Readers’ tips: What’s the best smartphone app for learning French?

Each week The Local asks its readers to share their tips about various aspects of living in France. This week we asked their opinion on the best mobile phone app for learning the lingo. Here’s what they had to say.

What’s the best app for learning French?
Our readers overwhelmingly chose Duolingo as their favourite app for learning French.
What is Duolingo?
With more than 300 million users worldwide, Duolingo claims to be “the most downloaded education app in the world”.
Users in all 37 available languages are guided through grammar and vocabulary learning games by Duolingo’s green owl mascot, symbolizing knowledge and learning.
The company’s theory is that games, rewards and bright animations introduce a sense of fun that motivates learners to continue using the app and advancing their language skills. 
Users practice listening, reading, writing and speaking, passing through different levels as their language skills progress. 
Many users access the app on the go for a few minutes of language practice every day. 
Photo: Pe3check/Depositphotos
Why is it so popular?
Users rate the apps’ variety of teaching methods, clear structure and stylish interface. The app also gets positive reviews for the speed at which learners start to pick up new words.
The Local reader Robert Tennet said that the app is recently “much improved with the 'skip a level' option” which allows users start learning at a level matched to their ability, rather than automatically having to start at the beginning.
One user wrote “what an addictive, supportive and fun way to learn. In three days of about 20 minutes my vocabulary was easily over 100 words and I found myself translating food items.”  
Another user also appreciated the apps's approach to teaching vocabulary.
“Duolingo adds new words but they are integrated with repetitions of previously studied words. This keeps everything fresh and keeps the language alive, even if you are starting from nothing.” 
“It’s great to learn a language at a pace I can choose and not have to force myself to enjoy, I actually want to learn!”
Other readers cited the fact that the app is free to use as a huge benefit, although reader Ken Stern feels that the opportunity to make in-app purchases means that the “app has gotten way worse during the last year” due to its refusal to “sell a subscription instead of constantly stopping your progress to 'buy' more time.” 

Were any other apps recommended?
Busuu, Babbel, Memrise and Frantastique were also popular for learning grammar and vocabulary.
For more specific skills, SayHi Translate, an app which translates directly as you speak, got a mention for helping with “fast communication” as did La Conjugaison for quick reference, searchable verb tables. 
If you would like to ask The Local's readers a question to hear their tips on life in France, email us at [email protected]

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Member comments

  1. Yeah Right Duolingo is the Best App for French Language Learning…
    Some how I Also Recommend a French Language course By Virginie She’s a French Language Expert and Also have French Immersion Courses in Different Cities and Online..

    Learn French Online

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Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets… and tips to avoid them

If you're someone who has had their holiday to France ruined by a pickpocket, then you're certainly not alone. And it isn't only in the French capital that you have to watch out.

Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets... and tips to avoid them
One reader said that people should watch out for pickpockets at Lyon train station (pictured above). Photo: AFP
A recent report revealed that 2019 has seen a surge of cases of pickpocketing on the Paris metro. But the French capital isn't the only place in France where you need to watch out for petty crime. 
We asked our readers who know France well to tell us where else in the country you need to be that extra bit cautious about your handbag, wallet or phone and for any advice on keeping possessions safe.  
Unsurprisingly many of the places mentioned by readers were in cities with high levels of tourism. 
One of the places that came up again and again was the eastern French city of Strasbourg, with readers noting that thieves tend to operate around the train station, old town and the very popular Christmas markets. 

Photo: AFP

“I was targeted by pickpockets in Strasbourg walking near the old town. Two women – a 40-year-old woman with a 20-year-old girl — walked very close behind me, as I was walking very fast, and tried opening a small shoulder bag,” said Greg Moore from the US. 
Another reader said that they “watched a group of girls working the crowd at the Christmas markets.”
The beautiful southern French city of Nice was also highlighted by several readers as a place where it is wise to keep a close eye on your belongings. 
One reader noted that there are “pickpockets in abundance” and that the city in general “is horrible for pickpocketing”. 
“My credit and debit cards were stolen and used when we visited there a few years ago,” they said. 
Lyon, the capital city in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, is very popular with tourists who are drawn to the city for its architecture, culture – and of course the world famous cuisine. 
But while it's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by beautiful surroundings, Lyon was also highlighted by readers as a place to be cautious. 
Linda Martz, who has lived in the city for three years, told us that a pickpocket stole her wallet while she boarded a train. 
And another reader Sandra Beard told us that drivers should be particularly careful due to “scam artists” targeting people with cars.      
There are “scam artists who “help” you at parking ticket machines while they palm (and take) your credit card (and tells you the machine took your card),” she said.
“They have your PIN after looking over your shoulder,” she said, adding that when this happened to her the man “withdrew €5,000 from three banks before we froze our account (within 10 mins).”
Photo: AFP
It might not be so surprising that the resort town of Cannes on the French Riviera, which has a reputation as a bit of a playground for the rich, was also on readers' lists, with one saying that his brother was pickpocketed as he stepped onto a train at Cannes train station. 
Meanwhile reader Leslie White, who lives in Paris, said she and her husband were “hit with the 'bird poop scam'” while strolling in the grounds of the Domaine de Chantilly in northern France. 
“A plop of green goop landed on my head. A helpful couple walking behind us helped to clean us off with disposable wipes. My husband somehow had some on him too. They also cleaned out his wallet and of course it was they who had thrown the 'poop' at me in the first place. We didn’t figure it out until the next day,” she said. 
Other readers mentioned Tours train station and tram stop, the market in Arles – where reader Sue Byford said her gold necklace was snatched from her neck – and Disneyland, where one person told us they had their new phone stolen, as specific places where pickpockets operate.  
Police around France are aware of the high levels of pickpocketing in certain cities and have offered advice on how to avoid becoming a target, including avoiding the “temptation to make valuables, such as expensive handbags and jewellery, too visible or easy to take”. 
They have also advised caution when sitting on the terrasse of a bar or café. 
It's important to be “very vigilant, do not leave a wallet or phone on a table, in front of everyone” or leave your valuables in your jacket if you leave it slung over a chair,” the Rouen police previously told the French press. 
Our readers also had some suggestions of their own, including using zip ties on bags and neck pouches for credit cards and your phone. 
One reader said they take the extra precaution of putting mini-locks on all the zippers on their backpack. 
Two readers pointed out that unfortunately it is “necessary to be wary of friendly people”.
“Any distraction is an opportunity,” said one.