The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

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French is one of the most popular languages to learn anywhere in the world. Language learners who have mastered the French language not only gain access to a culture of unparalleled refinement and elegance, but also to the lingua franca of 29 of the fastest developing countries around the world. Few other languages have such deep connections with the both the past and the future. If you want to learn French properly then have a look at our detailed resource guide to plan your best course of action.



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Knowledge of the Russian language opens up a vast, diverse world, stretching from the Carpathian Mountains to the expanses of Siberia.  As well as providing the traveller with the lingua franca of over 15 countries and unrecognised territories, the Russian language is intrinsically connected with a rich culture of world-class literature, art, music, cinema, and architecture.  Russian is an excellent choice for a new language to learn, and here we outline exactly how you should go about achieving this goal.

How to Use This Guide

For anyone learning a foreign language, nothing is more important than choosing the right learning resources.  However, as with most languages, the amount of available material for learning Russian is overwhelming, and the quality varies enormously.

So what should you buy?

Most resource guides on the internet simply throw together a vast list of virtually everything related to the language in question, leaving you just as bewildered as you were before.

But you don't need a list - you need a guide!
But you don't need a list - you need a guide!

We know from years of experience that the Pareto principle strongly applies to language learning: you really do get 80% of the results from 20% of the materials you buy.  If we had only known at the time how to separate the textbook-wheat from the chaff, we would have saved a considerable amount of money!

And so we have come up with the solution: an all encompassing, fully-updated handbook, advising you on the best books, videos, websites, podcasts and courses to help you on your path to native-level fluency.

Concept Online Learning

We appreciate that you may not have time to read through the whole of the guide, or may just be looking to improve a particular skills.  So, in order to help you find exactly what you need with ease, we’ve grouped our recommended material into the following colour-coordinated categories:

Grammar & Vocabulary

Reading

Writing

Speaking

Listening

Bonus

Grammar & Vocabulary

Reading

Writing

Speaking

Listening

Bonus

Of course, the material that you use will vastly depend on your current French level.  (After all, there's nothing more dispiriting than working through a course that's too easy or too difficult for you!)  That’s why we have divided the guide into three sections: beginners, intermediate, and advanced – showing you exactly what you need for the stage you’re currently at.


Beginners - Grammar & Vocabulary

Grammar and vocabulary are the skeleton around which your language skills develop - you can't do anything until you've got to grips with the basics.  Obviously it's vital to choose the right material for the job.  So let's dive straight in and look at the best textbook on the market for beginners

Essential French Grammar

All-in-all the best French course available for beginners. It explains all essential grammar points clearly and thoroughly. Its end-of-chapter exercises and the glossary at the back of the book are useful for building up a good stockpile of basic French vocabulary. Should be all you need for grammar to take you up to an upper-beginner level. Very affordable price.

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Essential French Grammar

All-in-all the best French course available for beginners. It explains all essential grammar points clearly and thoroughly. Its end-of-chapter exercises and the glossary at the back of the book are useful for building up a good stockpile of basic French vocabulary. Should be all you need for grammar to take you up to intermediate level. Very affordable price.

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Pay no attention to its cheesy cover - the Essential French Grammar is far and away the best introductory French textbook on the market for beginners. Every fresh-faced language newcomer has to wade through a sea of trumped-up phrasebooks, masquerading as 'complete courses'. This insanely cheap little gem, however, is the real deal and will give you a solid beginner’s foundation in the language.

Don't expect any cheer or colour though: the style is no-nonsense and could put some people off who need to be eased into a new language. Try to look past this: all of the grammatical points are explained extremely well, with plenty of examples and supplementary exercises. The glossary and grammar tables at the back of the book come in useful if you ever forget any material that you've already covered.

Best for price
If money is tight and you can only afford to buy one book, we recommend that you get the Collins Complete French.  It's essentially three books in one: grammar, verbs, and vocabulary.  Packed full of information for a very reasonable price.
This really is a selective grammar – it teaches you what you need to know for basic communication, but no more.  In this sense, it is a great motivator as you know that everything you learn will come in useful in real life situations.

Obviously by the time you have worked your way through it, there will still be considerable gaps in your knowledge, so you should then turn to the next item on our list.

Essential French Grammar - Our Rating
94%

Of course, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t supplement Essential French Grammar with other grammar guides. There are plenty of excellent free websites on the internet that go over all the grammar that a beginner needs to learn.

  • As it’s name suggests, FrenchbyFrench is a free website created and maintained by a group of French teachers.  It’s a nice collection of well-structured lessons that cover all of the main grammar and vocabulary points that you would expect to find in a beginner’s textbook.

  • You can see as soon how much information is featured on Tex’s French Grammar just from the enormous list of topics on its homepage.  Hundreds of examples (and illustrations) for each grammatical point make this an invaluable resource even for intermediate students.

Schaum's Outline of French Grammar

Good beginner’s workbook that will take you up to a solid intermediate level. Has a fairly comprehensive grammar review as well as 550 written exercises and 90 minutes of downloadable audio files. Will keep you occupied for a long time.




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Schaum's Outline of French Grammar

Good beginner’s workbook that will take you up to a solid intermediate level. Has a fairly comprehensive grammar review as well as 550 written exercises and 90 minutes of downloadable audio files. Will keep you occupied for a long time.

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At this point you will want a book to put flesh on the bones and take your French grammar to the next level.  We recommend Schaum’s Outline of French Grammar.

The book is primarily marketed as a workbook with an ‘easy-to-follow review of French grammar’.  This is perhaps doing the comprehensiveness of its grammar coverage a disservice as it goes considerably beyond the topics covered in Essential French Grammar.

With 550 exercises and 90 minutes of downloadable audio files you can be sure that you will get your money’s worth.

