French on the go for beginners
January 31, 2022 8:00 PM   Subscribe

How do I learn French on the go given my limited mobile data plan?

I took a few months of classes at the local Alliance Française many years ago. I have forgotten most of the grammar since.

Since I've been bored and trapped at home most of the time during Covid, I started doing Duolingo on the desktop (their mobile version doesn't work as well) and Drops (app for vocab) while I'm out. I'm on Android. Unfortunately, Drops has a 5 minute limit every 9 hours unless you subscribe to their premium plan. I don't understand enough French to do anything complicated like reading novels.

I plan to go back to Alliance Française eventually. My level is definitely below A1 standard but I hope to take the A1 DELF one day. I would have to take a placement test and my hope is that I can skip a few of the earlier A1 (first year) classes so that I can save time and money.

My mobile has a limited data plan and I don't feel financially ready to upgrade it or to subscribe to the premium version of any apps. Most apps require subscription if you wish to download their lessons so that you can learn without using wifi or mobile data. How could I learn French on the go while on the subway or in the queue given the circumstances?

Thank you.
posted by whitelotus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend Lawless French, including their daily quizzes and short tutorials linked to the quizzes.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:35 PM on January 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

You might also want to look for french podcasts or audio books (from your local library).
posted by oceano at 8:44 PM on January 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you can stand the Duolingo app, you can use it a little bit without eating into your data limit, with some advance planning. At least on iOS, the app downloads the lesson all at once, so you need data/wifi to start a lesson, but not to finish it. I've just checked by putting my phone in airplane mode after the first question appeared on screen. You don't get access to the discussions on the individual questions, but can still flag problems; at the end, it awards you XP but then takes you back to the tree screen with YOU'RE OFFLINE at the top rather than showing you an advert. Force-closing and reopening the app, it does seem to have registered successfully that I completed the lesson. So you could open a lesson every time you're on wifi, and then you'd be ready to actually do it whenever you have a free moment.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:36 AM on February 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

For vocabulary, you could try any spaced repetition app like Anki or Quizlet (or a million others, many completely free).

Do you have unlimited internet at home? I'd use youtube-dl (or yt-dlp, which is more up to date) or some other YouTube downloader to download youtube lessons or podcasts that you think might be useful, copy them to your phone, and watch them on the go that way. If you don't have unlimited internet at home, maybe a friend does and can help you out?

(Sorry I'm not linking to anything - no time at the moment.)

Also depending on where you live, it's possible your library might provide access to some premium apps, or to things like Pimsleur. Or just to an old-fashioned book, which can still be a really good way to learn.
posted by trig at 3:25 AM on February 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I just checked, and via the Libby app, I could borrow Pimsleur French, Learn in your Car French, and French for Dummies from my local library. Those could all be downloaded via wifi and listen offline. Different libraries licence different things so YMMV, but it would be worth a look. Michel Thomas is another one to look out for, teaches a lot of grammar relatively quickly via audio-only teaching - is expensive to buy but if your library happened to have it, would be good for using out and about. There are gaps where you're supposed to speak but even thinking the answer out in your head is good practice.

There are also quite a lot of language learning podcasts out there - I only really know Spanish stuff rather than French, but there's one called Notes in Spanish which teaches grammar and I'm sure there must be similar things for French. Maybe check out the Duolingo French podcasts - they say they're intermediate level but the Spanish ones are definitely lower-intermediate at most IMO. They have a lot of English explanations sprinkled in there, slow clear speech and some really interesting topics. You can get them via a regular podcasting app as well as through Duolingo, so could download them at home and listen out and about.

One of the best things I've done for my listening comprehension is take a Spanish-language podcast that's way beyond my comprehension and listen to it (the same episode) again and again every day for a month. To begin with I barely understood a word, but by the end of the month it's incredible how much I'd worked out, just from my brain starting with the odd word it knew, then working out the word next to it the following day, looking up a few words here and there, and gradually building bigger and bigger blocks of comprehension. The thrill of watching my brain learn like that and go from "This is just noise" to "Ah this is one of my favourite jokes coming up" was awesome, really motivating and I'd really recommend trying it, at whatever level works for you! I can imagine that would be even more effective with Duolingo where there's English mixed in to help you decipher the second language.
posted by penguin pie at 5:07 AM on February 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Language Transfer! I completed the Spanish version about a month ago and cannot tell you what a incredible resource it is. Through a didactic conversation between teacher and student, it gives you the grammatical grounding to understand and think through the structure of the language. It totally propelled me forward, restarted my commitment to daily practice (after running out of steam on the Duolingo/Memrise train after a year), gave me a foundation to start with more difficult listening material, and gave me the confidence to push myself to speak the language every day. The program is free (though I immediately donated the second I finished the last episode) and you can download all the episodes through the app for non-data listening.

omg i know i sound like a language transfer shill but seriously i just loved it so much. do language transfer!!
posted by youarenothere at 5:18 AM on February 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

I really like the Quizlet interface, and it lets you download decks to your phone so you can study offline. If you can find decks you like, you'll be set.
posted by Lexica at 12:19 PM on February 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ManyLeggedCreature: I tried your trick with Duolingo and it seems to work! I'll try to remember to open a lesson before I go out.

Penguin Pie: I tried Libby and was able to borrow a couple of audiobooks. No Michel Thomas sadly. I did look at the French Duolingo podcasts but they seem to be a little beyond my level.

youarenothere: I will try out language transfer!

Thanks everyone for helping me utilize my commuting dead time!
posted by whitelotus at 8:21 PM on February 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

The free 50 Languages app supports offline usage, though the interface seems less polished than others.

You can also download lessons on the Mango Languages app for offline use. See if your public library has access. Some libraries let you sign up for an ecard by entering in an address online or as a nonresident.

Similarly, the Rosetta Stone app has an offline mode if your library or alum institution provides access.

A couple of other podcasts you could download are News in Slow French for Beginners and Coffee Break French (Season 1).
posted by eyeball at 9:32 PM on February 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

whitelotus - Thanks to youarenothere, I've downloaded language transfer in Spanish and it's great - and very, very similar to Michel Thomas, so you could go straight for that and it's free.

Thanks, youarenothere!
posted by penguin pie at 2:28 PM on February 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

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