First Day of Studying French – Gathering The Tools

These are the essential tools and files you need to collect before you start learning French on your own, in my opinion. You may be learning the language using Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, Babbel, RocketLanguage, Fluenz, and others, but these are the free tools available to you on the Internet, that I have found especially useful:

I would like you to consider at the very minimum augmenting your study with Duolingo. You should register here:

I also want you to go to Linqvist and register for the site while it is still in Beta and free. You will begin to use it when you’ve reached over 800 words on Duolingo:

Whenever you see a concept that you do not understand, please visit the University of Texas at Austin’s French website.

This is the index page, and it’s just that easy to find the issue, click to the lesson page, read the content, and then take a quick test to see if you understood what you have read.

Also bookmark these sites for use. They offer free samples and you may decide to invest some money in one of these courses if the free resources (duolingo, lingvist) do not work well for you:

You must at a minimum have the pronunciation down pat, or you’ll say French words wrong in your English speaking mind, and it will stick, go here (has audio examples):

and here:

You should have a table of conjugations at your immediate disposal:

Many popular textbooks are found in PDF form here:

I’d like you to bookmark my collection of websites:

Since there are two other free textbooks that are used for first year French students, semesters one and two, let’s grab those as well:

Next, I’d like you to download another free program. It’s free and found here:

What is Anki? It’s a study card program like many others, which uses timed intervals to help you re-inforce what you have learned. It works to improve your memory.

“Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it’s a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn.” That’s what they say. It’s an interesting tool, that’s what I say.

The program is just under 23 MB in size. Download and install…you can then download an Anki “shared” Deck, and benefit from the work of others. French language decks are found here:

After you have downloaded and installed Anki, I want you to place an add-on program into Anki. We are going to add the power of audio files, using an add-on called, “Awesome TTS” (TTS = Text-to-Speech). After opening Anki, in the “Install Add-on” window, copy and paste 301952613 into the “Code” field and click “OK”. The download happens in seconds. Close Anki then re-open. The power to automatically add audio to your files, specifically French speakers reading your card text, is now in your Anki program.

I then suggest you register with Anki (it’s free). This will allow you to synchronize your decks across multiple platforms, like your smart phone, and various android devices.

If you wish to become more proficient at Anki, you may find You Tube videos helpful, or you can download this PDF and use it for reference. The download is found at the bottom right, as a picture of the PDF’s front cover:

A popular French verb PDF is found here:

We’re now going to start our own MP3 French language collection, so create a directory of your choice, in the location you wish, and go here:

Click the one that says “all mp3s”, and you will be downloading 106 MB of audio that is used with the Univeristy of Texas at Austin’s French program.

Since we’re still in the gathering stage, I’d like you to add a program called “DownLoad Them All!” to your Firefox browser.

This program will allow you to right-click at a website and start a download of all of the MP3’s found on a website. After installing the program, and restarting your Firefox browser, you are going to do just that, at these websites:

Right-click and choose to Download Them All! and then “Start”. Watch the magic happen….incredible isn’t it?

We’re going to repeat this downloading method, on this other page:

While we’re here, I’d like you to bookmark this page:

You will use this page often.

There is one more page that contains 17,000 mp3’s, that you will want to have. You will not need the Download Them All! for this one, as it is a zip file. It is found here:

Go down to around mid-page, where you see “Télécharger”, which means download. Click it, download, and unzip into your target directory. Now you have scores of words in alphabetical order, in multiple folders. I personally got rid of all the folders, and simply put them all in one folder, so that I could see them alphabetically. When I hear a word I did not understand on Duolingo, I go here and can replay the pronunciation over and over, until I have the sound correct.

Since people just love it when they get something for nothing, Pimsleur has a free section where you can download some of their French MP3s, located here: (You will use Download Them All!)

You may also find a vocabulary index on this site:

And perform MP3 downloads on the page that contains your particular subject interest. Bookmark this site for later.

The BBC has a website filled with MP3s, that you can download.

and their tutor site may interest you:

My French verb guide, which took me forever to develop, is here:


I printed my version and laminated it so that it is always nearby. This will save you from being side-swiped by language teachers that throw a verb tense or mood at you, seemingly out of nowhere, or worse, they start to use the French word for the tense.

I also developed a pronunciation cheat sheet:

French Pronunciation Guide

Let’s review what we have…almost every word and phrase you need, in MP3 form, two free textbooks that focus on group discussion learning, an on-line course, a memory re-enforcement tool that synchronizes across all platforms, several bookmarks with indexed lessons and discussions on French grammar, and a bunch of cheat sheets for popular verbs, French verb tenses and moods, my pronunciation guide, and other cheat sheets that may help us get through rough spots. We’re now ready to start Duolingo.

