So, in my ongoing attempts to learn a foreign language, I have still been hanging in there with French. Even if, I took months off of doing anything with it, I have hopped back in the saddle and have been doing my Fluenz lessons (I’m more than halfway through Level 3). Yes, it’s taken me forever due to sheer laziness, but I’m getting there. Anyways, I’ve also had a free FrenchPod101 account since before I’d ever purchased Fluenz, though I never purchased an upgraded account. Now, I have purchased a Premium Account with FrenchPod101 to supplement my Fluenz learnng and hopefully be able to speak decent French at some point in the near future. Let us take a closer look at and let me give an honest review of my experiences with FrenchPod101 thus far.
How Much Does It Cost?
Since money is one of the biggest concerns that most people have before pursuing online learning, I figured we tackle this right out of the gate.
The cool thing about FrenchPod101 is that you can try out the lessons with a 7 day trial run before buying anything. Add to that, it is free to keep an account with them, even if you have extremely limited access after the initial 7 day trial ends. This is what I initially did over about two years ago, before I recently purchased a Premium account.
There are three levels of access:
- Premium Plus
Obviously, each one is going to cost more based on the level of access. I chose Premium to gain full access to all of the lessons and it cost me $63 for six months access, when it was on sale. They seem to have a lot of sales, so, getting it for less than advertised shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
If you sign up for a free account, they will put you on their email marketing list…which is how I got informed of the sale. On the one hand, that’s awesome because I got a cheap price, but they do market the hell out of themselves. I think I received one email a day and sometimes more from them. Also, when I finally bought my membership, i was placed on a user’s email list. While it does include some useful lessons, it can be annoying. Just a head’s up that you’ll probably want to unsubscribe from their email list.
I would probably shoot for Premium, if you’re really interested in learning French, and decide to go with FrenchPod101. The difference between Premium and Premium Plus, is that Plus gives you 1-on-1 access to a personal French teacher, who will: correct your use of French, answer any questions, and give you further personalized assignments.
That sounded great but I didn’t feel it was necessary, at the moment. Hell, I don’t even have a functional microphone on my laptop, to record any French speaking anyways. In addition, it really drives up the price.
$63 for six months is pretty darn good. I also got Fluenz French, the complete series (Levels 1-5) for $279 on sale. That is about what you’ll pay for the more traditional and structured foreign language courses. Either option is still pretty cheap, all things considered.
This is one of the strong points of the program, the pricing. I mean, in the US, taking a beginner French course at a community college or university is going to run in the hundreds of dollars (and throw in the cost of a textbook). I’d wager that you’d learn much more using FrenchPod101 for six months than you would a few times per week in a classroom for one semester.
As I am already using Fluenz French, why did I get FrenchPod101, as well?
Well, FrenchPod101 breaks down it’s levels from Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. So, while I’m on Level 3 and soon to be Level 4 of Fluenz, I can use FrenchPod101 to review the basic concepts.
The program is made up of audio podcasts, other audio lessons, and videos. It leans more towards the podcast format but you do get some variety. Each of these will last somewhere between 3-15 minutes, depending on the lesson. This makes it a great option for learning specific concepts quickly, each day.
For me this means:
- Doing 1-2 lessons of Fluenz, which takes 45-60 minutes (each lesson).
- Reviewing with Fluenz flashcards
- Listening to a few FrenchPod101 lessons, which takes 15-30 minutes
This way I can advance my learning each day, while reinforcing things that I’ve learned in the past.
But what about FrenchPod101 as a standalone?
A premium account gets you access to all of the audio and video lessons on the website, which totals well over 1000. This can be a little daunting and while you do have the freedom to jump around from lesson to lesson, as you wish, they have also organized things into what they refer to as ‘learning paths’. Basically, a curated series of lessons based on topic and skill level. Here’s a picture of some of the Absolute Beginner learning paths:
I’ve been using the Mastering Level 1 French pathway, which consists of 210 individual lessons. There is plenty of overlap between the different pathways, so completing lessons in one, will probably result in you having some percentage of another completed.
This is a pretty neat feature, since it allows you to review of focus in on a specific topic as you please, or follow a more encompassing path. Every level has a setup like the one shown above, so, you can indeed do the “Master Level 1 French” and then move on to the Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced equivalent. This gives the program a much more linear structure that you would find in such programs as Fluenz. Though, I’d say Fluenz feels much more organized.
Each podcast presents a conversation that you will likely experience in the French speaking world. In the Absolute Beginner phase, this generally consists of four or five lines worth of dialogue. The dialogue is said, then broken down by the podcast hosts, and then explained further. You can go back and listen to the dialogue on your own, read it in text (with or without English translation), and even listen to it slowed down from natural speed in order to help pick up the nuance.
Beyond the usual podcast format are short audio lessons, such as, the 25 Most Common Questions in French. I have found that to be very useful, since it breaks down how to ask these questions, and also how to respond to them when asked. Short 6-10 minute bites of information to help drill home pronunciation and get used to asking and answering questions.
There are also video lessons, in which a different naive French speaker, will cover a particular topic. Some of the ones that I have seen thus far, were much more informal and entertaining. That’s one thing that I enjoy about FrenchPod101, is how it tries to focus on natural conversation and less on grammar or other rules (though, they do cover this).
However, there are times when the podcasts seem completely unnatural and it’s clear that they are reading from a script. Of course the lessons should be scripted but the banter in between the hosts? Don’t these people work together? Why would you need to script a few minutes of banter with someone you presumably know? Plus, it’s grating to listen to.
There are also the usual flashcards, word banks, detailed grammar notes, and support functions should you need them.
Is FrenchPod101 Worth It?
I think the answer is yes. It’s definitely not perfect, but for the price, you will get plenty of value out of it. There are so many lessons to cover in FrenchPod101, that it’d be pretty impossible not to pick up some French. How much will obviously depend on how much effort the person puts forth.
I like it for the change of pace and short nature of the lessons. This is an almost perfect counterpart to Fluenz, which I like for the in depth lessons and how much I can learn by also writing and listening. Fluenz also leans more towards learning language for traveling purposes, while FrenchPod101 is kind of all over the place. You will learn French by doing either of these programs, but really becoming fluent is going to take much more work and practice just beyond going through them.