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What are the best, most practical methods for improving French listening comprehension?

I have been self-teaching French for a few months now and right now my study time is usually structured around grammar exercises and reading comprehension, with all new input consistently added to a Spaced Repetition System (Anki). My pronunciation, reading comprehension and vocabulary are, IMHO, above average. However, I don't have a good system in place for improving my listening skills.

i.e. transcriptions, online resources - what are some reliable, free resources?

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I use RFI’s “journal en français facile,” which releases new editions every weekday with transcriptions.

https://savoirs.rfi.fr/fr/apprendre-enseigner/langue-francaise/journal-en-francais-facile

I also recommend Cyprien’s YouTube channel. Many of his older videos are subtitled in French and English, although many newer ones don’t have it yet.

Also very helpful is the Easy French YouTube channel, which had 60+ videos subtitled in French and English.

Lastly I recommend Laetitia Perraut's “One Thing in a French Day” podcast, which she emails out 3 times a week to subscribers. I think I pay $3 a month for it, and it comes with a transcription.

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Besides all the dedicated material that is available an excellent means of getting listening comprehension in various areas of the language (arts, politics, littérature, and other domains) is to listen to French radio stations, not as a task that you would impose to yourself as the unique object of your attention, although you might also do that, but while you're doing other things, such as washing, dressing, driving,… ; that has the avantage of putting otherwise wasted time to good use.

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The answers suggesting specific and general material to listen to are all useful but I'd like to go a bit deeper into the "how" since that is a subject I am actually pursuing also:

So what we need in addition is explicit methods to do the actual practice once we can find appropriate material.

As has been said by others, finding YouTube channels and similar with both transcripts and clear audio is very useful so in addition try these:

- Francais Authentique (Johan) - InnerFrench (old name Cottongue) (Hugo)

Subtitles and closed captioning, even auto-generated can be very useful but both of the sites above have extensive transcripts on their associated web sites in addition to the "captions" you'll see and can download from YouTube.

There are many more, but these two are in low intermediate French spoken clearly and only a bit slower than ordinary news and such. They are both intended for those learning French so the speakers take care to keep it intellible.

If this is too hard you'll need to move to somthing slower and simpler like "Francais avec Fred" who speaks even slow and with even more facial and gesture animation to make hearing easier.

The main method is to find something "just beyond" your comfortable listening level so that you can understand most of it, preferable without needing to look at the captioning constantly, and then find a way to make it comprehensible through practice.

So having the captioning on YouTube (TV show, movie) and not in the written in the video itself is desirable because you can watch a few times with the captions then turn it off or start without and turn it on if needed.

All of the above are 100% in French and don't put the captioning on the screen in the video itself so YouTube will do auto-captioning which you can control.

Then there are exercises for improving beyond simply just finding the "right material" and "listening more":

Dave Tolman's (English) YouTube channel "French Pronunciation Dictionary" (ignore the title it's not very indicative of the excellent content) gives explicit methods, material, and clear analysis for learning to hear even the most difficult dialogue from TV and movies in which characters speak more like real people in ordinary conversational settings.

He also explains how to do shadowing for this purpose.

Highly recommended and he has a lot of free resources that will keep you busy for weeks or longer if you use them carefully.

Hearing and speaking are tightly interrelated. It is very difficult to say what you cannot hear and also it is much easier to ear what you already can pronounce accurately.

Perhaps suprisingly being able to spell by using French RULES of spelling helps as well even if seems French is as arbitray as English in it's spelling. In fact, French spelling is far more regular but the rules are very extensive to learn intellectually.

The following YouTube resources are great on spelling and pronuciation:

  • LRC Michigan (Anne Neu) is rich in elemental phonetics
  • Gabe Wyner of Forever Fluent has good but less extensive phonetics
  • Sounds of French is also good

**Another attack is to take the same audio book and textual book that is beyond your current hearing and understanding but which you are able to read (perhaps slowly or with dictionary assistance). **

  • First listen (to a chapter)
  • Then read that same material
  • Follow that by listening again
  • (Repeat until you can hear without translating consciously)

My two favorite books for this are, Sapiens: Une breve histoire de l'humanite and Dieul Interdit a Harry Bosch book by Michael Connelly.

Find what you like but the Bosch books are spoken translated more into venacular and Sapiens is spoken very clearly and covers almost literally the entire history of the universe and the breadth of all human activity so it includes mainstream vocabular from almost all major subjects from food, to farming, to war, to economics, to culture, family and daily life to manufacturing and business plus much more.

Buy both and use the audio book with the text or better the ebook.

Finally, I use LingQ a paid subscription site as an "assistive reader" which allows me to read almost anything through it's extensive and immediate dictionary support and also through it's excellent utilities for extracting text from ebooks, web sites, and even the transcripts from NetFlix and YouTube.

It's not worth much "for free" after a few days of serious use but I bought a year for about $100 and consider it a good investment. There's barely enough "free access" to get a good feel for it. (I am in no way connected to the site owners except as a happy customer.)

Also, I am beginning to use Praat and Audacity for voice spectragram analysis but that is more closely focused on speaking and a topic for another message.

Good luck.

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