Good shows or movies to practice French
January 27, 2023 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Looking for media that uses language that's easy to understand when you're not an advanced speaker.

I just started watching Women at War on Netflix and it's one of the first shows I've been able to understand by watching in French with French subtitles (well understand enough to get by anyway). Plus it's not boring! After being unable to read anything other than kid's books in French, it's a great change of pace. I would love to find more shows or movies like this. I'm not sure, but maybe it's partly easier because it was originally in French.

Amelie is my favorite movie, so I've got that one too. I REALLY wanted to watch stand-up in French, but it was over my head. I don't think it helps me learn as well to switch to English subtitles since the translation isn't always exact.
posted by Eyelash to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I like News in Slow French. They have beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
posted by umbú at 4:23 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]

I actually watched The Circle (Netflix) in French. It helped me understand modern conversational nuance and phrasing better than book French. There are enough familiar names/phrases that it didn't hurt my brain trying to piece together what was happening.

It's no Amelie, but improved my speaking and assisted me in feeling slightly less clunky in a conversational setting.
posted by nathaole at 4:32 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]

It sounds like your French is around my level. I've found these (all available on Netflix) to be good for this:

Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent)
Black Spot (Zone Blanche)
The Forest (La Forêt)
Family Business
I Lost My Body (J'ai perdu mon corps)
posted by rhythm and booze at 4:35 PM on January 27 [5 favorites]

So it's hilariously dated and well below your level in general, but I do need to recommend French in Action. It's a beginner course, and you will want to fast forward through some of the beginner conjugations and repetition, but the key thing is it's immersive. There is no English after the first epsiode, except for a brief capsule summary at the start of each episode. It deliberately brings in snippets from many French-language sources, so you'll get exposed to a lot. It's designed so you will get more out of the scenes as you understand more French. Content warnings, it may not be technically safe for work, since it has a few blink-and-you'll-miss-it beach scenes, and it's quite male gaze-y.

(I did watch Dix Pour Cent and the crucial context that I missed [even with subtitles] is that the star of each season is a bona fide French star, more famous than the regular cast.)
posted by wnissen at 5:17 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]

To the Netflix list above, I’d add “The Parisian Agency” which is about a family run high end real estate business. As a general rule, I find it quite easy to follow French versions of things in formats I’m already familiar with: cooking shows, home makeover shows, talent shows and the like. You can find many examples on YouTube.

Geraldine at “Comme une française” has some more recommendations.
posted by rongorongo at 5:20 PM on January 27 [5 favorites]

Emily in Paris!! JK, hell no although I have French friends who love to hate-watch it.

On Netflix I love the Parisian Agency, have been meaning to get into Call My Agent, and there's always The Hook Up Plan. I like the 2002 film The Spanish Apartment; it's set in Barcelona but is a French production.

Arte is a French-German channel that has a lot of cool shows!

I can't think of specific titles off the top of my head but there are lots of cool French Canadian films too!!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:46 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]

Astrid is a French detective show, wherein the title character is on the spectrum. That character speaks very fast at times, but everyone else speaks “normally”.
It’s on Amazon.
posted by dbmcd at 6:57 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]

FRENCH IN ACTION!!! Hahahaha omg that takes me back for sure...and also, it's a really good recommendation.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:56 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]

Lupin was fun.

I don't think it helps me learn as well to switch to English subtitles since the translation isn't always exact.

If you don't get bored too easily you can always watch twice - once with English subtitles so you can follow the plot nuances, and then in French so you can get the linguistic nuances. Or watch twice in French, so you get what you missed the first time.

I'll note that sometimes even same-language subtitles aren't exact (because they're limited in length), but you've probably noticed that.
posted by trig at 1:02 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]

There's a French Duolingo podcast that's really good for this. It's hosted in English by Ngofeen Mputubwele, the stories are presented in French and are both newsy and genuinely interesting, and Ngofeen narrates small bits of additional detail in English as they proceed (sometimes usefully introducing a new bit of vocab). There's a nice episode about saving the Breton language, about a second generation immigrant to France who wanted to bake award-winning baguettes, mountain rescues on Mont Blanc, a story about a chocolatier, a swimmer in the Seine ....

My mum just leant me some Agatha Christie books in French as a way of getting into reading more French language prose. Her advice is to not use a dictionary, and not to agonise over particular terms, but to push on through – it's possible to pick up any crucial vocabulary from context, and if you're already familiar with the general way that these detective stories go then you're able to make sense of the kinds of things that are going on. There isn't a huge amount of laborious description, the dialogue is often crisp and simple and direct, and the pacing is quick enough to keep your attention involved so that you don't start to feel like it's tedious homework.
posted by Joeruckus at 8:21 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Duolingo French podcast, (also their Spanish one) it’s a genuinely interesting podcast with supportive English narration. Like, you know when you’re listening to a news story and there’s like a second of somebody speaking their language before the translator comes on, and you’re like “dang I wanted to hear them say it in French!” Imagine if it was just seamlessly bilingual instead. And you’re hearing a bunch of different native speakers’ voices.
posted by xueexueg at 8:51 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]

I just watched La Cage Aux Folles and I am sure I missed a little but it was easy and fun to follow! A classic must-see film.

I have not watched it in a long time, but I think you might enjoy The Umbrellas of Cherbourg .

Both are on Kanopy (I have an account through my library).

I used to listen to the FrenchBlabla podcast and learned a lot and loved the host so much. (I am focusing on Spanish now, but when I go back to French, I will listen to her again for sure!)

posted by danabanana at 12:21 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]

I REALLY wanted to watch stand-up in French, but it was over my head.
I would recommend Paul Taylor’s show Franglais here. Taylor is English, grew up in France and does this show 50% in each language for a Parisian audience. There is a lot here too about the specific linguistic and cultural challenges of being a foreigner in France.

I guess one of the challenges of being a language learner is being pushed to speak as well as understand. To that end, if you are able to find a teacher who can take a group through watching material like this together, and then talking about what you have seen, it can be both helpful and fun. I’m part of a group where we will watch a French film - probably with French subtitles- together in an initial class - then talk about it or we watch elements together afterwards. Explaining what happened or what you liked or didn’t like so much - is a real test. So is guided exposure to fast French without subtitles. Look out for anybody near you offering such a thing.
posted by rongorongo at 3:06 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if it's region-locked outside of Canada but there's a ton of programming available in Quebec French on Tou.TV or Qub. Lots of cooking, house hunting/renovation, and other reality shows with uncomplicated language. My favorite is Coups De Food, where each week a celebrity goes to 4 of their favorite restaurants, mostly in Montreal. As someone mentioned above, reality shows are great for learning as they're in a standard format with generally basic language and useful vocabulary (cooking, house renovations, travel).

And given your interest in stand-up have you seen "Standing Up" (FR: "Drôle") on Netflix, by the creators of Dix Pour Cent? It's a fun show set in the Parisian comedy scene. But it's a little slangy - it's how I learned about Verlan.
posted by Gortuk at 6:17 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]

Le prenom Is hilarious and based on a play so there is a TON of talking (funny arguing) it’s basically all dialogue.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:00 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]

« Older Give me more videos of foods I'll probably never...   |   Help Processing Something Which Could have been... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments