So you're looking for French classes online? Or perhaps a Frantastique review?
You want something fun, something you'll want to use, and something that will actually improve your French?
(After all – you do primarily want to improveyour French, right?)
Well, you're in the right place.
I'll give you a video walkthrough of the key features of the Frantastique platform, and how to know if it's a good fit for you to learn French online.
After reviewing the
If you want the short summary first, here it is:
Frantastique sends you a new, 15-minute lesson every weekday, based on a fun (somewhat eccentric) storyline. You follow the story through video, audio and text, and study the contents through interactive exercises. The system is a “living textbook” – it learns what you do and don't know. As a result, the lesson contents are based on your weaknesses. This means you learn efficiently, without wasting time on material you already know. Intelligent, effective and entertaining!
Levels: A1 (Post-Beginner) – C1 (Advanced)
Why Choose To Learn French Online?
(Click play below…)
My view on choosing an online courses to learn French (or any other language) is that you have to have a good reason to go the online route.
After all, textbooks are tried and tested – why jump ship to an online French course simply because we're in the internet age?
Unfortunately, I've seen far too many websites and apps try to be “the best way to learn French” online, only to miss the point entirely by gamifying everything and depriving you of the hard work you must put in if you're going to learn French properly.
(See this discussion I had with Luca Lampariello about language learning and technology)
So, the challenge for any piece of language software is this: “How does it improve upon a good textbook?”
For me, French software can improve upon a French textbook only by exploiting technology to improve the learning experience in a way not possible on the printed page.
French textbooks have the following disadvantages:
- You're stuck with the contents, which have been pre-planned and written for a generic audience – not for you, with your unique strengths, weaknesses and learning preferences
- The medium is limited to text (and a bit of audio)
- You get no personalised feedback
- It's you vs. the textbook – it's down to you to study, or you fail!
- Key meta-learning strategies – such asrevision of things you find uniquely challenging – are left up to you (textbooks can provide some revision of general points, but it's always generic, and not based on your needs)
- Textbooks become outdated
- You have to carry your French textbook around, and sync the audio files with all your devices, meaning you're often not able to study when you it would suit you
These are the core disadvantages of textbooks as a medium for learning French.
And it's for these reasons precisely, that this Frantastique review is going to be so positive – it uses technology to offer effective solutions to all these drawbacks, creating a very good learning approach to learning.
For this reason, Frantastique has earned it's its stripe stripes in my view, and should be taken seriously as a contender to the simple textbook.
As we get into the rest of the review, bear these points in mind and think about how how it would suit your needs.
The Frantastique Approach to Learn French Online
So what exactly is Frantastique anyway?
Let's take a second to cover exactly what the software is, because when you hear this, you'll quickly discover whether it's right for you or not.
Frantastique offers a very specific and well-thought-through programme and approach for learning French online.
It's works as follows:
- There's a new lesson to take every day, and you receive an email daily to remind you about it
- The main content of Frantastique is the story of Victor Hugo (brought back to life) travelling through the Francophone world!
- You get personalised corrections to the exercises you complete, which then inform the rest of the course, which adapts to your level as you go
The storyline is eccentric, and is delivered through video, audio and comic book strips.
It's funny, entertaining, and is based on very practical, useful French which you're actually going to want to use in real life (the same cannot be said of many textbooks).
In that sense, it's definitely something different, not your average French course (probably a big plus for many people).
Lessons are designed to take about 15 minutes each, and you learn through a variety of interactive exercises that take full advantage of the online medium to help you learn in different ways. (Again, a big advantage over the textbook.)
Whereas with a textbook you're left to your own devices and discover the material at your own pace, Frantastique actually sets out to limit the amount you can study at any one time.
This might not be a good fit for certain people who are very independent in their study, but will work extremely well for busy people who want a clear, structured learning system to follow:
- You get a 15-minute lesson a day
- You get an email when your next lesson is ready
- (Plus follow up reminders if you fall behind)
- You get a break on weekends, so there's some breathing space
This strikes me as a bold, yet extremely effective approach to guiding learning French, as I've always found most people fall down not in the learning of the language, but in the execution of the learning – i.e. turning up to study every day!
In the vast majority of cases, simply sticking to a 15-minute a day study routine, but actually doing it will be a very good move, and result in more French being learnt over the long-term!
Learning French Through Story
Story is a fantastic way to learn, and I've discovered this personally through the popularity of my short story books.
What makes story so effective as a vehicle for learning French is that it takes your focus away from an intellectual or abstract understanding of the language, and towards the meaning of what's being said – that is, the meaning of something real, in this case a story.
In other words, by following the plot of a story, you get to see grammar and vocabulary in action (not simply reduced to a set of rules), which makes it more memorable.
Textbooks often take a similar approach by basing their lessons around dialogues instead of stories, which can also be useful.
By basing the entire course around an eccentric story about Victor Hugo, Frantastique gives you a focus for your learning, and creates a rich environment in which to study the nuts and bolts of the French language.
