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Learning French: Essential podcasts for every level

If you are looking to improve your French - or perhaps simply learn a bit more about France in English - here are the best podcasts to listen to depending on your level.

Learning French: Essential podcasts for every level
Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

If you are looking to hear more spoken French, or simply listen to stories about French culture, language and history, then you might be in the neighbourhood for some podcast recommendations. 

The Local broke down recommendations based on French-language level. For those who do not speak French yet, we also listed several English-language podcasts that will help you get to know France better.

Just starting out

Duolingo French Podcast – This podcast offers “fascinating true stories” where storyteller speaks in intermediate French, and then the host chimes in to offer context. If you are finding it hard to follow, you can always use the episode transcript while listening, which can be found on Duolingo’s website.  

Coffee Break France – Available at four different levels, this podcast starts its first season off with a language teacher helping his student, Anna learn French. You follow along as she is taught how to introduce herself, greet people, and become familiar with how the language works. For those who do not yet live in France, this is a great podcast to listen to before moving or taking a vacation that will help prepare for those initial conversations in French.

You’ve got the basics, but need some more practice

Journal en français facile – Of the three, this is probably the best to start off with. Offered by French national radio (RFI), this podcast goes over the news of the day at a slow, easy to listen to pace. 

L’heure du Monde – This is French newspaper Le Monde’s flagship podcast. It is very similar to the New York Times’ Daily podcast, if you are familiar. Each day, the presenter picks a different topic that is in the press. 

Le Journal de 8h – This is just one of the many podcasts and radio shows offered by France Inter. It is a daily news update that goes over the major news events going on in France and across the world. It is just 16 minutes long, so it is not too long that you might find yourself getting easily lost. 

Perfecting your French

Transfert – This weekly podcast is hosted by Slate. It introduces you to a new, true story with every episode, and it is narrated by the person sharing the tale. Some episodes are exciting and fun, while others are moving and emotional. It is a great way to listen to different French accents, as the narrator is always the person telling their own story. Keep in mind that as the narrator changes each time, so does the voice – one week it might be easy for you to understand, whereas the next it could be trickier. Take it as an opportunity to slow down and try to experiment with different people’s manners of speaking French, at your own pace.

Kiffe ta Race – A podcast about the intersections of race and gender in France. The title – “Kiffe ta race” uses the slang term ‘kiffe’ which means to love or enjoy, along with ‘ta race’ (your race). The top question of the podcast, however is why the word “race” is taboo in French. The hosts interview guests each episode, most of whom are non-white, and begin by asking them if and how they define themselves by their race. If you are looking to understand France in its full diversity, this podcast is a great place to start. 

Si je change, le monde change : l’effet Papillon – This French podcast came as a recommendation from a reader on Twitter. A bi-monthly podcast, host Victoire interviews a different guest each episode, hoping to share an informal conversation about the ways humanity has been impacted by key discoveries in subjects like ecology, health, agriculture, and climate change. Her guests are “artists, entrepreneurs, authors, therapists, researchers, and journalists.” Episodes are usually around 30 minutes or less.

In English, but about France

If you are not quite ready to listen to podcasts in French, but you are interested in learning more about French culture, history and language, then these podcasts might be for you:

Talking France – If you have not given it a listen yet, this is The Local’s weekly podcast that explores France’s cultural quirks and sets you up with all the lingo you need to know to understand what is happening in France. Each week we give you an overview of what is going on in France, and we answer the questions you are curious about.

Listen to Talking France HERE

French Rugby Podcast – For sports fans, this is a great introduction into the world of French rugby – one of the most popular sports in the south of the country. In south-west France, rugby is a passion that has fuelled rivalries between small villages for decades. This podcast interviews players and unpacks seasonal drama – it is hosted by Benjamin Kayser and Johnnie Beattie.

The Europeans – While this podcast – like its title – is focused on Europe broadly, one of its two hosts lives in France, so many of the stories are French-specific. Hailing from London and Essex, the two hosts came to the idea for the podcast out of a shared conviction that “Europe was too often treated as something boring and irrelevant in the British news media.” The podcast tells personal stories, and dives into cultural topics “from conceptual art to Eurovision.”

The French History Podcast – If you are a history buff, this might be the podcast for you. It explores several different facets of French history, from the Algerian War to the viking conquest of Normandy in 793. Episodes are long, sometimes over an hour, but they are rich in information. 

Revolutions, Season 3 – The Revolutions podcast is another option if you are interested in a deeper dive into the French revolution specifically. The third season of the podcast series narrows in on this crucial part of French history, with 55 episodes dedicated to the time period. 

The Earful Tower – Hosted by Oliver Gee, this podcast is an essential guide to Paris, filled with recommendations for where to eat, shop, and drink coffee. There is even an episode on how to take the best professional photos in Paris. 

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Woody Allen starts shooting his first French language film

Woody Allen began shooting his first French language film in Paris on Monday, as the 86-year-old Oscar winner remains largely ostracised from Hollywood over a longstanding assault allegation by his adopted daughter.

Woody Allen starts shooting his first French language film

“Wasp 22” is “a black comedy in the spirit of ‘Match Point'”, a statement from Allen said.

The film is his 50th, and features Valerie Lemercier, star of last year’s “Aline”, a homage to Celine Dion.

The film also features French stars Lou de Laage, Melvil Poupaud and Niels Schneider.

Allen has seen Hollywood largely turn its back on him following a renewed accusation by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow that he sexually assaulted her when she was a girl.

The director has always vehemently denied the accusations and accused his ex-partner Mia Farrow of orchestrating the campaign against him in the 1990s.

Two police investigations have found no evidence of an assault.

But Dylan Farrow reignited the debate during the MeToo movement, leading to Allen being dropped from a contract with Amazon.

Even his usually supportive European fans struggled to muster much enthusiasm for his last film “Rifkin’s Festival”, shot in Spain, which saw minimal box office returns.