Tag Archives: french

Frequent French Words in Lexique Database

Frequent French Words in Lexique Database

French Language Database: Lexique

Lexique is a free database of frequent French words that you can download (text file or spreadsheet) or consult online. It contains 140,000 French words that can easily be filtered or sorted to look at patterns such as most frequent words or phrases, number of homophones, parts of speech, etc. The corpus that it is based on includes both literature and film subtitles so you can also compare differences among books and films. You can also search the corpus for the sentences containing certain words to see how they are used in context.

Frequent French Words: Verbs

One aspect of Lexique that I prefer over other databases or frequency lists is that verbs are not only included as the infinitive form. All conjugated forms are included so you can easily see which tense or person/number is more frequent. Auxiliary verbs (avoir and être used in compound tenses) are separated from regular verbs, so if you are interested in form only rather than meaning, you’ll need to add up the frequencies. Homonyms such as va (imperative) and va (present tense) are not separated, but different parts of speech are, i.e. danse as a verb vs. danse a noun are two separate entries in the database.

If you download the Excel spreadsheet, apply a filter to only show AUX and VER, then sort the list by frequency, you can get some interesting on data on verb forms. In the table below, you will see that the imperfect tense is quite common in books. There are also a few conditional forms, but no future or subjunctive, in the top 30 verb conjugations.

Verb Form Infinitive Aux/Verb Frequency Conjugation
est être VER 6331.76 ind:pre:3s;
était être VER 3688.99 ind:imp:3s;
avait avoir AUX 3116.42 ind:imp:3s;
a avoir AUX 2926.69 ind:pre:3s;
ai avoir AUX 2119.12 ind:pre:1s;
a avoir VER 1669.39 ind:pre:3s;
est être AUX 1600.27 ind:pre:3s;
était être AUX 1497.84 ind:imp:3s;
avait avoir VER 1496.15 ind:imp:3s;
été être VER 818.99 par:pas;
sont être VER 713.18 ind:pre:3p;
être être AUX 685.47 inf;
avoir avoir AUX 649.26 inf;
ai avoir VER 619.05 ind:pre:1s;
avais avoir AUX 566.76 ind:imp:2s;
suis être AUX 560.47 ind:pre:1s;
ont avoir AUX 553.31 ind:pre:3p;
étaient être VER 534.19 ind:imp:3p;ind:pre:3p;sub:pre:3p;
avaient avoir AUX 524.26 ind:imp:3p;
être être VER 505.61 inf;;inf;;inf;;
aurait avoir AUX 491.15 cnd:pre:3s;
eu avoir VER 436.76 par:pas;
étais être VER 403.11 ind:imp:1s;ind:imp:2s;
étaient être AUX 393.85 ind:imp:3p;
sont être AUX 386.35 ind:pre:3p;
avais avoir VER 351.96 ind:imp:1s;ind:imp:2s;
as avoir AUX 294.46 ind:pre:2s;
serait être VER 285.27 cnd:pre:3s;
fut être VER 284.46 ind:pas:3s;
es être VER 256.62 ind:pre:2s;

This is something to keep in mind when learning/teaching French. Perhaps we should introduce the conditional before the future? Most textbooks tend to do the opposite, especially since the future and conditional use the same stems. However, the imperfect and conditional use the same endings, so the same argument could be made for teaching them together – which is strengthened by the fact that conditional forms are more frequent than future forms, as the Lexique database indicates.

I’ve always disagreed with teaching tenses separately (going from present to passé composé, then adding imperfect, followed by future, conditional, subjunctive, etc.) It seems more useful to me to teach the most common verbs and their forms regardless of the tense. This is why I include imperfect and future forms when I first introduce avoir and être in my French Language Tutorial – though now I see that I should perhaps have included conditional instead.

Thanks to corpus linguistics techniques, it is easier to design language learning materials that represent actual language use. Part of my PhD dissertation explores this topic if you’re interested in learning more.

Let me know if there are other databases of frequent French words that include conjugated verb forms instead of just infinitives!

