Learning a language isn’t just about memorising grammar patterns: there’s the small matter of familiarising yourself with correct pronunciation, honing your listening skills, developing a natural writing style and that elusive quality of speaking without planning your every word out in your head beforehand. (If you’re at this stage then congratulations! Next comes dreaming in French).
But one of the main building blocks of language learning, sadly, can also be one of the most mundane: vocabulary. No one likes memorising lists, but no matter how complex your thoughts, no matter how thorough your grammar knowledge, without the right range of vocabulary, you simply can’t express yourself. But never fear: there are resources out there that can help you up your vocab game without just rote learning in a notebook.
Some of the best ways to improve your vocabulary, as well as your general language skills and knowledge of French and Francophone culture, is to read (not just books- everything), watch films and listen to music in French. But the Internet is your vocab friend too.
Here are some of the best online French vocab-boosting resources out there:
1. Duo Lingo
Why we like it: this handy little app mixes up exercises to test your knowledge of vocabulary in different forms. You don’t just read the word on a screen; Duo Lingo makes you spell it out, listen to it and even speak it back into the microphone. It’s this kind of variety that really cements the word into your brain.
Form: website, though there are a few similar Twitter accounts and apps out there
Why we like it: a sure-fire way to forget vocab is to bombard yourself with a long list. Some words might stick, but many will just drift off into oblivion. The beauty of tools like French Word of the Day is that you can build your word bank steadily, over time. One word every 24 hours? Anybody can manage that.
Why we like it: Brainscape’s French vocab section works with clear, simple flashcards. This kind of format takes the simplicity of lists, but removes the tedium of ploughing through one. Plus you can practise new words through translation, so the process is dynamic and interactive.
Why we like it: if you’re a visual person, this kind of game-like vocab app may be the best solution for you. If you can get past the childish parrot guide, Bravolol is great for matching up vocab using plenty of colourful images. This kind of app can give you a break from more traditional study while still helping you improve your language skills.
Why we like it: this one involves a bit more preparation than the other resources on this list, but makes for a really active learning experience. With Quizlet you can enter any kind of information (in this case, words) into the site to generate your own quiz. For extra firepower, play around with one of the above apps to familiarise yourself with new words, then enter them into Quizlet to check you’ve absorbed them properly. Génial !
Photo credits: Paris In Four Months
By Gemma King.