Many people have a dream about learning the French language. It’s a language of art and history. It has an air of romance and it can sound fantastic. For most people, however, learning French remains a dream. People tell themselves that language studies require tons of dedication, classes, and burying your nose in textbooks for hours each day. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. In this article, I’ll tell you how to learn French while driving your car!
It can be a struggle to find the time to study French with a busy schedule. But think about how much time you spend doing things where your mind wanders. You do the dishes and you think of traveling, you walk the dog and you recall a conversation you had with your boss earlier. Or you drive your car to work, and you find yourself thinking about something completely random for the whole 25 minutes.
All of these moments, your brain is actually free to be put to work! So why not spend the time studying French, so finally you can get that dream realized!
You can learn French while driving your car by listening to audio-courses, repeating out-loud, having imaginary conversations with yourself, or revising content you’ve previously studied. The best way to make use of your commute for French-learning is to consolidate content you’ve already studied elsewhere.
Learning French through listening and repeating in your car
Most language learning approaches deal with all of four categories: Listening, reading, speaking and writing. Two are about understanding language and the other two about producing it.
While you drive your car, I strongly recommend that you focus on listening and speaking and not the other two! I do, however, recommend that you try reading just a little bit in French each days. Even if it’s only five minutes. Studying in more than one way just helps you learn French better, but 10 minutes a day with a beginner textbook like Assimil is just fine.
So how do you learn French while driving?
Podcasts and audio courses for beginning French
French was my first time self-studying a foreign language. If that’s the case for you too, you might want to begin with something a little slow-paced like Pimsleur French. Pimsleur is great for learning the pronunciation of French while driving your car. You simply repeat after the speaker on the audio. Do it out lound! The Pimsleur program will gradually make you revise new vocabulary and phrases, so you won’t forget. But don’t rely too much on Pimsleur for vocabulary, though. I recommend that you only use Pimsleur in the beginning, then progress on to other, more fast-paced courses as soon as you feel ready!
Other podcasts that can be useful to get you a little further than Pimsleur are Coffee Break French, Rocket French and FrenchPod101. These programs have their pros and cons and they each have their own style, so I recommend that you check out their free material and their trial periods to see if you like them. They also offer transcripts, lessons and exercises to a varying degree. Things you might want to do in your car, if you take a coffee break on the road!
Lear French in “chunks” with Glossika French
And then there’s Glossika French. Glossika is “mostly” an audio course. But I do recommend that you squeeze 10 minutes into your schedule now and then to study new sentences and then do the “reps” or revisions while driving your car.
Glossika is special in that it’s a very straight forward course. It’s very simple to use, but it’s actually based on some rather complicated ideas about language learning: There is absolutely no grammar lessons, exercises or drills with Glossika. The only thing you have to do is study new sentences daily – and revising them. With Glossika, you learn French through “chunks”. The idea is that after studying several hundred sentences which all use a specific grammatical rule, you’ll automatically and intuitively understand the rule. You actually learned your mother tongue the same way as a baby! Only with Glossika, all sentences are structured and organized in an order that gradually progresses – an advantage babies don’t get!
Doing revisions (Or “reps”) is where the learning really happens with Glossika. For each new sentence you learn, Glossika schedules several repetitions for you. Gradually further into the future. This means that even though you only study 5-20 new sentences per day, you get some 50-100 sentences to review. This is a great activity to do in your car, and I greatly recommend Glossika for learning French while driving your car. If you want to read more, check out my Glossika review.
Sing along to French songs in your car. No, seriously!
OK, to some people, singing is not exactly they way they imagine that they’d learn French while driving. But think about it – when a catchy song is stuck in your brain, you just keep hearing it over and over like an earworm. You might even know the complete lyrics of the song by heart. And you don’t even like that song! This happens to me all the time, and it probably does to most people. Imagine cashing in on this. You could learn the lyrics of French songs by heart just from repeated listening. If you start singing along, you’ll learn a lot of French just from music. It’s also a great way of improving your pronunciation.
It can sometimes be a help to prepare yourself a little beforehand. Print the lyrics of some of my favorite French songs and listen to the songs while reading a long. Once is fine! Then try and sing along on your next car ride. You might not memorize it all, but try repeating the process the next day, and you’ll be stunned to see how much you already learned. After three or four read-troughs of a song, you’ll know the lyrics by heart, and you can start singing along while you drive.
If you don’t know what to listen to, try searching for “French songs” on YouTube. I can recommend the great classics of French Variété like Jaques Brel, Edith Piaf or Charles Aznavour. (Check out Jaques Brel’s haunting perfomance of his song “Amsterdam”) If you’re more interested in something more contemporary, Stromae writes awesome lyrics and catchy tunes. Go sing your heart out in your car!
Speaking to yourself
Another way to learn French while driving is self-talk. When you’re alone in your car, it’s the perfect opportunity to start using your French by speaking. Describe your surroundings to yourself. Make commentary on other people on the road. Or start voicing out what you’re going to do during the day, or what you’ve done. Speaking aloud to yourself is a great way to make your speech more fluid, activating your vocabulary and avoid constantly searching for words. And it’s easy! Don’t worry about making errors or mistakes. As long as you do other study activities, you’ll gradually stop making mistakes.
Listen to French language news
As your level improves, you can start listening to the news in French. At first you can try News in Slow French which is a great news program where a couple of French journalists discuss current events. In slow French. This can be a great way to start understand the kind of vocabulary used in newscasts. Listen to the slow news as much as you want, but be mindful of not getting used to the slow speed! You need to move on to real news before you get too comfortable with the news in slow French.
When asking how to learn French while driving, there are numerous of different approaches. Some of them, we’ve already discussed, but one you get to a certain level, you want to tackle literature! Like it’s the case with English, the French language is extremely rich when it comes to literature. And audio books are getting popular in France, so you’ve got a lot to choose from.
As you approach literature in French, I recommend that you start listening to something that you’re already familiar with. Do you have a favorite novel that you’ve read and re-read several times? Look up the French translation as an audio book! Listening to Ken Follet in French gets both easy and enjoyable if you already know the story well. The same goes for Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
How to learn French while driving? I hope that this article have given you some ideas on the matter. Being able to speak French fluently is a great skill to have. But as you just might find that the things you see along the road is just as good as the destination.