Polyglot Board Game - the fun way to learn languages

Polyglot Board Game is the Fun Way to Learn Languages

Language enthusiasts, if you have ever wondered if a multilingual language learning board game exists, the answer is yes! Polyglot board game was created by Polyglot Inc. of Miami, Florida, in 1987. I don’t know if the company is still active or if they have created other language learning resources, but let’s take a look at this amazing game.


Polyglot Board Game

Polyglot Board Game

My game is obviously a bit faded… but at only $14.95, it was a great deal!

From the back of the box: A mind expanding educational game designed to enrich the understanding and knowledge of foreign languages. Play this fast paced exciting game of words and phrases in one or up to six languages. You’ll not only race for the win, but learn new words, phrases and better pronunciation for languages you want to improve or master. Elevate your command of ENGLISH, SPANISH, GERMAN, FRENCH, ITALIAN, and YIDDISH.


How to play Polyglot

Instructions are included in all of the languages, except Yiddish (though it could just be missing from my game). Read the instructions in English below. Click on the images to make them larger.

Polyglot Board Game Instructions Polyglot Board Game Instructions 2


Polyglot Vocabulary Cards

The two decks of cards include 1,800 words in each of the six languages plus 150 commonly used phrases. Phonetic pronunciation is included for each word and phrase. Even if you don’t have any polyglot friends nearby to play the game with, you can just use the cards to study vocabulary.

White cards are for individual words:

I’m not sure why the Romance languages are split up among German and Yiddish, as I think it’s easier to learn them side-by-side. [Take a look at my Romance languages comparative vocabulary lists if you want to learn several languages together and be able to choose which languages are next to each other.]

Yellow cards are for phrases:


The Polyglot Board

And the Tower of Babel board:

Polyglot Board Game board that resembles the Tower of Babel

I bought my Polyglot board game at the International Book Centre in Shelby Township in Michigan back in 2005.

If you’d like your own copy, you are in luck because there are some third-party sellers offering it at Amazon!

Has anyone else ever heard of this game or played it? Know of any other polyglot or multilingual board games?

French for Spanish Speakers Courses at California State University Long Beach

French for Spanish Speakers Courses at CSU Long Beach

Did you know that California State University at Long Beach offers French for Spanish speakers courses? They also offer similar courses in Italian for Spanish speakers that emphasize the similarities between these Romance languages. I haven’t heard of other universities (yet) that offer courses like this, though the University of Texas at Austin’s Portuguese courses usually include many students who already learned Spanish and their Tá Falado podcast is designed with Spanish speakers in mind.

Fundamentals of French for Spanish Speakers Course at Cal State Long BeachFundamentals of French for Spanish Speakers course description at Cal State Long Beach

The professors at Cal State Long Beach have also been working with local high school and community colleges to help them develop their own courses. The concept of intercomprehension and taking advantage of the similarities between languages to learn them faster and easier is nothing new in Europe, but I’m always surprised about the few resources available for learning multiple related languages together in the US or for English speakers. I hope more universities, especially Hispanic-serving institutions, follow Cal State’s lead.

Please let us know in the comments if you’ve heard of other schools or universities that offer courses like this!

If you are interested in learning several languages simultaneously, don’t forget to check out our comparative languages resources, including videos for learning French and Spanish together.

Learn the Romance Languages Together: Resources You Need

Learn the Romance Languages Together: Resources You Need

If you want to learn the Romance languages together, you need to use resources that compare the languages.

Romance language books written in English

One of the oldest books intended to help you learn the Romance languages together is Comparative Grammar of French, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese Languages by Edwin A. Notley. This book was published in 1868 so it’s in the public domain and you can download a PDF that I created. Since it is so old, however, there are few spellings and words that are no longer used in the contemporary languages, so you will need to augment your study with more recent materials. Some copies show up on amazon.com every once in a while, but at a ridiculous price ($1,500!)

The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages by Frederick Bodmer actually compares four Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) as well as four Germanic languages (German, Dutch, Swedish and Danish), and offers advice on how to study multiple languages at the same time. Though a bit outdated, it is still my favorite book. You can get a copy at amazon.com for a relatively cheap price. I previously posted a review of this book if you’d like to know more.

