20 Best Books to Learn French (Plus Helpful Tips!)

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Many of us French learners recognize the horrifying familiarity of this scenario: the shame of answering “un petit peu” when a French speaker asks you the dreaded question: “parlez vous Francais?” 

But not anymore! We’ve listed the best books to learn French, as well as the best French books for beginners, audiobook recommendations, and even some helpful tips and tricks. Let’s get started.

Editor’s note: To reach fluency faster, combine these books with popular apps such as Babbel and Mondly, join an immersive course such as Rocket French or FluentU, and mix it up with the Pimsleur audio course. All these and more in the list of 50+ French learning resources – including FREE ones.

Best French learning books for beginners

The most important thing for beginners learning any new language is not to get overwhelmed early on. Equally, if you’ve taken years off from practicing French, these books will prove just as useful to you. When combined with some French learning apps and podcasts, you’ll progress quickly. Hopefully, your knowledge will come flooding back and you’ll be able to move on to more intermediate stuff.

Here are the best books to learn French for beginners!

1. CPG KS3 French Study Guide

This is the book I started out with when I first studied French at high school. It was on the recommended reading list for all schools in England. There’s no shame in starting off with books aimed at kids, especially if you’re at the same level as they are.

This is an all round guide to basic French, including introductions, describing people, pets and places, and grammar. It also comes with handy summaries at the end of each chapter so you can go back over what you learned without having to flip back to the beginning or end.

This book is best for:

  • Complete novices, children
  • All round summaries
  • Introduction to vocabulary and grammar
  • Can be used as additional support to more comprehensive guides
  • Contains easy short tasks that can be done daily

2. French with Ease Assimil

If you’ve made learning French your New Year’s resolution, this guide could be your best friend. It has all the tools you need to learn conversational French. It’s also great for slowly introducing new grammar concepts as you progress. This is a natural guide to learning French at its most basic level, and provides handy insights to reiterate points you’ve already mastered.

This book is best for:

  • Novices, people revisiting French
  • Step-by-step guidance in simple terms
  • Progressional approach to grammar and vocabulary
  • Easy 30-40 minute tasks that can be incorporated into your daily routine

3. Fluent in French: The most complete study guide to learn French

If you only have English in your linguistic arsenal, a good place to start is knowing how to learn a language. Put into the context of French, this book could be considered a staple for complete novices.

This book should be used as an aide to conquer your fears about learning French, and developing a natural way that will elongate your motivation. It debunks myths, teaches you how to engage in French and personalize your methods. It is not a guide to French, but rather an excellent accompaniment before you delve into your grammar and vocabulary building books.

This book is best for: 

  • People who have never studied or learned a language before
  • People who struggled to learn languages in a classroom (conventional methods)
  • Understanding what learning a language requires of you
  • Opening up your eyes to your own preferred language learning methods

4. Schaum’s Outline of French Vocabulary (4th edition)

Every beginner to learning French needs to have access to a good French vocabulary book. This all-round summary guide goes through situations topic-by-topic, so there’s no confusing leaps from pets to “at the restaurant” on the same page. This book helps to familiarize yourself with new words by putting them into the 320 available practice exercises.

Word of caution: the Kindle edition does not, sadly, allow you to zoom in on images. If you prefer to work on paper or with physical copies, this is most likely your best aide.

This book is best for: 

  • Introducing plenty of new French vocabulary without being overwhelming
  • Learning new groups of words relating to a single topic
  • Utilizing new words in real-life situations
  • People who like to put new information into outlined practice
  • People who prefer physical copies to digital

5. Practice Makes Perfect: Basic French (2nd edition)

Finally, this book is a comprehensive guide which will introduce you to French with structured lessons and plenty of writing practice. If you’re learning French on your own, this is as good a substitute for a teacher as you’ll get, digital or otherwise.

Independent learners will enjoy the support the individual lessons and chapters provide. It also provides links to an accompanying app to give additional support. You will require a French dictionary and grammar guide as well as this book if you want to move beyond beginner’s French.