Other resources:

Videos from “Learn French with Jennifer” are found on YouTube, and she lists the names of those videos in this blog post.

The “Learn French with Jennifer” YouTube page is found here:

An on-line French Audio Dictionary of 2500 words:

Memrise, a flashcard website…and the French section is found here:

Quizlet is another memory training website…and the Duolingo French section can be found here:

Another is a picture-based 1500 word website containing many languages, called Babadum, found here:

In the early stages of learning, you may find the basics very helpful, even though you read the first few chapters of that 1917 Textbook. I suggest you look through these websites during your first few weeks:

and the site map page for French.about dot com’s website:

and when you see a word that you need pronounced right away, go to Forvo:

We’ll also bookmark where we can watch the news in French every day:

That’s it for day one. You’ve gathered a ton of tools in a very short time. You may feel overwhelmed right now. The idea is to not spend a lot of time administering your lessons, tools and look-ups. Look at the tags and categories on my blog, to find areas which you are comfortable with, like songs, children’s songs, podcasts, etc.

Note: The next level of tools will include websites like:

and listening to Podcasts with Marie…free…well over a hundred and counting…and engaging…at:

and focusing on listening skills which will provide additional vocabulary and phrases. A new site accumulates native speakers of all kinds, in many languages, including French:

You will want to start practicing the words you now know how to pronounce, and you may use Skype for this, after finding language partners on line. There are many, so Google for sites that offer language partners. I have used:

To avoid having to schedule Skype sessions, think about using these sites. They have a list of people on-line, ready to talk:

If you wish to avoid a lot of the errors that English speakers experience while learning French, you may wish to read my post on what I would have liked to have known during my first month studying French…found here:

If you are still wanting more, you can attempt to use DownLoadThemAll on these pages for the FSI Language Course and textbook:

Personally, I use spreadsheets for my language vocabularies and phrases. Each sheet contains a particular subject: adjectives, adjectives plural, adverbs, alphabet, animals, appliances, art related, baby related, bank related, basic phrases, bathroom, body parts, buildings, camping, car related, cardinal numbers, classroom subjects, clothing, coffee related, colloquials, colors, computer related, conjunctions, conversations – simple, conversations – complex, cosmetics, countries, daily routine, days of the week, dentist’s office, dining room, directions, doctor’s office, drinks, emotions, employment, family, food related, fruits, furniture, garden, hobbies, holidays, house, household, instruments, irregular past participles, kitchen, marriage related, meals, meats, medical, months, music, nature, negations, news related, numbers, ocean related, ordinals, places, prepositions, professions, pronouns, pronunciation, reflexive verbs, quantities, questions, school related, seasons, shapes, shopping, slang, sports, time, tools, traffic, transportation, travel, vegetables, verbs, weather, zodiac.

It is very easy to copy a column of words from a spreadsheet, and drop it into Google Translate, translate into the language you wish, and then copy and paste to an adjacent column in your spreadsheet. If you stay organized with your vocabulary from the start, you’ll be amazed at what you can do with your lists.

I’m also going to recommend, Self-Taught French by Timm. Here you can find the PDF:

and here is the YouTube video which you can download:

Good luck.


3 thoughts on “First Day of Studying French – Gathering The Tools

  1. Jennifer Crespin February 17, 2015 / 6:33 am

    I’m so happy to have found your blog after reading a comment you wrote on Learn French With Jennifer. This is quite impressive! Can’t wait to dig in and read what you’ve been up to this past year, and more importantly how you did it. I really feel happy that my videos were part of the process for you. BRAVO!

    • Toussaint February 17, 2015 / 7:22 am

      I really enjoy your videos, and those of Vincent ( In your videos in particular, you attempt to connect with the student, making you a superior instructor, and I discovered your video series late in the year unfortunately. As an instructor, you know how important pronunciation is. One thing that I did not do enough of, early on in the process, was develop an ear for the language before I developed an eye. Much time was spent “unlearning” the sound the word makes in my mind when I see it on a page or screen. If I were to do anything differently, it would be to work on pronunciation for a week, while watching Children’s Instructional videos (BookBox, and

      • Jennifer Crespin February 17, 2015 / 7:59 am

        I appreciate your response, I really do try to connect. I do end up teaching a lot of my YouTube viewers on Skype, but the vast majority, like you, are trying to learn the language on their own with resources found on the Internet. It’s funny you should mention pronunciation. I was just thinking about that, looking around for songs to introduce to my beginner students. Who cares if you understand all or any of the words. As you mentioned, you have to develop an ear. Sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve had a look at several of your blog posts…well done!! There’s a lot more to explore, and I look forward to doing so. So did you take the DELF and pass the B2? Maybe if I read more I’d know the answer to that 😉

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