Using podcasts to learn French

Using podcasts to teach French photo of microphone featured image

Many learners are using podcasts to learn French – but for some reason, teachers often overlook these excellent resources. That’s a shame, because there is some excellent content out there – there is a wide range of topics and language levels available, most for free! Some podcasts are geared specifically towards French learners, but there are many authentic language podcasts out there that can be useful for intermediate and advanced learners.

Keep in mind that even if the language is too complex for your students to understand completely, you could still find a task that they could do – even if it’s as simple as having them listen for cognates.

Using podcasts for language learners to learn French

Podcasts for language learners

Some podcasts are written specifically for people who are learning French. These often have limited subject matter and vocabulary, or use slower speech. Some of them offer paid options – the content is limited in the free version, or the paid version offers a transcript or other ancillary materials. These are some of the podcasts to learn French that are geared toward language learners:

News in Slow French – This podcast is pretty much as it sounds! They read the week’s news stories with slower speech and limited vocabulary. The podcast is available in beginner, intermediate and advanced versions. They offer a short clip each week for free, but the full podcast is paid. This can be a good resource if your students tend to be up on current events, as they will have some context to build on.

Duolingo French podcast – This podcast is geared towards intermediate French learners. It has a unique format in that it tells a story partially in French, partially in English. The host introduces the storyteller and gives you some context in English, then the storyteller tells parts of the story in French.

The unique thing about this podcast is that the storytellers are from different parts of the Francophone world, so your students can hear a variety of French accents. The host often mentions any accents at the beginning of the episode so listeners will understand why some things may be pronounced differently than standard.

Cultivate your French/One thing in a French day – One Thing in a French day tells stories of day to day life in France. Each episode is 3-5 minutes long and is entirely in French. Episodes come out 3 times per week. Cultivate your French is a companion series that is slightly less advanced – a bit of the context is given in English, then the host tells the story in slower French, then repeats it in normal speaking speed. You can subscribe to the transcript if you’d like a written version.

using authentic podcasts for native speakers to learn French

Authentic native-speaker podcasts

For your AP students – or maybe even yourself – you should definitely be using podcasts to learn French – and teach French! I have been listening to some of these podcasts and have been able to improve my own language skills, whether through picking up new vocabulary words or being able to understand speakers who have different language quirks. And more importantly, the topics are interesting and useful!

Les Choses à Savoir – There is a variety of different podcasts in this series – history, gastronomy, science, tech, health. Each episode is approximately 2 minutes long and many of them go along with the AP topics. The narrators speak clearly and while it’s native speed, it’s not so fast that you can’t understand it. You could easily turn an episode into an entire lesson with new vocabulary, structures, translation and matching activities – or just use it as a quick listening warmup,

Crousti – This network has an assortment of quick videos about famous people, art, books, and history. The host has a sense of humor and her voice reminds me of Edith Piaf.

Mourir moins con – Each episode answers a question – Why do IKEA furniture items have weird names? Why do PSG and OM hate each other? Why do men have nipples? Why does asparagus make your pee stink? They pick a lot of interesting – and sometimes weird – questions that your students might enjoy.

How to start using podcasts to learn French

How to start using podcasts to learn French - image with headphones book and coffee cup.

The easiest way to start using podcasts to learn French is to just start listening – subscribe to a few on your podcast app, whatever that might be. Since many of them are so short, you can easily listen to them when you have just a few minutes to spare. The 1-2 minute ones all publish on a regular basis and I listen to them in the car when I’m driving from my school to my husband’s school to pick him up – it’s a 10-minute trip, so I can easily listen to 4-5 without having to make room in my schedule.

If you hear something that you think your students will find interesting, the next step is to make it comprehensible for them. AP students may be able to listen without any scaffolding, but levels 2-3 will need a bit of help. Choose the vocabulary words that are the most important for understanding the passage. You might need to slow down the audio at first, but if you listen to the podcasts regularly your students will eventually be able to understand them at the original speed.

I wouldn’t try to transcribe the entire thing (although you could use an audio-to-text converter if you wish to do so). But you might pick 4-5 sentences and make a translation activity, whether matching or having the students translate. You could have some true or false activities, or cloze sentences. Many of the episodes can also to discussion questions. In short, the versatility of podcasts can’t be beat.

If you like the idea of turning a 1-2 minute bit of authentic input into a full lesson, you may also be interested in the video series Alice à Paris.