What we particularly like about the exercises is that many of them are multiple choice / fill in the blank format.  We feel that these are ideal for beginner students – you don’t want to get bogged down in full-translation exercises at this point, as this will require tedious back-and-forthing with a dictionary.

Schaum's Outline of French Grammar - Our Rating
86%

The Big Blue Book of French Verbs

Solid reference book, detailing the full conjugations of 555 common French verbs. Numerous example sentences demonstrate how each verb is used in various contexts (including idoms). There is also a sizeable dictionary of 2,300 additional verbs, showing which conjugation pattern each one follows so you know how to form them correctly. A worthwhile purchase for beginners.

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The Big Blue Book of French Verbs

Solid reference book, detailing the full conjugations of 555 common French verbs. Numerous example sentences demonstrate how each verb is used in various contexts (including idoms). There is also a sizeable dictionary of 2,300 additional verbs, showing which conjugation pattern each one follows so you know how to form them correctly. A worthwhile purchase for beginners.

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The French verb is undoubtedly one of the more challenging aspects of the language – you need to get your head round it as soon as possible.

This is easier said than done.  With a confusing array of conjugation patterns, a difficult subjunctive, and countless irregulars, French verbs present a serious challenge to new learners.

Thankfully, you have at your disposal the Big Blue Book of French Verbs. It explains how each verb’s conjugation follows one of three approximate paradigms, and shows that once you have memorised these patterns, the process of learning how to use individual verbs becomes infinitely easier.

It then delivers on its promise and sets out the full conjugations of 555 common verbs, as well as listing the infinitives to 2,300 other ones in the back of the back (with their pattern number next to them).

The Big Blue Book of French Verbs - Our Rating
88%

There is a very useful online alternative to the Big Blue Book: Cooljugator allows you to simply type an English verb into its search bar, and you get the French translation in all of its conjugated forms.

It’s not as comprehensive as a dictionary or the Big Blue Book, so you shouldn’t completely rely on it. But it does have some nice features that make up for this downside: stress indicators, pronunciation hints, related verb lists, etc.

The site’s owner claims that he frequently adds new words to the database so this should become an even more powerful tool in time.

French Grammar Chart

Compact French grammar chart (six pages) covering everything from rules of stress to the various verb categories and conjugations. An essential for beginners that struggle to remember grammatical rules and want an accessible reference guide. Very reasonably priced.



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French Grammar Chart

Compact French grammar chart (six pages) covering everything from rules of stress to the various verb categories and conjugations. An essential for beginners that struggle to remember grammatical rules and want an accessible reference guide. Very reasonably priced.

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Is it possible to fit the entirety of French grammar on one wall chart?

Of course not..

But BarChart have managed to cram virtually everything a beginner French learner would need to know onto just six sheets, and for that they deserve kudos!

We are huge fans of visual learning at Language Sherpa (because it works), so we are always looking out for products that maximise on this learning technique, like the French Grammar Chart.

Simply put this colourful chart in a location that you’re likely to glance at from time to time and you will soon start to reap the benefits of having this useful reference guide at hand.

French Grammar Chart - Our Rating
81%

The Oxford Hachette French Dictionary

The undisputed king of dictionary series, the Oxford Hachette French Dictionary contains half a million words, phrases, and translations. Recent stylistic and layout improvements have made it much easier to find the word you need in its correct context. Fully updated to include contemporary business, technical and computing terminology. The best French dictionary out there.

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The Oxford Hachette French Dictionary

The undisputed king of dictionary series, the Oxford Hachette French Dictionary contains half a million words, phrases, and translations. Recent stylistic and layout improvements have made it much easier to find the word you need in its correct context. Fully updated to include contemporary business, technical and computing terminology. The best French dictionary out there.

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Dictionaries are expensive, so you don’t want to keep buying new ones on a regular basis. For this reason, it makes sense to get the best one available straight away.

With half a million words and phrases, you’ll almost certainly find a translation for whatever it is you need.  One of the best features of the Oxford series (that is often lacking in rival dictionaries) is the care they take to provide translations for words in all of their contexts, including idioms, sayings, and figurative usage. Look up a simple word, like ‘hand’, for instance, and you’ll see what we mean: it can be used in dozens of different ways, and doesn’t just refer to the human appendage.

Warning
Don't be tempted to scrimp and buy the 'Compact' version - it's surprisingly patchy. 

Dictionaries are often criticised for not keeping up to date with modern technology and innovation. The Oxford series, however, are frequently updated, meaning that if you get the most recent edition you can be sure that it will stay relevant for a good few years.

The Oxford Hachette French Dictionary - Our Rating
89%

A Frequency Dictionary of French

Lists the 5,000 most frequently used French words (with English translations), starting from most commonly used downwards. All of the words also come with example sentences. Excellent resource for filling in any important gaps in your vocabulary. Can also be used to provide a rough estimate of your vocabulary size.

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A Frequency Dictionary of French

Lists the 5,000 most frequently used French words (with English translations), starting from most commonly used downwards. All of the words also come with example sentences. Excellent resource for filling in any important gaps in your vocabulary. Can also be used to provide a rough estimate of your vocabulary size.

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When you consider that the average native speaker knows about 20-35,000 words, it’s clear that this book will do wonders for your French if you have the stamina to get to the end.

The dictionary allows you to follow a systematic programme of vocabulary learning – master the most common words and then move on to the rarer ones.

Minimum Vocabulary Required for Each CEFR Level

A1 Level:
0
Words
A2 Level:
0
Words
B1 Level:
0
Words
B2 Level:
0
Words
C1 Level:
0
Words
C2 Level:
0
Words

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One negative, however, is that it only gives limited definitions. You will probably want to cross-check with another dictionary to make sure you know what each word means across different contexts.