Features of Frantastique Lessons
So, I've already covered the ethos of the course, but let's move this Frantastique review onto the detail — where the devil is often to be found!
In this case, the detailed parts of the Frantastique system are where it most holds up to scrutiny.
The exercises in each lesson are all based around the story.
When you complete the exercises, you get immediate corrections, so you can easily see what you have and haven't got right.
French grammar concepts are explained thoroughly.
However, because everything takes place within the context of the story, it doesn't come across as too “grammar-heavy”.
After each story, you're shown a transcription of what you've heard, and this is where you find some very nice features of the software…
Once you have the transcript in front of you, you can go through and select the specific French words and phrases that are of interest to you.
You might find a phrase you think is cool, and you want to remember it for later.
Or it might just be a few words you haven't understood.
Either way, you select them, and from there, the algorithm kicks in.
Automated Recycling – Technology At Its Best
Frantastique remembers which words you've marked as interesting, and will automatically bring them back in future lessons for you to revise and study.
The fact that this is automated brings a huge benefit to the learning process.
It's very hard to have the discipline to systematically revise difficult vocabulary when you're studying solo with a textbook, and so this is a great example of how technology can be a genuine aid to the learning process, and not just a gimmick.
Likeswise, there is always a little checkbox after every section which reads: “Inutile de réviser” (Lit: Useless to revise).
If something appears in the lesson that you already know well, simply check this box and it will exclude it from future lessons.
Compare this to your average textbook, which is prewritten for a generic “French student”.
Think about how much wasted material there is because there is no way for the textbook to know what the student already knows or struggles with.
This, for me, is an example of technology at its best.
It's for this reason that a 15-minute Frantastique lesson can actually be so effective – very little of it is wasted.
Having completed the lesson for the day, the exercises you got wrong, or the language you marked as “interesting” is registered, and at the start of the next day's lesson, the first thing you'll do is revise those very things.
It's also worth mentioning again the fact that the French you are taught in Frantastique is well-balanced and highly practical.
You're not being prepared for a degree in French literature here, you're learning things that people really say.
For example, within the first couple of lessons, you're introduced to:
- Ta gueule! (clearly marked so you know it's offensive!)
- Quoi de neuf?
Too risqué for some, perhaps, but undeniably useful.
How Frantastique Is Delivered
The teaching methodology, as we've seen, is sound.
But as many failed French students have discovered in the past, the difficulty in learning French often lies in the execution – i.e. actually turning up and studying every day!
Frantastique does pretty much as good a job as it's possible to do to help you keep up your side of the bargain.
- The daily email acknowledges the fact you probably spend much of your day in your inbox, so are more likely to receive the reminder to study
- The 15-minute lesson length is practical and leaves you with few excuses not to complete your daily lesson
- The website itself is simple and easy to use. It's not the prettiest or most attractive website in the world, I must say, and I would prefer something a little more modern, but it's functional nonetheless, and it works
- The iPhone/Samsung app, on the other hand, is great-looking, and works really well, which brings me to another point…
The fact that you have the option of desktop or app to study every day means you really have all options available to you.
Anyone with a daily commute is going to find it very easy to get their study done.
Something else which might be seen as an afterthought, but actually proves extremely useful, is the Cahier de cours.
This is a part of the website, where you have
detailed notes about everything you've studies on the course so far.
Having everything in one place (and the fact it's personalised to your results), gives you the option of stepping outside the regimented one-lesson-per-day format and doing some revision in your own time, or simply looking something up that was on your mind.
The Cahier de cours contains:
- Your latest lessons and corrections
- Statistics on your level, progress and participation rate
- Vocabulary and grammar pointers from your lessons
- All previous story episodes in readable formats
So, not only does it give you all your personalised learning in one place (try getting that from a textbook!), but it's extremely helpful for tracking your progress, and knowing how far you've come in your French.
Given that many French learners lose motivation due to the lack of a sense of progress, this feature shouldn't be underestimated.
Frantastique Review Conclusion
I was impressed.
Frantastique is a well-designed, creative piece of software that you're going to want to keep coming back to.
The cost of a subscription is reasonable: US$26 (£19, €23) per month.
This, I think, is a no-brainer when you consider the high likelihood you'll follow through on your studying, and therefore learn French faster.
Clearly, what you won't get from this software is speaking practice. Although the lessons do frequently prompt you to speak and/or select appropriate responses to questions, this is no substitute for the real thing.
It's also not for complete beginners.
If you're just starting out learning French you'll probably need a tutor to help you with Frantastique at the beginning.
However, if you're looking for a strong foundation in French, delivered in an entertaining format that you're going to want to use every day, Frantastique ticks all the boxes and comes with my strong seal of approval.
Hope you found this Frantastique review useful!
Have you used Frantastique? Do you have another favourite French resource? Let me know in the comments below!