Learn the Romance Languages Together - The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages

The Seven Sieves: How to read all the Romance languages right away by EuroCom is a new initiative to promote intercomprehension of Romance languages. You can buy the book in PDF or paperback through Shaker Verlag (site in German) and the paperback through amazon.com.

Another great book is Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Spanish and Italian by O.H. Heatwole. The main drawback is that there are only three languages, and since it’s out of print, it can be a bit difficult to find online. Third-party sellers do sell it on Amazon but it’s usually rather expensive.

Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Spanish and Italian


Romance language books not written in English

EuRom5 (2011) is the most recent multilingual book I’ve seen yet. It focuses on learning to read and comprehend five Romance languages. The book is written in French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese (so it is designed for native/advanced users of any of those languages) with texts and audio files available on the website. You can buy it from dicoland.com or hoepli.it for under 30€. Amazon.fr also sells it for 30-40€ and a few copies are available on amazon.com. This book is not quite as “comparative” as the other books in the list since it offers 20 articles in one language with some words glossed in the other 4 languages (i.e. the entire articles are not translated in the other languages). You can also read my summary/review.

One of my multilingual books: EuRom5 - Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

Comprendre les langues romanes: Du français à l’espagnol, au portugais, à l’italien & au roumain. Méthode d’intercompréhension by Paul Teyssier (2004) is obviously written in French for French-speakers to learn to comprehend Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian. A new edition came out in 2012, but I don’t know if/how it is different from the 2004 edition, which is what I bought. Both editions are available via amazon.com or amazon.fr or you can order it from Librairie Portugaise & Brésilienne in Paris for 29€, and they do ship worldwide. I believe translations of this book in the other languages exist, but I’m not sure where to buy them.

One of my multilingual books: Comprendre les langues romanes - Understand the Romance languages


Romance language resources at ielanguages.com

If you want to study vocabulary lists to learn the Romance languages, I have many lists available at Romance Languages Vocabulary Lists as well as some verb conjugations. The tables are set up so that English is first, followed by French, Italian, Spanish and then Portuguese. I chose this order due to how similar the languages are to each other. However, this may not be the order that you want to study the Romance languages in. Luckily, you can drag the columns in any order that you like! Simply click on the name of the language in the first column and drag it left or right. You can also hide/show languages that you are not studying or when you want to quickly test your memory. A few topics also have fill-in-the-blank exercises, such as days of the week:

Multilingual vocabulary lists - Days in the Romance languages available at ielanguages.com

Lastly, I’ve been creating videos that teach French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese together. (I have also created a few videos to teach French and Spanish together.) Subscribe to the Youtube channel to be notified when any new videos are available.

I am really interested in finding other books, websites, or videos that help you learn the Romance languages together. Has anyone found other useful resources?

EuRom5 - Learn to read five Romance languages

Review of EuRom5: Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

Review of EuRom5: Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

EuRom5 is a multilingual book and accompanying website for learning to read and understand five Romance languages (Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and French). It is written for a native or advanced speaker of one of these languages, so there are no English translations. The book is divided into three main sections: the introduction that explains the theoretical background and research on comprehension of multiple languages, 20 short articles for each of the five languages with some words and phrases glossed in the other languages, and a grammar section with tables to show the main differences in structures among the languages. The texts are not translated into the other languages so there are 100 articles total from various European newspapers and news websites.

EuRom5 Cover

The major selling point for this book is the website which offers recordings of all of the articles that you can listen to online or download. You will need to register for an account by answering a question about the book (something like, what is the third word in the fourth Italian text?). Even though you can choose any one of the five languages for the website interface, some parts are still left in Italian. Once you’ve created an account and logged in, click on Matériel didactique or go directly to the Textes page from here. (Signing in through the Description and Textes links seems to put you in a loop that keeps telling you to log in when you are already logged in.)

You can also turn on or off various notes and translations so that when you mouse over a word, you can see translations in the other languages. If you listen to the recording online, each phrase will be highlighted in yellow so you can follow along while reading.