A Frequency Dictionary of French - Our Rating
82%

Anki

Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard programme. It uses an algorithm that learns which words you find easy to remember and which ones don’t, and adjusts how frequently it tests you on these particular words accordingly. It is completely free and easy to install.

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Anki

Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard programme. It uses an algorithm that learns which words you find easy to remember and which ones don’t, and adjusts how frequently it tests you on these particular words accordingly. It is completely free and easy to install.

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Everyone learns vocabulary in their own way – some people simply suck words in like a sponge and don’t need to make any active effort; for others, nothing seems to stick unless they learn it off by heart.

If you’re the former – great! If not, Anki will prove invaluable.

Essentially, Anki is a flashcard app. But what differentiates it from the hundreds of competitors is the spaced repetition algorithm that it uses. This means that it is able to remember which words you find more difficult to recall than others and to test you on them more frequently.   

While some of the settings can be a little fiddly, and synchronisation between phones and computers can play up, it is generally an extremely reliable app and one that we wished we had used from day one of our language learning.

Even if you only use Anki for half an hour each day, you’ll see marked improvements in your vocabulary. 

Anki - Our Rating
92%

The good thing about Anki is that sometimes you don’t even have to compile vocabulary decks yourself. If you search around on the internet, you can sometimes find pre-made decks that you can import into your folders.

One such deck, created by Neri, displays 5,000 French sentences sorted from easiest to hardest. It’s a great way to gradually build up set-phrases and connecting words. You can download the deck from here.


Beginners - Reading

Choosing reading material is not easy when you’ve just started learning a foreign language. The vast majority of books and newspapers available to you will be too challenging at this point, and yet, equally, you can’t stay tethered to the artificially simplistic exercises in your textbooks for too long.

So where is the best place to start once you’re ready to venture out into the world of literature?

Many language guides come out with the same suggestion: start with children’s books. This is TERRIBLE advice. There is nothing easy about children’s literature – especially for learners of French! Although the concepts and storylines are simplistic enough to be enjoyed by toddlers, you face a number of surprisingly tricky linguistic challenges, such as a confusing array of diminutives, strange vocabulary, and irregular sentence structure.

A far better option would be to start off with something aimed at older children/teenagers. The vocabulary in these books is still pretty simple, but the grammar is often more regular than those aimed at younger readers.

The Adventures of Tintin

Classic comic book series by Belgian artist, Hergé. Fun and interesting stories with non-complex language and sentence structure. Excellent for beginner readers to build their colloquial comprehension. Entire series can be found here.

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The Adventures of Tintin

Classic comic book series by Belgian artist, Hergé. Fun and interesting stories with non-complex language and sentence structure. Excellent for beginner readers to build their colloquial comprehension. Entire series can be found here.

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If you’ve worked through about half of Schaum's Outline, you should find it relatively easy to read one of the Tintin books.

As well as being great stories in themselves, the comic book format means that you’re reading succinct speech bubbles, rather than long sentences. This makes for good, easy practice texts while you’re still mastering trickier grammatical elements, like participles and relative clauses.

New Penguin Parallel Text: Short Stories in French

Classic short stories with the French original on the left hand page and the English translation on the opposite page. All stories are from the twentieth century and feature writers that readers may not be familiar with, giving a fresh perspective on French literature.


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New Penguin Parallel Text: Short Stories in French

Classic short stories with the French original on the left hand page and the English translation on the opposite page. All stories are from the twentieth century and feature writers that readers may not be familiar with, giving a fresh perspective on French literature.

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When you’ve finished the textbook the best thing to do is to read some French texts with parallel translations. Having to go back and forth between the book you’re reading and a dictionary can be incredibly frustrating, and often saps a lot of the fun out of reading.

This is the solution: collections of classic short stories from the twentieth century with English translations on the opposite page.

Surprisingly, that’s pretty much the only volume of French parallel texts out there.  If you want some more reading practice, we highly recommend Olly Richard’s Short Stories for Beginners.  It’s an excellent collection of unusual stories that would be perfect for any upper-beginner learner.


Beginners - Writing

It’s vital that you practise your writing as much as possible when you’ve just started learning a language. Reading and learning vocabulary is important but you won’t be able to cement all of this new information in your brain without putting pen to paper. Fortunately, there are many excellent French course books on the market. Here are the best ones:

The Ultimate French Review and Practice

Very detailed and rigorous grammar review book. Features over 400 writing exercises designed specifically to strengthen grammar skills. Categorised as an intermediate-level book, but should be a good choice for ambitious beginners that have worked through the textbooks we recommend above.

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The Ultimate French Review and Practice

Very detailed and rigorous grammar review book. Features over 400 writing exercises designed specifically to strengthen grammar skills. Categorised as an intermediate-level book, but should be a good choice for ambitious beginners that have worked through the textbooks we recommend above.

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All of the textbooks that we have selected for our grammar and vocabulary section have lots of written practice exercises.  However, if you have exhausted these tasks and want some more drills to work through then you should have a look at the Ultimate French Review and Practice.

Its enormous stock of written exercises perfectly supplements the grammar topics that you will have learned from your beginner’s textbooks.  As if that wasn’t enough, you can find an additional 250 exercises (including some audio ones) as part of the digital content that can accessed with the publisher’s app.

The Ultimate French Review and Practice - Our Rating
85%

Easy French Exercises

Simple exercise book for beginner learners of French. Broken down into 15 chapters, it features written exercises and challenges on a number of important topics, like time and directions. Great value for its low price.

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Easy French Exercises

Simple exercise book for beginner learners of French. Broken down into 15 chapters, it features written exercises and challenges on a number of important topics, like time and directions. Great value for its low price.

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If you want something a little lighter than French Review and Practice, then look no further: Easy French Exercises is an excellent little self-study workbook.

Packed full of fun puzzles, games, and written exercises, it will come in useful if you’re looking for a language refresher rather than serious drilling.  It’s a good way to ease yourself into some of the harder workbooks we recommend in this guide.