This book is best for: 

  • Newbies to French who need lessons broken down succinctly and without overwhelming information
  • People who want to build up their vocabulary and understand how to put new words into sentences/phrases
  • Independent learners who find digital language learning methods rushed or incomplete
  • Learners who need to improve their writing skills in French

Best grammar books to learn French

It might be the bane of every French learner’s existence, but there’s no way you’ll master French if you don’t get a handle on the grammar rules. Does this verb take avoir or etre? Une or un? Le, la or les? It can be a minefield of information if it isn’t presented accurately, and straightforwardly. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on Google for everything. Here are the best grammar books to learn French.

6. Practice Makes Perfect: Complete French Grammar (4th Edition)

If you aren’t confident enough to move on to learning French grammar in French just yet, this guide is perfect for you. You should be able to have basic conversational skills in French, and a fairly broad vocabulary before you reach for it.

This is a compendium of information that I strongly recommend you use little and often. It’s in-depth, and is narrowed down into chapters that are manageable. This also works as a refresher for those of us who have forgotten a lot of what our past teachers implored us to learn by heart (I’m looking at you, passé simple!).

This book is best for:

  • Refresher information on French grammar
  • Understanding principles of French grammar with English translations
  • Using as a guide in tandem with vocabulary and beginner’s guidebooks

7. Easy French Step-by-Step (1st Edition)

The title might seem like an oxymoron, but actually this is a great introductory guide to French grammar. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this as a standalone guide to learning French for beginners. However, when paired with other guides, this book can provide you with standard French grammar rules and simple explanations of how to implement them into your written French.

This book is best for:

  • Improving written French
  • People who prefer eBooks or paper books (no audio)
  • Pairing with another guide to master French grammar
  • Being introduced to French grammar slowly but surely

8. Schaum’s Outline of French Grammar (7th Edition)

This is one of the best value for money French grammar books on the online market. At around $10, this has plenty of examples and helpful tables to help beginners enter into French grammar comfortably. The Kindle edition is user-friendly and of high quality if you prefer a more interactive approach to learning. If you’re just starting out, you’ll also appreciate that it contains explanations and translations in English.

This book is best for: 

  • Beginners looking to get into French grammar rules easily
  • Independent learners who are self-teaching and need structure to their lessons
  • Basic understanding of principles relating to French grammar

9. Les Exercices De Grammaire

This is a comprehensive guide best suited for intermediate to advanced French learners. Since it is written in French, your vocabulary needs to be fairly extensive in order to understand the lessons. It includes real-life examples of how to conjugate verbs and how to understand the rules of French grammar.

This is an excellent book to help develop reading, writing and speaking skills to step up your game. It is thorough, practical, and has multiple exercises to help you put the rules into context.

This book is best for:

  • Putting grammar into context
  • Increasing your reading comprehension of French (if you’re fairly advanced)
  • Providing concise breakdowns of grammar chapter by chapter

10. Grammaire Progressive du Francais

If you’ve just passed the threshold from beginner to intermediate, and you’re fairly confident reading basic French, then this is the grammar guide for you. It’s full of examples, practical settings and helpful exercises to help you get to grips with the trickier rules. Some reviewers say this is “too easy”, but I would argue it’s a great refresher to help you sustain momentum.

As you learn new French grammar rules, it’s helpful to repeat what you’ve learned so it doesn’t get buried under new information. Word of warning: this guide is written in French, so I wouldn’t recommend this to total beginners.

This book is best for: 

  • Intermediate French speakers looking to refresh grammar rules
  • Access to helpful exercises to implement French grammar
  • People who want to move beyond beginner level and onto more challenging topics

Best French textbooks

Finding good books to learn French, especially when it comes to textbooks, can be tricky. Here’s a list of a few that will help you put your knowledge into practice, even if some of them are stuffed with cheesy images from the ‘80s (sorry about that!). If you’re studying with another person, I urge you to resist the temptation to point at these pictures and tell your companion “that’s you”. It’s distracting and unhelpful – so I’m told. Je suis désolée, Madame W.

