Learn French in the car

French audio courses

One of the best tricks for learning French is to find a way to slot it into your daily routine — when you're walking the dog, preparing dinner, folding laundry, or ... sitting in your car.

French audio courses are fantastic for working your listening comprehension, and they can be a lot better for your pronunciation as well: You won't be thrown off by looking at the way words are spelled, which can be quite different to how they're pronounced in French.

Here are a few French courses that you could try.

Rocket Languages logo
Rocket French

The interactive audio course part of Rocket French is a good place to start if you're new to French. The 20 minute lessons teach you a short conversation between the two characters, while explaining all the finer points of the language as you encounter them in context.

Unlike most other audio courses which typically don't offer written materials, this one is also supported by a full transcripts of the conversations, reinforcement activities, and an option to role-play as either character. You can access all of these through the Rocket Languages website or app (not while you're driving though, of course).

As a further bonus: Rocket French comes with a fully-featured academic-style grammar course as well. So you don't need to choose between different styles of course — you'll get them both. You can read my full Rocket French review here.

FrenchPod101 logo

FrenchPod101 has one of the largest collection of French-learning podcasts online, and is an easy choice if you're looking for variety.

Along with learning pathways that will introduce you to French grammar and usage, there are podcast series on topics like French superstitions, holidays, listening comprehension, core words and phrases, daily activities, slang words and phrases... there's a LOT to dive into here.

The lessons are entertaining, with the presenters injecting a bit of humor into the material. One criticism might be that there is a lot of (English) talk, compared to the amount of spoken French in each lesson.

FrenchPod101 is free to create a membership, but you need a monthly subscription to access most of the content. The "Basic" subscription gets you access to the audio content and transcripts only, while a "Premium" membership also gives you flashcards, video content, and interactive activities to help reinforce the material you've learned.

I would recommend the "Premium" membership if you'd like to use FrenchPod101 as a core component of your French learning. A "Basic" membership if you just want to listen to some French podcasts in the car.

Pimsleur logo
Pimsleur French

This great granddaddy of French audio courses is still going strong!

People who use Pimsleur always comment about how much it helps them with their pronunciation. Early in the course, the instructors will break words down, syllable by syllable, encouraging you to repeat the sounds out loud yourself. They also encourage you to not look at any written material, or write anything down yourself — so that you don't try to pronounce words as you think they should be pronounced based on the spelling.

The lessons focus on reasonably conversational French, so you can start speaking straight away. If you've tried Rocket French or FrenchPod101 lessons already, you'll find the Pimsleur lessons to be much less peppy. There's very little personality — just a whole lot of clear, straightforward repetition.

Pimsleur is available as a one-off purchase (expensive), or a monthly subscription (much better value). With the monthly subscription, you have the option of an audio-only membership, or a "premium" membership which has a lot more interactive features for when you're not driving.

Tip: At the time of writing, Pimsleur monthly subscriptions are only actively advertised to people in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. (I noticed this because I'm in New Zealand!) If you can't see the subscription option on the normal sales page, you can sign up for an audio-only membership here, or a premium membership here. (I reached out to Pimsleur to get these links, so that people like me wouldn't miss out! The pages don't have any sales pitch, but they work just the same.)

Coffee Break French

Coffee Break French is another old-timer in the language learning landscape, and has the significant advantage of being free. (There are paid courses with extra features, but there's a ridiculous amount of content available for absolutely nothing — so that's a good place to start.)

The lessons move quite slowly, so they're good for complete beginners, but you may find that it gets a bit tedious and frustrating once you reach a certain level.

You can access these podcasts through your favorite podcast platforms, or through Spotify, or through the Coffee Break Languages website itself. (Here's Season 1 to start with.) 

Language Transfer logo
Language Transfer French

Language Transfer is another Free French audio course. The structure is similar to a Michel Thomas course — a tutor working with a student, coaching them through an introduction to French.

Unlike a lot of other audio lessons, this method does not rely on breaking down conversations to explain their component parts. Mihalis (the tutor) introduces important French building blocks, and explains them in a way that will hopefully make sense, and stick them into your memory.

This is an understanding approach to language, rather than a brute force repetition approach. There's a lot of emphasis on finding the connections between French and English using cognates, which can help you pull things from your memory easier, and can be a shortcut to learning a lot of French words quickly.

The French course doesn't go particularly far, but it makes a pretty positive and encouraging introduction to French for beginners. (And it's free.) You can download the lessons from the Language Transfer website. If you enjoy the lessons, there is a donation button where you can support the project.