Easy French Exercises - Our Rating
75%

Beginners - Speaking

Get speaking as soon as you can! It’s the hardest (and most important) language skill, but the one that we most often neglect.

Although you could get a private tutor straight off the bat, it may be cheaper and more constructive to enrol on an evening course in your city.

You may also like:

The hourly prices of these courses are often twice as cheap as those that a native speaker will charge for one-to-one tuition in your city. On the other hand, a large class will limit the amount of time you get to speak, and sitting patiently while the inevitable class laggard struggles through material that you mastered weeks ago can be incredibly irritating.

But if you can find a course with a small-number of other highly motivated participants, your speaking will make incredible progress.

Well-reviewed French courses in selected cities include:

An Introduction to French Pronunciation

Accessible guide to modern French pronunciation. Leaves no stone unturned in setting out an academic route to drastically reducing your foreign accent. Worth buying if only for the section on regional variations.

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An Introduction to French Pronunciation

Accessible guide to modern French pronunciation. Leaves no stone unturned in setting out an academic route to drastically reducing your foreign accent. Worth buying if only for the section on regional variations.

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French stands out among the Romance languages for being notoriously difficult to pronounce correctly.  While it is certainly not as difficult as languages like Mandarin Arabic, you will struggle to pass yourself off as a native without some serious effort.

An Introduction to French Pronunciation attempts to lighten the load and provides an excellent guide to current French pronunciation.

While this academic approach may not suit all learners, for others the clear and detailed chapters on word elements, rhythmic groups, and intonation may be just what they need to reduce their foreign accents.

Whatever your style, the sections on regional variations will prove to be invaluable for all students.

An Introduction to French Pronunciation - Our Rating
73%

Beginners - Listening

Girl Laptop IllustrationGood news! The rise of computer technology and the internet means that there is now an enormous amount of listening opportunities out there for you to take advantage of.

Here we narrow down the best courses, channels, and podcasts for beginners to take their listening skills to the next level

Rocket French

The best online French course for beginners looking to kickstart their listening skills. Packed full of targeted audio and writing exercises, all organised thematically. Seamless transition from desktop to mobile app, and vice versa. No subscription – a reasonable one-off fee unlocks the entire platform for life.

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Rocket French

The best online French course for beginners looking to kickstart their listening skills. Packed full of targeted audio and writing exercises, all organised thematically. Seamless transition from desktop to mobile app, and vice versa. No subscription – a reasonable one-off fee unlocks the entire platform for life.

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In compiling this guide we trialled over a dozen of the top online French courses.  Rocket French stood out as easily the best of the bunch – here’s why:

  • The content is thematic

    We are huge fans of thematic vocabulary learning (Using French Vocabulary, for instance, is an essential resource to get) as we have found that structured learning is the best way to keep words in your long-term memory. We were really pleased to see that the team at Rocket French share this viewpoint and organise their lessons along thematic lines.

  • The mobile app is brilliant

    Most language apps come across as little more than half-hearted afterthoughts. Some platforms even have the audacity to charge you extra for it. Rocket French’s mobile app (free for both iOS and Android) has been designed excellently and was far more intuitive than all of its rivals.

  • It doesn't smother you with unnecessary features

    Rocket French only provides you with the tools you need to make real progress with your French – interactive audio lessons, detailed writing exercises, and an excellent narrative story which solidifies your situational vocabulary.

  • Everything is 100% downloadable

    This means that you can sit down and get all of the material in one place – no need to keep going in and out of the site itself to use its contents.

  • Real-life audio from the start

    The sooner a student weans themselves off what we call ‘teacher-speak’, the sooner they will understand real conversations. This is what Rocket French does from the very beginning, using authentic dialogues to build your listening skills up.

  • No subscription

    Almost all online language courses nowadays charge for monthly/yearly subscriptions, meaning that over time they turn out to be very expensive. With Rocket French, however, once you’ve paid the one-off fee you get access to the full platform for life. Although the price may seem a bit steep, you then fully own all of the lessons and downloadable material inside – you’re not ‘renting it’. This means that in the long run Rocket French is probably the cheapest course on the market.

Give it a go!

Sign up for Rocket French's free trial here:

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Learn French with Free Daily Podcasts!

FrenchPod101

Incredible online language learning system. Huge number of audio and video podcast lessons, extensive vocabulary lists, personalised learning programmes, PDF worksheets, review quizzes, and many more tools. Dedicated friendly staff and frequently updated content make this an excellent resource to get your listening off the ground.

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Learn French with Free Daily Podcasts!

FrenchPod101

Incredible online language learning system. Huge number of audio and video podcast lessons, extensive vocabulary lists, personalised learning programmes, PDF worksheets, review quizzes, and many more tools. Dedicated friendly staff and frequently updated content make this an excellent resource to get your listening off the ground.

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We are naturally suspicious of online language courses, as the vast majority do not deliver on their promises – FrenchPod101 is one of the few exceptions.

For a very reasonable price you gain access to a veritable treasure trove of French learning tools and resources, including:

High quality audio and video podcast lessons

Printable PDF Lesson Notes

2000 Most Common Words List

Entertaining Review Quizzes

Database of French grammar constructions

1-to-1 Direct Instruction From Native French Speakers

Interactive Pronunciation Comparison Tool

Portable Survival Phrases Centre

A personalised learning programme

Although the lessons are probably a bit on the easy side for advanced learners, for beginners this is an absolute must-have resource.  The sheer quantity of audio and video lessons alone makes it far and away the most efficient way to improve your French listening skills.

FrenchPod101 has been expanding steadily for the last few years thanks to its dedicated team.  As it is continuously adding new content to the site you can be sure that you will always have fresh material to practice with.

