Where to Find Great Videos that Include French Subtitles
French subtitles are comprehensible input for everybody, from beginners all the way to advanced language learners.
But just as all language learning websites are not created equal, not all subtitles are created equal. The difference lies in how the subtitles are generated, the genre of the video, and the level of interaction these videos offer.
For me, I prefer professionally made subtitles, like the ones that come with foreign films you can buy or rent. The pacing is more natural, and folks in movies don’t talk as fast as, say, YouTubers. But, I am old.
Whatever genre you prefer, high-quality, properly subtitled French content is out there for you. A ton of good language learning websites produce interactive videos with French subtitles, and these are readily available. In this post, I talk about a few of my favourites, and the pros and cons of each.
Create Lessons with French Shows and Movies
It’s easy to create French lessons on LingQ with shows and movies. Let me show you how…
Step 1: Create Your Lesson with the LingQ Browser Extension
You can download the LingQ browser extension for Chrome, Safari and Firefox. Once you have it, add it to your toolbar and you can click on it to make a lesson out of any page you come across with French content with subtitles.
Step 2: LingQ Words and Phrases
Next, work your way through the lesson, making LingQs with words and phrases you don’t know.
Step 3: Watch the Show or Movie!
You can keep the French subtitles up or, if your level is advanced enough, go without. You’ll be surprised at how much you can understand with this method. Give it a try!
So let’s get into these French Netflix shows!
Netflix and Learn?
I’m legitimately disgruntled with how the term “Netflix and Chill” has been co-opted in pop culture. What if I just want to watch Netflix and actually chill? As a language learner, I have access to so much subtitled foreign language content via Netflix that I’m continually finding great new content to help me upgrade my language learning skills! And how stimulating is that?
Netflix has wonderful French-language programming with solid subtitling. I followed The Returned series, and, while enraptured in the story, exposed myself to some top notch comprehensible input! I recommend that you seek out shows from France on Netflix, particularly. The French film and TV industry does its best work with suspense and ennuie.
Netflix’s volume and variety of content is great, but it isn’t designed with language learners in mind. Originally English-language films and TV shows can include subs with many errors.
Like Netflix, YouTube has a crazy quantity of video with available French subtitles, but the quality isn’t always dependable; and don’t get me started on the automatic – translated – subtitles! They can be pretty awful on YouTube in particular, but still worth a try when you have no other choice. So why am I still talking about YouTube, you ask? Besides the valuable, and very well subtitled, how-to videos on channels like Easy Languages, there are some highly entertaining French YouTubers that will keep advanced learners engaged.
In my humble opinion, the best “all you can eat buffet” of French language learning videos is the website for the French TV channel TV5Monde. It’s completely FREE and has levelled, French-subtitled content from levels A1 to B2 on the CEFR. For those unfamiliar with it, the CEFR is the European universal scale for measuring foreign language ability and is widely considered the evidence-based gold standard.
The TV5Monde website was originally video and text only, but has now become a beautiful hybrid. All video series now come with interactive activities, quizzes and notes on culture. Beginners can access the A1 section for débutants, appropriately called la première classe, where you can explore introductions and professions via the regarder, ecouter, grammaire and vocabulaire video and quiz sequence. Come for the free French language learning, stay for the classic (and hilarious) subtitled music videos!
When we talk about good sites that specialize in providing video with French interactive subtitles, Ilini is the best quality I’ve come across. They offer the most current library of French-only videos, levelled for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners. You can keep up with the events of the week through France24, or watch other popular and enjoyable French content like my favourite standup comedienne, Shirley Souagnon. Here’s a show she did last year if you want to check her out. There are French subtitles, so you can import it as a lesson on LingQ.
Honestly, I was turned off by Ilini when it first launched because it seemed to be only for advanced learners, and I usually support beginners in French. However, it has expanded (and continues to add content) significantly since then, and now also offers the most generous FREE section of such sites I’ve explored to date.
Ilini, TV5Monde, Netflix and YouTube are just the tip of the iceberg. By the time you read this, many more innovative and exciting sites will have spawned to offer even more French-subtitled content online. In researching this post, I’ve found many more than were available just one year ago! There really does seem to be something for everyone on the Internet! I encourage you to see for yourself what’s out there and report back with your own learning story on the blog.
Philippe Croteau is a professional language consultant and language learner in Simcoe County, Ontario, where he lives with his great partner and two amazing daughters. He speaks French, English, Japanese, and can make a ton of mistakes in German, Russian, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish and Arabic.