For some grammatical structures (in pink), you can also click on the word(s) to open a PDF of the grammar tables from the back of the book.

Since this is a European project, the articles and accents are obviously European as well. You can buy the book on amazon.fr, dicoland.com, or through the publisher hoepli.it for 25€ to 40€ (plus shipping).

If you’re interested in other multilingual books, check out a previous post on Comparative and Multilingual Books for Learning Languages Simultaneously that I continue to update.

Trilingual Books (English-Spanish-French) for Children

I am constantly looking for trilingual book (English-Spanish-French) for my young niece and nephew. So far I have found two series on Amazon.com:

Little Pim, which has 4 books of numbers, colors, feelings and animals as well as tabs for little fingers to pull

I love to sleep and I love to eat, which are also touch and feel books

Do you know of other trilingual books?

Basic Phrases with Pronunciation: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Swedish Available

If you’d like to study basic phrases for French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, or Swedish, I’ve created new pages with the list of phrases and mp3s for each phrase (instead of one mp3 for all the phrases together). Now you can listen to each phrase individually before trying out the audio flashcards to test yourself.

Basic Phrases with Pronunciation: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Swedish Available



Dutch and Danish will be coming next, and eventually I’d like to have audio on the Romance Languages Phrases and Germanic Languages Phrases pages as well.

Classroom Games for Introductory / Beginning French Classes

Every week in my first semester French class, we played games to review and reinforce what we did in the previous class. For other French teachers out there who are looking for more activities, these are what I actually used in my class this year. A lot of these I found on Pinterest, where I have a Teaching French at Uni board. Some of these classroom games require little to no prep, but having dice and maybe some playing pieces on hand is always a good idea.

Classroom Games for Beginning French Classes

Hangman is the first game I start with to practice the alphabet, though I change it to Escape from Alcatraz (draw the stickman jumping into the water and escaping from the island) to make it somewhat less depressing.

Bingo is an obvious choice for practicing numbers, and I have also used it with regular vocabulary. I only included the English words and did not allow them to write down the French words, but they did have to recite the words in French in order to win. I used a bingo card generator in Excel.

Battleship is pretty handy for practicing verb conjugations and putting sentences together. I used the clothes and porter one from the French Teachers in New Zealand site, and made my own for practicing être and aller with prepositions and places. [download .doc]

For family members, we play le jeu de sept familles and I have them alternate with using est-ce que tu as and est-ce que vous avez. I bought 5 decks from amazon.fr for about 20 euros instead of making my own.

Guess Who ? / Qui est-ce ? is the obvious choice for describing physical appearance. I just pasted in Francophone names. [download .jpg]

Où se trouve ___ ? is a speaking activity for prepositions and places that I adapted from a Spanish version. [download .xls]

Faire expressions just requires a dice. Students must say a sentence using an expression with faire in order to move to that square. [download .doc]

To review vocabulary at the end of the semester, we played Scattergories / Le petit bac, which requires virtually no preparation.

Jeopardy was also great for review at the end of the semester. This site has lots of Powerpoint games to choose from.

Other games that I thought about  using but didn’t have the time to make (or money to buy) include:

Uno to practice verb conjugations (you must play either the same verb or the same conjugation); Teacher’s Discovery created Verbo

Connect 4 – you just need to create the boards with words/phrases or pictures and have some playing pieces

Word Roll – somewhat similar to Connect 4, especially if you only have dice and not enough playing pieces

Alphabet Game – students must think quickly to name words that begin with the letter they chose

Apples to Apples would be a good review of vocabulary. Teacher’s Discovery has a game called Cognate Frenzy that they bill as their version of Apples to Apples for first year French students.

Slap and Spoons are two card games that I’d like to try next year, while Pictionary, Taboo, and Password seem like they would be fun as well. If I do create more games for next semester, I will update this post!

Update I: Teaching Tools Tip of the Day: Dry Erase Sheets and Dry Erase Pockets

Update II: Bescherelle Le Jeu and Other French Language Games