FrenchPod101 - Our Rating
93%

Interested?

Create a free account at FrenchPod101 now!

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While the online courses that we’ve reviewed above are excellent, make sure you don’t neglect the thousands of free YouTube channels dedicated to teaching Russian:

Amazing Russian

Amazing Russian is hands down the best YouTube channel out there for beginners looking to improve their listening skills.

The reason why we are so enthusiastic is because it is rare to come across such a practical and educational channel on YouTube.  Most ‘learn Russian’ channels rely heavily on gimmicks and flashy appearances without delivering much substance.  But if you want to make real headway with your listening then this is the channel for you.

The videos, mostly dealing with everyday situations, effectively ease students into the listening comprehension with a steady speaking pace, core vocabulary, and optional subtitles.

Beginners - Bonus

French Keyboard Stickers

High-quality transparent stickers for laptop keyboards. Versions for both black and white keyboards available.

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French Keyboard Stickers

High-quality transparent stickers for laptop keyboards. Versions for both black and white keyboards available.

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Although French only uses a few extra letters than English, it’s still a good idea to get some keyboard stickers while you get used to their placement.

You can find a range of transparent French stickers that sit neatly on your keyboard without obscuring the original English symbols next to them.

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

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Intermediate - Grammar & Vocabulary

Schaum's Outline does a really good job in laying a solid grammatical foundation.  By the end of it you will confident enough to have non-trivial conversations with French speakers.  However, you will also realise that you have only scratched the surface, and that there is still a huge amount left to learn. In order to progress past this point, you need a broader resource.

A Comprehensive French Grammar

The French grammar bible. Period. No serious student of French should be without a copy of this authoritative grammar reference book. Covers virtually every topic you can think of, using fresh, interesting vocabulary to illustrate key points. Its structure layout allows students to master French grammar systematically.


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A Comprehensive French Grammar

The French grammar bible. Period. No serious student of French should be without a copy of this authoritative grammar reference book. Covers virtually every topic you can think of, using fresh, interesting vocabulary to illustrate key points. Its structure layout allows students to master French grammar systematically.

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If Schaum's Outline was the tip of the grammar iceberg, this is the massive bulk floating under the water. 

It is difficult to convey how useful A Comprehensive French Grammar is for any student of French who wants to make real progress beyond the beginner’s level.  This 700-page reference work is encyclopaedic in its breadth and depth: its topics include pronunciation, punctuation, noun formation, particles, diminutives, participles, gerunds, prepositions, word order, etc. Basically all of the rules – important and obscure – that you need to develop a robust grasp on how the language really works.

The example sentences are all taken from real literary and non-literary French sources, and are a breath of fresh air from the typically boring constructions that language books normally rely on.

A highly recommend resource.

A Comprehensive French Grammar - Our Rating
95%

Using French Vocabulary

Divided into 20 thematic topics, this book provides the reader with over 5,000 French words and their translations. Each topic is broken down into three levels, starting with the most basic words and building up to some quite advanced (and obscure) vocabulary. Engaging self-study tasks at the end of each section and etymological insights make this an enjoyable and productive learning resource.

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Using French Vocabulary

Divided into 20 thematic topics, this book provides the reader with over 5,000 French words and their translations. Each topic is broken down into three levels, starting with the most basic words and building up to some quite advanced (and obscure) vocabulary. Engaging self-study tasks at the end of each section and etymological insights make this an enjoyable and productive learning resource.

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For those of you who have studied other languages, you may be familiar with Cambridge University Press’s excellent ‘Using X Vocabulary’ series. If not, you will have to take our word that this is an invaluable textbook, that will raise all aspects of your French proficiency.

Learning vocabulary can sometimes feel like a slightly random and chaotic experience – we get to grips with some areas quickly, only to discover (at just the wrong time!) that we have embarrassingly large gaps in our knowledge.

This is the solution. Using French Vocabulary is divided into 20 section (the natural world, industry, leisure & tourism, the physical body, etc.), and each section is divided into three subsections.  The first subsection contains basic vocabulary, whereas the last one will prepare you to authoritatively discuss the topic in question. 

This means that you can pick or choose sections depending on your strengths and interests, or, alternatively, work your way through it systematically.

Combined with Anki, it is the single best way to accumulate a large enough word base to sit the B1-C1 exams.

Using French Vocabulary
87%

Intermediate - Reading

At this point you may feel ready to take off the training wheels and start reading some French literature in the original. If that is the case, skip ahead to the next item on our list where we show you the best place to start with French classics.

If, however, you feel you still need some more support with your reading we strongly recommend you try the first book in this series:

French Short Stories for Intermediate Level

Seven short stories for intermediate Spanish learners, each one focused on a particular theme. Comes with quizzes, glossaries, and audio material of a native speaker reading out the stories.

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French Short Stories for Intermediate Level

Seven short stories for intermediate French learners, each one focused on a particular theme. Comes with quizzes, glossaries, and audio material of a native speaker reading out the stories..

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French Short Stories for Intermediate Level contains seven stories that each revolve around an everyday theme, for example: cooking, money, travelling, etc.  This is obviously useful as the stories give you exposure to content that you will be using in real life.  This could make for rather dull reading, but the author has done a great job in making the stories fun and interesting.

If you find the process of going back and forth between a dictionary and the text, then you’re in luck: each story comes with a well-constructed glossary that gives translations for all of the vocabulary used.

 The stories get slightly harder as the book goes on, and there are a further two volumes to sink your teeth into if you’re really eager.

French Short Stories for Intermediate Level - Our Rating
91%

French Stories

Ten classic French short stories. Very challenging (only for confident upper-intermediate learners), but excellent practice. Extensive vocabulary support and cultural notes to gain a greater appreciation for French culture. Highly recommended for when you are ready.

