Can I Learn French by Watching French TV? – the only answer!

Anyone who has embarked on the fascinating, never-ending journey of learning a new language will always be looking for new (and old) ways of trying to absorb the language in different (read: quicker) ways. There are the older, more traditional ways, such as course books and face-to-face lessons. Then, there are the more modern methods, such as apps like Duolingo and popular websites such as YouTube.

All these methods can work, and do work – and they are typically combined with other methods.

However, one particular method is mentioned over and over again, particularly in recent times when it’s become so much easier to watch television in other languages. Is it therefore possible to learn a language by watching French TV?

Watching French TV is a fantastic way to improve your French. However, this method can only be used to complement your French learning – it can not be used as the only method. It should, however, be part of your French language learning and I’ll explain why below.

Can I learn French ONLY by watching French TV?

Learning French only by watching French television is not possible. At least not for the vast majority of us! Although you can get a feel for the language by watching programmes you’re familiar with (so you understand the general direction of it) – there will be many words that you simply don’t know.

Therefore, the bare minimum that you will need is something like Anki (flashcard software) to enable you to learn the many words that you’re not going to know.

Learning French just by watching television in French is not an efficient way to consume the French language. However, it should form part of your learning.

Will watching French TV help me to learn French?

Yes, watching French tv will absolutely help you in learning French and you should introduce this into your learning at an early point. There are several reasons why you should do this:

  • Watching French TV will help you become more familiar with how fast the French speak and how they merge words together, just to make things even more difficult for you 🙂
  • You will learn new words that most likely haven’t appeared in your coursework. Informal conversations in French can be improved by listening to and practising what you see.
  • It’s a refreshing break from the normal methods of learning. Let’s face it, it can be boring spending hours in Anki trying to remember (for the 50th time) a single word.
  • Your pronunciation of words will be improved.

Learning French by watching tv shows in French isn’t easy though. You will, at first, at least have to slow the speed down (not always possible) and you shouldn’t be tempted to have the English subtitles displayed as you’ll end up (believe me) just subconsciously looking at those instead of listening! Remember, if there’s an easy option available your brain will automatically want to take it.

What shows are best to teach me the French language?

Choosing what to watch in French is of course key to how much you’re going to get out of it. There’s literally no point in diving into some classic French film starring GĂ©rard Depardieu. At least not initially, leave those for the 2nd year! As good as it may be, you’ll learn nothing from it. Initially, you’re going to need to start with something very simple, even cartoons.

These are my recommendations for what to take a look at, depending on your level. However, don’t expect this to be easy. You’re going to need to watch a bit, rewind, and watch again. Then repeat.


Peppa Pig (Netflix / YouTube)- yes, it’s a cartoon but I remember being so disappointed when my son decided he was too old to continue to watch it, I used to love it! It’s short and aimed at kids. So, watching it in French is the perfect place to start.

French in Action – You can find episodes of this old series of programmes on YouTube. It teaches French in a different way – associating actions that you can see visually with words. So, you’re not asked to memorise an English word with a French word. You’re just expected to associate what you can see happening on the screen, with a French word.


For instance, you will see clips of some people rushing around with the narrator saying, ‘ils sont pressĂ©s’ – then clips of others relaxing where the narrator says, ‘ils ne sont pas pressĂ©s’.

This is a different way of learning but has been proven to have successful results – I’d definitely recommend it if you fancy trying something a bit different.

Extra French – slightly more advanced than the others but I like this as the actors speak slowly enough to allow you to follow a lot of it. It’s not as stressful as some other programmes for sure and it feels like it’s been designed just for this purpose.


10 per cent (Dix Pour Cent) – Definitely a step up from the beginner shows you can watch but this is a great show that’s a Netflix production, so you can find it there. It follows the story of the agents of famous actors (10% is the agent’s fee).

Le chalet – Another netflix production and definitely, again, for intermediate users. Some friends meet up in the Alps but things don’t go as well as they hoped. It’s not a long production but definitely worth watching.


Don’t try and learn the French language just by watching television. However, watching French TV shows (without English subtitles) is a great way to complement your learning once you’ve moved on from the very basics.

These days there are hundreds of different shows and films you can watch and many different methods you can use to consume them (YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Video, etc.) – we’re spoiled for choice!

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