11. GCSE French AQA Complete Revision & Practice

If you’re new to French and want a simple, fairly broad but concise textbook to work through, this is a great initial option. Again, I used this myself when I was studying for my French exams during high school.

It covers basic grammar principles, as well as vocabulary and contemporary topics that younger people will relate to especially. Sure, you’re unlikely to visit Paris and find someone whom you need to describe your pet dog to. But there are tests to help you make sure you’ve understood rules of French grammar and being imaginative with speech.

This book is best for:

  • People studying for French exams
  • Beginners just getting started with French
  • Revisiting topics and getting tested on them
  • Learning modern vocabulary relating to social media and current events

12. The Useful French Textbook

For complete beginners with no previous knowledge of French, this is a diamond in the rough. This guide scales back the information inside into sizable chunks which are manageable and easy-to-read. Also contains clearly laid-out tables, pronunciation guidance and grammar comprehension advice.

This book is best for:

  • Novices who want to learn with a less academic approach.
  • Concise information that is easily absorbed and feels friendly.
  • An all-round guide to getting to grips with beginner’s French
  • Side-by-side comparisons in English and French

13. Complete Language Pack: French

Visual learners who want to start off by learning enough French to get by on a visit to France will enjoy this set of three books. Images stick in our minds easier than words sometimes, and if that’s you then this might help get you started. It also comes with access to apps to help improve your pronunciation, and phrases are spelled phonetically to help you if you’re doing some quiet study.

This book is best for:

  • Travelers or first-time prospective visitors to France who want to know the basics.
  • People who need images to cement phrases to memory
  • Useful for understanding the basics of French pronunciation

14. French Made Simple: Learn to speak and understand French quickly and easily

Each of us struggle with different elements of learning a new language. Books to learn French differ in expertise and audience, but don’t be put off by the complexity of the title. If you’re great at reading but struggle with speaking French, I recommend French Made Simple. This is a guide that will improve your conversational skills in French, as well as provide tips for French grammar and vocabulary building.

This book is best for: 

  • Beginner to intermediate French learners who want to improve their conversational skills
  • Handy extra guide if you need structured lessons

Best Audiobooks to learn French

We’re all different so the techniques we adapt to learn languages must be as unique as ourselves. Listening to books to learn French is as vital to grasping the language as reading and writing – especially if you intend to converse in it. So, here are our top five recommended audiobooks to learn French.

15. A Step By Step French Study Guide for Beginners

This is another addition to the list of French learning books for beginners. Using this resource, you’ll be able to hear proper pronunciation, learn cultural references and even have grammar rules explained to you by French speakers.

This is a modern and fresh guide to learning French which is easy to listen to as you walk, do chores or sit down to focus. It also has guided meditation in French, so it even provides peace of mind to combat the inevitable stress of trying to learn a language.

This book is best for: 

  • Beginners who need to become accustomed to hearing French
  • Learners who need to improve their listening and comprehension skills
  • People who want an up-to-date French audio guide

16. French Short Stories for Beginners

In need of a challenge? Use this audiobook as one of your weekly challenges to help you improve your confidence responding to French.

As well as 15 stories to listen to, the narrators pose questions in French to test your listening skills. There’s also an accompanying PDF free of charge so you can slow down the audio and follow along. Make notes as you go along or bookmark your favorites – you’ll be narrating them to other people in no time.

This book is best for:

  • Learners in a rut of filling out textbooks looking for new challenges
  • Inquisitive people who want to familiarize themselves with spoken French
  • Building a more extensive vocabulary

17. French Verb Drills Mega Bundle

Textbooks can be useful for learning by rote, but sometimes you need someone to hammer the message home. If you struggle to learn that way, you might be better off listening to grammar drills. This audiobook is excellent for practicing French verbs in an interactive manner, as well as helping with pronunciation.