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French Stories

Ten classic French short stories. Very challenging (only for confident upper-intermediate learners), but excellent practice. Extensive vocabulary support and cultural notes to gain a greater appreciation for French culture. Highly recommended for when you are ready.

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How can intermediate learners dip their toes into the choppy waters of French literature without feeling defeated after the first few pages? The answer is this wonderful book of classic French short stories.

There’s no denying that the texts in this collection are difficult: only solid upper-intermediate learners should attempt them.  That said, all of the short stories – ranging from Voltaire’s Micromégas to Camus’s L'Hôte have been handpicked for the very reason that they are both interesting and surmountable.

This, combined with the useful cultural notes and translations of difficult words that appear at the bottom of each page, makes reading this book a joy.  None of the texts are too long, and the extensive vocabulary index at the back of the book keeps things moving nicely.

The editors have done an excellent job in moulding a highly satisfying book for upper-intermediate learners that provides just the right level of exposure to France’s rich literary heritage without giving cause for any feelings of demoralisation.

French Stories - Our Rating
82%

Intermediate - Writing

You now need a solid exercise book to cement the dozens of rules learned from Price’s Comprehensive French Grammar and take your written skills to the next level.  We believe that this is the best option on the market:

Practising French Grammar

Excellent workbook that works well alongside Price’s grammar textbook. Crammed full of exercises to drill you on virtually everything you need to get your writing and speaking up to an advanced level.

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Practising French Grammar

Excellent workbook that works well alongside Price’s grammar textbook. Crammed full of exercises to drill you on virtually everything you need to get your writing and speaking up to an advanced level.w

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Price’s Grammar is such an intimidating brick of a book that it can be difficult to know where to begin with it.  Because you now have so much information at your disposal you need an effective way to get it in your brain and keep it there.

Annoyingly, Blackwell Publishing has not released a complementary workbook to go with the grammar as they did for other languages.  Fortunately, the exercises found in Practising French Grammar cover almost exactly the same topics, and at the same level.

It features over one hundred sets of writing tasks that involve all sorts of exercises: translation practice, sentence formation, etc.

We should note here that Practising French Grammar is not suitable for lower intermediate learners.  It is an advanced exercise book that tests you on some of the hardest aspects of French grammar, and as such only fairly advanced students will find it useful.

A Russian Grammar Workbook - Our Rating
94%

Les 500 Exercices de Grammaire

Your writing boot camp: fortifies important grammatical topics with 500+ well-formulated exercises. All instructions and explanations are in French, so make sure you are comfortable with this before you buy. Versions for B1 and B2 CEFR levels available.

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Les 500 Exercices de Grammaire

Your writing boot camp: fortifies important grammatical topics with 500+ well-formulated exercises. All instructions and explanations are in French, so make sure you are comfortable with this before you buy. Versions for B1 and B2 CEFR levels available.

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You know that this is an exercise book aimed at serious intermediate students as soon as you open it – absolutely everything is in French!

Don’t let yourself be intimidated though: pushing yourself a bit out of your comfort zone is the key to improving your language skills, and this book is definitely worth the effort.

If you think that Practising French Grammar is too difficult for you at the moment, the B1 version of Les 500 Exercices de Grammaire should be just right.  Once you have worked through all of its 500 exercises you can then move on to the B2 version.  At this point you should feel confident enough to tackle some of the more advanced material in this section

Les 500 Exercices de Grammaire - Our Rating
88%

Intermediate - Speaking

If you’re really not in a position to spend some time in a French-speaking country, the next best thing would be to find a language exchange partner in your home country.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a French community in your city, then there will be plenty of opportunities to get to know people and practice your French with them.  In theory at least…

Although America, Canada, and the UK are some of the most diverse countries in the world, which should make learning foreign languages a breeze, there’s a major problem for us: most foreign residents speak excellent English.  They have to!  After all, we are extremely demanding when it comes to English proficiency and it is virtually impossible to get a decent job in these countries without fluent English. 

This means that many of the French speakers you will come across in your city will speak much better English than you speak French.  It’s very difficult to get someone to suffer your broken French when they know they could accelerate the conversation by switching to English.  Frustrating, but true!

One way you can get around this is by making a semi-formal agreement with your interlocutor that you will speak English for half of the time, and French for the other half – that way you both get something out of it. 

You can find people searching for this kind of arrangement on websites like My Language Exchange.

The success of the language exchange will vastly depend on how well your personality and linguistic requirements mesh with your partner’s. It’s really a case of trial and error. But if you find the right person you can rack up hours and hours of conversation practice without having to pay anything.

If, though, you live in small town and you can’t find any suitable prospective language partners, we recommend that you skip ahead and take a look at our speaking suggestions for advanced learners.


Intermediate - Listening

Respectable online language courses like FrenchPod101, should still challenge you as you move up to intermediate level French.  But now you should begin to spread your wings and start listening to real French conversations (i.e. not the watered-down French that teachers use).

DailyFrenchPod

DailyFrenchPod

Thousands of high-quality podcasts for intermediate learners. Features a text on an interesting subject and then analyses its grammar and vocabulary. Over 2,800 podcast episodes already available. Reasonably priced.

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DailyFrenchPod

DailyFrenchPod

Thousands of high-quality podcasts for intermediate learners. Features a text on an interesting subject and then analyses its grammar and vocabulary. Over 2,800 podcast episodes already available. Reasonably priced.

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DailyFrenchPod is one of the best platforms for intermediate students to improve their French listening skills.  Every day you get a new 5 to 10-minute podcast that tend to cover broad themes like current affairs, science, business, and politics.

The host, Louis, then goes through the text and analyses each sentence, phrase by phrase, to make sure that you understand the vocabulary and grammar used in it.  After this, the text is played back so you can have another go at understanding some of the subtler concepts.

We really like this format – it’s an excellent way to attune your ear to faster, native-level speech that may involve idioms and figurative expressions.

