pause the show or film you are watching and quickly look up the word you do not know using a more reliable dictionary app on your phone.
A big advantage of Lingvo TV is that it is free for up to 50 translations a day. Beyond that, it is $4.99 a month, with the possibility to cancel at any time. The paid service offers extra features such as viewing your history of words that you checked.
News in Slow French - Listen to the news at your own pace
Listening to the news is a really good way to improve your French. However, for beginner to intermediate learners it can be a bit frustrating due to the speed or the complexity of terms that are used.
News in Slow French offers a solution to that.
You can listen to topical news pieces at the pace that is comfortable to you. It is designed to help learners who are just starting out as well as more advanced students.
Around 10 news stories and cultural conversations are added to the platform each week so you can always find fresh and up-to-date topics.
As well as listening to the stories, you can read along with them with a script.
Aside from news stories, the platform also has grammar courses and stories about French history and culture, however, some of these are reserved for subscribers.
It costs $19.90 a month, but you can cancel at any time. There is also a free seven-day trial period.
The beauty of this platform is that there really is a lot of material available for free, and it is only if you really find it useful that the subscription will be worth it.
I found the platform fun and engaging, and it is nice that there are topical news items there, as often when learning languages from text books you can only read about events that happened a long time ago.
However, it is not necessarily a service that advanced learners will get much out of.