Speak Like a Native With These French YouTubers
French, just like English, is an ever-evolving language that is heavily influenced by the cultures of those who speak it. And just as cultural phenomena change in an instant, so does language!
While there is always a standard set of language features that help to keep everyone on the same page, this “standard” language is not necessarily what you’ll hear from everyday people on the street if you visit a French-speaking country. Modern French is full of slang, abbreviated words or structures, and pop culture references that are constantly changing.
It can be hard for learners to keep up with this linguistic evolution, but one thing that can help is something you may already do in your native language…watch YouTube! There is certainly no shortage of French-speaking “YouTubeurs” (and YouTubeuses) who regularly publish videos that are both culturally and linguistically current, meaning you’ll get to learn a lot of modern slang and other expressions that just can’t be memorized from a list. And not only will you enrich your vocabulary, but you’ll also learn more about French popular culture while practicing your listening skills at the same time!
With over 11 million subscribers, Cyprien is the king of the French YouTube scene. His videos usually have subtitles, if not in English then in French, which make it easier for learners to follow along, since he tends to speak quickly and use a lot of “familiar” French expressions. Cyprien’s videos are both hilarious AND relatable, on topics such as old people and technology, geek culture, and things that he hates.
un truc = a thing
pécho = to pick up [as in a date]
un mec = a guy
relou = super annoying
Norman fait des vidéos
Like Cyprien, Norman fait des vidéos is a classic French YouTuber – in fact, he and Cyprien occasionally collaborate and appear in one another’s videos! Norman uses a ton of French slang which makes his channel a great resource for “everyday” French vocabulary, but don’t worry – he also subtitles the majority of his videos. Norman pokes fun at a variety of subjects, like hipsters, video games and bilingual people.
j’en ai marre [de] = I’m sick [of]
ça me saoule = that annoys me
nul = awful
se marrer = to giggle
Natoo, a female YouTube humorist, rounds out the top three; she has her own YouTube channel but also is part of a trifecta with Cyprien and Norman. The three of them appear together in a YouTube series called “Presque Adultes” (“Almost Adults”) that makes fun of what it’s like to be a twenty-something adult who just doesn’t feel like a grown-up yet. In addition to starring in “Presque Adultes”, Natoo also chronicles her travels, tells stories about her dog, and makes the occasional dance video on her solo channel.
bosser = to work
choré = choreography
berk! = ew, gross!
une meuf = a woman
Solange te parle
Solange te parle (literally “Solange speaks to you”) is a great option for those looking for more “Lifestyle” content. Solange isn’t French, she’s Québécoise, so you’ll be exposed to a slightly different dialect and accent than you’d normally hear in a French class, which is great for training your ear to a wide range of French speakers and adding more variety to your vocabulary!
Even better, she speaks super slowly and even beginner learners should be able to understand her videos with few problems (but never fear – there are still subtitles in French). While Solange is definitely funny, she incorporates more personal topics into her videos, like body image, her love life, and books she’s read recently. In the video below, Solange explains some of the big differences between French spoken in France and Canadian French.
papoter = to gossip
un char = a car
sa blonde = his girlfriend
Ma vie aux Etats-Unis
If you’ve ever wondered what the French think of the USA, Yoann lays it all on the table on his channel, “Ma vie aux Etats-Unis” (or “My life in the US”).
He’s a Frenchman living in the United States, and he talks a lot about the differences between life in France and life in the US – particularly things that Americans don’t usually think twice about, like tipping in restaurants and that weird gap around the stall door in public bathrooms. Yoann speaks slowly and clearly in his videos so he’s easy to understand, but he does offer subtitles in English if you need them!
bof = not great, “meh”
chiant = annoying
la thune = money
Le Rire jaune
Le Rire jaune is actually a YouTube duo of two brothers, Kevin and Henry Tran. Though the name of their channel translates literally to “the yellow laugh”, the phrase “un rire jaune” is actually an idiomatic expression used to describe that forced laugh you’re obligated to do when someone says something that they think is hilarious, but isn’t actually that funny.
Nevertheless, Kevin and Henry’s videos will give you more than just a rire jaune – especially the video in which each of them describes what it’s like to have a brother. While the videos are typically subtitled in French and could be understood by beginners, the two speak very quickly – but it’s a great way to challenge your listening skills!
pourri gâté = spoiled rotten
bouffer = to eat
squatter ses fringues = to steal his/her clothes
cafter = to snitch [on someone]
Finally, Studio Bagel isn’t a single YouTuber but rather a group of comedians who create videos that parody film, television and popular culture.
The episode “High CROUS Musical” is obviously a reference to the American movie High School Musical, and the video “Les Urgences” bears a striking similarity to the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. From war dramas to politics, Ratatouille to “Instafood” (taking photos of your food and to post on Instagram), the Studio Bagel videos are more like Saturday Night Live sketches than traditional YouTube clips – and the production quality is quite good as Studio Bagel is financed in part by Canal+, a major French film and television channel.
There isn’t a ton of slang or specifically French culture in these videos, but you’ll easily be able to compare how the French sense of humor compares to your own.
This is just a small sample of the many French YouTubers you can find on the Internet, and there are many more who make videos that address subjects in everyday life like beauty, health and wellness, and even relationships. Just like any skill, listening comprehension and vocabulary enrichment take time and practice, so even finding one short video to watch per day can have a huge impact on your learning!
Turn your favorite YouTube videos into French lessons
If you want to enjoy French videos and learn all of the words and phrases as you’re watching, import the video as a lesson on LingQ! All you need is the YouTube url and a video with a transcript and you’re set (you can download the subtitles from a video if there isn’t a transcript available). LingQ is the best way to learn French because it turns the content you love into a lesson and saves the words and phrases you’re learning so you can study them, save them, and review them (using flashcards, dictation, cloze and multiple choice). Also, you don’t have to stick to YouTube videos to find French content and import it into LingQ (available for both Android and iOS), you can import other content, such as posts written by fashion bloggers, podcasts, and so much more. Check out our guide to importing to learn more.
Megan is currently working on her graduate degree in French and Francophone Studies, prior to which she taught high school French for five years. In addition to French, she self-studies Spanish and is looking forward to starting German classes soon.