DailyFrenchPod isn’t free, but you get a seven-day free trial and the subscription isn’t particularly expensive.  What’s more, as the platform’s been running for years, there is an enormous backlog of podcasts (~2,800) that can be accessed once you have subscribed.

Like all good online language learning products, DailyFrenchPod comes with accompanying exercises and PDF transcripts.

DailyFrenchPod - Our Rating
90%

Intermediate - Bonus

French Swear Words

Teaches you the swear words that the French really use. Takes pains to lay out the grammar and context behind each word so you can use it correctly. Lots of examples given.

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French Swear Words

Teaches you the swear words that the French really use. Takes pains to lay out the grammar and context behind each word so you can use it correctly. Lots of examples given..

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Swearing Speech BubbleIf you want to learn how to swear in French, then you need this book.  As the author rightly points out, the vast majority of swear words and colloquial words that you find in dictionaries are not actually used today and will sound bizarre if you – in your foreign accent, no less – go about using them.

Instead, the best thing is to learn those evergreen swear words that people actually use in real life and don’t make you sound stupid. 

The book tells you which words to use and exactly how the French use them (with the correct grammar). 

Even if you have no interest in using the words, it’s still a useful book to read through as you can be sure that you need to understand when people are swearing and what they are saying!

French Swear Words - Our Rating
84%

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

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Advanced - Grammar & Vocabulary

Having studied French seriously for a few years, you will have picked up a wide range of words and phrases. Your vocabulary will probably be close to ~10,000 words. This should allow you to say pretty much whatever you want to say without having to break rhythm and rack your brains for a translation.

However, just because you know lots of words does not mean that you know how to use them correctly and naturally.

Using French Synonyms

Designed to expand and deepen the vocabulary of intermediate-advanced students. A guide to finding the right word for the context by illustrating the (often) subtle difference between synonyms. Huge number of words and lexical groups covered, arranged in an orderly fashion with an index.



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Using French Synonyms

Designed to expand and deepen the vocabulary of intermediate-advanced students. A guide to finding the right word for the context by illustrating the (often) subtle difference between synonyms. Huge number of words and lexical groups covered, arranged in an orderly fashion with an index.

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What do we mean by this?

Well, for example, we all know that when we go to a funeral and we are giving our condolences to the bereaved, that it is polite to talk about the person ‘passing away’, rather than straight ‘dying’ or ‘being killed’.  Although the latter two translations are technically correct, given the situation it would perhaps seem slightly awkward to use them in this context.

The same principle applies to all languages, and French isn’t an exception. If you want to stop being ‘that foreigner that can speak French well, but awkwardly and disjointedly’, this book will be invaluable to achieving, not just fluency, but naturalness as well.

All the synonyms are collected as groups.  So ‘to die’, ‘to perish’, ‘to pass away’, etc. are all one group, with ‘to die’ – the most common and neutral synonym – being presented as the group leader. The group leaders are all arranged alphabetically, meaning that finding the group you need is exceedingly simple.

Within each group the author provides the necessary grammatical information to use the words correctly, but also explains in what context the word should be used, states the register of the word (i.e. is it slang, neutral, formal, etc.), and provides plenty of usage examples.

While Using French Synonyms isn’t the end of the road when it comes to vocabulary, if you can work your way through it and absorb as many of the lexical nuances that are presented to you, you will be knocking on the door to genuine native-level fluency.

An absolute essential for advanced French learners.

Using French Synonyms - Our Rating
91%

Le Bon Usage

Quite simply, the last word in French grammar. Leaves no stone unturned, includes explanations for topics that even its best, most comprehensive rivals fail to cover. Expensive, but well worth its price for teachers and advanced students.



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Le Bon Usage

Quite simply, the last word in French grammar. Leaves no stone unturned, includes explanations for topics that even its best, most comprehensive rivals fail to cover. Expensive, but well worth its price for teachers and advanced students.

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Le Bon Usage is quite possibly the greatest grammar book ever written.  At 1760 pages, this vast encyclopaedia of French grammar is unmatched in its thoroughness – even native speakers will be astonished at the breadth and depth of knowledge contained in its chapters.

Every single grammatical topic that you can possibly think of is covered in this book – even Price’s Grammar omits some of the more obscure points – meaning that it is an absolutely vital resource if you want to teach French or attempt the highest CEFR exam.

It’s worth getting the most up-to-date version as French has evolved considerably in the last seventy years.  Le Bon Usage, as you may have guessed, is not cheap investment, but it will last you the rest of your life.

If you really love the French language, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this magnificent book.

Russian - English Dictionary of Verbal Collocations - Our Rating
90%

Advanced - Reading

At this level, you should be able to read virtually anything!  The entire world of French literature is now open for you to explore, and no writing in the contemporary media will be prohibitively challenging.

The main thing to do is to read widely – try to absorb as much vocabulary from as many genres, topics, and registers as you’re able to bear.

Below we have listed some online newspapers and magazines that are worth bookmarking:


Advanced - Writing

While reading proficiency will have taken off for most advanced speakers, many will find that their writing skills are seriously lagging behind.

Time to take action!

Using French: A Guide to Contemporary Usage

Focuses on areas of written French that English speakers in particular find challenging. Learn how contemporary French is actually used in the real world. An excellent choice for students that would like to use French for business purposes and want to improve the professionalism of their French.

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Using French: A Guide to Contemporary Usage

Focuses on areas of written French that English speakers in particular find challenging. Learn how contemporary French is actually used in the real world. An excellent choice for students that would like to use French for business purposes and want to improve the professionalism of their French.

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Using French is a guide to advanced French usage, focusing on areas of grammar, vocabulary, style, and register that are particularly difficult for English speakers.

