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How to conquer understanding spoken French.

I'm learning French and I have discovered that the most difficult part of learning the language is understanding what other's are saying. If someone were to type or write something, I would understand it but if they were to say it, my understanding would go out the door. The words just sound so similar and even when I hear it slowly I still can't make out the words. I manage to figure out what the speaker has said 3-4 sentences after that one. So any tips?

August 19, 2017



I do it by listening to media dubbed in French without subtitles. Being dubbed, it is scripted and recorded in an isloted and controlled environment, so one can understand it better. It will be very difficult at first but your brain and ears will adapt and start making sense of it all the more the longer you do it.

Then when you feel more comfortable with that, you can start listening to non-dubbed media, which is spoken comparatively faster and more naturally.

The key to succeeding at this is to do it all WITHOUT subtitles. You do not need to understand everything that is being said, you just need to focus on visualising them, and being able to recognise the words being spoken.


Thank you so much, these are great tips!


Any suggestions on some free dubbed (not subtitled) media out there? Great idea!


The way it works for me was step 1 - lean the alphabets, how each letter sounds in french, then learn phonétique, how oi, ou, u, ei, ai, s and ss, d and t, and many other sounds, then learn the rules of liaisons and enchaînement.

Step 2. Dictation. This site lets you practice dictation for free https://speechling.com/dictation/french At first I couldn't hear a thing, but now I could write 7 out of 10 sentences without too much trouble. I'm still at the beginner level though. So I'm a long way to go but I see real progress.

Step 3. Listen. This site allows you to listen to all sorts of radio programs around the world.
I have Manu Dans le 6/9 on around the clock. His program is great because sometimes they speak really fast, sometimes really slow.;they repeat things; they ask questions; they tell jokes, and they don't often talk over each other. So you can hear most words clearly. Of course, I listen and watch a ton of other stuff but I listen to this religiously since it has a year worth of episodes. You can also listen to it on youtube too.


Oh, and if you're going to sign up for an account on speechling.com, use the code F28602. From what I understand, having that code in place, you will get 10% lifetime discount, meaning it's not a one-time thing. Whenever you want to pay for the monthly membership, you get 10%. The dictation is FREE though.


If you only want to do the dictation, does it stay free or do you reach a point where you have to sign up.


The Anki 16000 sentence deck is similar to this.


That Speechling site is great. Thank you for the link.


Listening to a lot of spoken French, on Youtube videos where you understand the context.

Documentaries are easy to understand.

Special Trick: Youtube has a search filter to only get videos with subtitles.


Do not forget to learn french slang. ( verlan.. and argot ). They are using it a lot


Not everyone. Colloquial French is a good start; slang and verlan are not immediately necessary. People will not be able to refrain from using colloquial French when they speak to a foreigner, but they will certainly not use slang and verlan. Also, verlan does not make one sound smart. Most people using a few words of verlan in their daily language are actually doing it for fun. It has become a fashion to pretend to speak like the dumbest people. I would not recommend anyone learning French to use verlan. It may be good to understand a few very common words, though, like 'véner' (for 'énervé'), 'mifa' ('famille'), etc, but really, it is not something to imitate.


I wouldn't worry too much about that if you haven't finished the tree yet, as without at least having decent grip on grammar and syntax, plus without at least the amount of vocab that you get from the tree, you will probably struggle quite a bit. This site should get you to about a solid B level (~B1 by the time you finish the tree, closer to B2 once you top out at 25). A significant amount of extra vocab (and effort) will be required to get to C. But as a starting point, you could try "Les Journaux en Francais Facile" at rfi.fr (down the bottom under 'ecouter'). They have news podcasts and the "facile" version is somewhat slowed and simplified to cater to intermediate students of the language. They even do a 'word of the week' segment once a week where they explain a phrase/word (usually a colloquialism/something with multiple meanings) in depth. Kids shows are pretty good too (like Caillou) to help ease the transition curve. Hope this helps. Have fun and don't forget to enjoy the journey (a plan doesn't hurt either...). Best of luck.


The funny thing about solid B is that when I finished the tree I thought I was at level B too, but a year later, after learning a lot more grammar, vocabulary, expressions, etc, I'm not quite sure I'm there yet. I visite TV5Monde A1 and realized I still struggle going through it. So it appears different people/different sites think differently about where level B is.


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