This book is best for: 

  • Beginners who need help to master French grammar
  • Aiding pronunciation
  • Additional interactive practice of listening and responding to French

18. 101 Conversations in Simple French

Don’t be fooled by the title. I would recommend this French audiobook only when you’ve moved into and beyond the intermediate level of French. Whilst the words themselves are fairly straight-forward, if you aren’t used to hearing spoken French you may feel overwhelmed. However, this is a great resource for hearing “real” French, as these are dialogs you’re likely to overhear in French-speaking countries.

This book is best for:

  • Intermediate learners
  • Building up conversational skills through audio
  • Increasing your vocabulary

19. Learn French for Intermediates

For those who have studied French before but just need a refresher, this is a great option. When you choose books to learn French, it isn’t just about the language itself. This book does a great job of introducing idioms and reigniting passion for French culture. The narrator gives explanations and summaries throughout so no need to pause every two seconds to make sure you understood what you’ve heard!

This book is best for: 

  • Revisiting basics without getting bogged down in details
  • Learning idioms and getting cultural context
  • Contains writing challenges you can do after you listen to chapters

20. Matilda (French Version)

Finally, Matilda. Yes, the Roald Dahl book. It doesn’t have to be Matilda, but listening to kids’ stories in French is a fun way to practice listening to French and test your vocabulary.

Pick a story you’re already familiar with from childhood and give it a listen. Since you already know how the story goes, you’ll be able to follow along and recognize the storyline without much effort. Matilda is my favorite for this because the characters are easily discernible, the story is simple and this version doesn’t sound ridiculous when slowed down.

This book is best for: 

  • Keeping your French lessons fun and exciting
  • Beginners in need of French listening practice
  • Getting used to humorous texts and understanding how humor translates into other languages

Tips & tricks for learning French

Even if you bought, read and listened to all of these, there’s always the chance you won’t get the results you want. There’s plenty of advice out there. And not just the usual stuff like “join a class”, because the glaringly obvious can become infuriating when you’re trying but not getting anywhere. Luckily, I’ve felt your pain so hopefully what worked for me will work for you too!

1. Download some apps

Apps can take the sting off of feeling like your face is stuck in a book. Duolingo is good for getting started, but the lessons can get repetitive. Babbel is a more well-rounded option that will get you speaking French fast. Alternatively, Rocket Languages has a similar setup to Duolingo but with much more interactive and useful lessons combining listening, reading, writing and speaking exercises.

For more options, read our article on the best apps to learn French.

2. Get an online French tutor

Nothing beats the some human interaction if you want to get comfortable with speaking French. Getting an online French tutor doesn’t have to be expensive either! Try the very popular Italki or Preply, where you get one-to-one tuition or conversation practice with a native speaker to learn through video calls. Read our review of Italki here.

In case you need more options, here are the best websites to find French tutors online.

3. Listen to and translate French songs

I chose Disney songs and searched French bands on Spotify. I ended up in a weird rabbit hole of French rap but found it very useful when I was 15 and trying to make friends with the French exchange students at my school. Disney songs are great because they’re catchy and won’t get out of your head no matter how hard you try.

4. Find a French news network for children

Reading the news in French when I was studying got too complicated for me. So I gave up. Then I found Le Journal Des Enfants. This is a great way to keep up-to-date and learn at the same time, plus it introduces you to vocabulary most guides won’t cover. When you’re happy with how it’s going, move on to adult news outlets.

5. Put French subtitles on English movies

Well, I told my mom it was revision. I’m not sure she believed me. But actually, this worked amazingly well, especially when I re-watched movies. Putting the audio into French works too.

6. Listen to French podcasts

There are loads of them out there, and what you like will depend a little on your taste. Some apps like Duolingo have French podcasts on Spotify, but personally I prefer something a little less lesson-like. Coffee Break French has neat and short episodes where they go to French cities and talk about local history, and discuss vital topics like “do you prefer summer or winter?”

Before you go, check out this epic list of 50+ apps, podcasts, courses, YouTube channels and movies to learn French. There’s surely something in there that will completely change the way you’ve been learning French!

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