It assumes that you have a solid grammatical and lexical foundation, so is able to skip past standard grammatical topics and instead focus on a huge range of miscellaneous problems: neologisms, fillers, idioms, measurement, currency, faux amis, translation issues, jokes, puns, verbal etiquette, etc.

We really can’t rate this book highly enough: even if you learnt Price’s Grammar off by heart, you would still come across thousands of annoying difficulties in trying to write perfect French.  While we obviously can’t claim that this book contains the answer to every single one of those problems, just one look at its contents pages should convince you that it’s a vital tool for advanced learners who want to take their French to the next level.

Using French: A Guide to Contemporary Usage - Our Rating
88%
As we have said previously, you need to practise your French writing a lot in order to make progress. But let’s assume for a second that your friends have lives and don’t want to spending every waking minute of the day correcting your past perfective participles – who can you go to for writing practice?

The answer is Lang-8.  The premise is simple: 1) Post in the language that you are learning.  2) Native speakers correct your writing.  3) return the favour by helping others learn your native language.

It really is that simple!

Of course, like all of these mutual-assistance websites, the more you help others, the more you’ll receive corrections for the material you input.  Even if you’re not a particularly altruistic person, the benefits of having your writing corrected by a native more than outweigh the time costs of returning the favour.

The French section of the WordReference forum is a great alternative if you can’t be bothered with Lang-8’s reciprocal set-up.

You can ask virtually any question related to French and expect to get a detailed knowledgeable answer back within a few hours.  As with any forum, make sure you read up on the site’s rules and etiquette before posting.


Advanced - Speaking

If you’re not living in France, keeping your speaking up for an advanced learner can be surprisingly difficult.  Language classes in institutes aren’t really worth their high costs at this point because you just need to talk, not have grammar explained to you.

If you haven’t got a burgeoning French-orientated social life, then you need to create one artificially!

Italki

Online language learning website which connects language learners and teachers through video chat. Over 5,000 teachers to choose from, ranging from qualified professionals to community tutors. Prices per hour can be as low as $5 for French. Best way to keep up your speaking skills from home.

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Italki

Online language learning website which connects language learners and teachers through video chat. Over 5,000 teachers to choose from, ranging from qualified professionals to community tutors. Prices per hour can be as low as $5 for French. Best way to keep up your speaking skills from home.

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Italki is essentially an online marketplace that links up language students and tutors for affordable Skype lessons.

Teachers are divided into two categories: professional teachers and community tutors.

Professional teachers are in possession of teaching qualifications and tend to follow a structured lesson plan.  They may charge quite a bit, depending on the language being taught. Community tutors on the other hand are just enthusiastic native speakers that can provide informal conversational lessons.  Their prices vary, but for some languages (including French!) you can get hour-long lessons for as low as $5!

If you are an advanced French speaker, we recommend that you arrange lessons solely with community tutors – all you need at this point is conversation practice, and a lot of it!

Of course, you need to find a tutor that you like with and whose teaching style suits you well.  Luckily, there is the ‘trial lesson’ feature that allows you to try out tutors in half-hour lessons at heavily discounted rates.  So you can sample a number of tutors that you think look promising and then arrange further lessons with the ones that you get on best with.

On top of all this, Italki also features a messaging tool, language specific blogs, Q&A forums, and feedback notebooks for any writing tasks that tutors set you.

Italki really is a fantastic tool that all language learners should know about.  There is now no excuse not to take your speaking proficiency to the next level!

Italki - Our Rating
96%

Advanced - Listening

*Coming Soon!*

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Kartina TV

Russian TV streaming service that allows you to watch popular Russian programmes in your home country. Hundreds of channels and thousands of films available mean that you will always have fresh listening material. Reasonably priced and no contracts.

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Advanced - Bonus

French Idioms

Large collection of French idioms, old and new. Over 2,000 entries with explanations and examples. The only resource that any French learner would ever need to enrich their vocabulary with colourful idioms. A must-have for (in particular, literary) translators.

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French Idioms

Large collection of French idioms, old and new. Over 2,000 entries with explanations and examples. The only resource that any French learner would ever need to enrich their vocabulary with colourful idioms. A must-have for (in particular, literary) translators. .

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You can actually find hundreds of French idioms on Wiktionary (with their literal translations and English equivalents).

But if you that’s not enough and you feel you want to delve deeper, then Barron's French Idioms is perfect for you.

With close to 2,000 fully-translated items, it has enough Spanish idioms to last even the most dedicated learner for a lifetime. Like all good language books, it packed full of examples, grammatical explanations, and stylistic and usage information.

French Idioms - Our Rating
88%

Thinking French Translation

Very practical, hands-on guide for French-English translators. The main aim of the book is to identify problematic aspects of French and English that might cause translations to sound clunky or awkward. Provides numerous examples for each point made and supplementary exercises to test your knowledge.

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Thinking French Translation

Very practical, hands-on guide for French-English translators. The main aim of the book is to identify problematic aspects of French and English that might cause translations to sound clunky or awkward. Provides numerous examples for each point made and supplementary exercises to test your knowledge.

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Perhaps you want to do more than speak excellent French.  Perhaps you have ambitions of working as a professional French translator.

If that’s the case, it’s important that you realise that being a good linguist and being a good translator are two COMPLETELY different things.  They require different skills, and different competencies.  In fact, many people claim that to succeed as a translator depends more on how well you write in your native tongue than how well you speak the foreign language you’re translating from.

That’s why books like Thinking French Translation are so important: they teach you the vital translation skills that you won’t get from general French textbooks.

Thinking French Translation - Our Rating
86%

Introduction to Russian - English Translation

Very practical, hands-on guide for Russian-English translators. The main aim of the book is to identify problematic aspects of Russian and English that might cause translations to sound clunky or awkward. Provides numerous examples for each point made and supplementary exercises to test your knowledge.

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