Category Archives: Teaching 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!

Teaching and learning French with Buzzfeed

Teaching and learning French with Buzzfeed

If your students already use Buzzfeed to waste time online, make sure they know about the French language version so they can turn that wasted time into learning opportunities. Not only is French Buzzfeed useful for learning informal language, it is also useful for learning about cultural differences.

Learning French language and culture with Buzzfeed

The list, 28 choses bizarres pour tous les Français qui visitent les États-Unis, is great content for teaching and learning about cultural differences between France and the US – especially for students who have never spent time in France. There is a slightly different version in English, with more explanations, which you can also use for a few more differences.

The lists include practices related to shopping, eating out, school, fashion, money, etc. which can guide discussions on what is common in America and why the French find it weird or odd. For students who have not experienced living or studying in France, they may have never thought about these American practices, and maybe assumed that they were the same in other countries. Personally, I was delighted to find out the air conditioning wasn’t so extreme and there were fewer commercials on TV, but annoyed that there were no 24 hour stores. I liked that tax is already included in prices, yet I hated having to get the server’s attention in restaurants.

These practices can also lead to deeper discussions about what is considered normal, correct, polite, rude, or strange to different cultures. Americans might not understand why people smiling all the time would be odd to the French. What is so “wrong” about flying the flag everywhere? Why do the French think that coffee must be drunk only at a café or while sitting down?

The information learned from these lists is certainly useful for students who are about to go abroad and what to expect. They will learn that 24 hour stores are very rare in France, you can’t buy food and drinks at pharmacies, waiters will ignore you in restaurants, wearing pajamas in public is not acceptable, you won’t get ice in your drinks, and you won’t have to figure out how much to leave for a tip.

Another interesting list is Comment les Américains imaginent la France vs. la réalité, which offers a more realistic look at life in France through stereotypes and the extreme opposites.

Buzzfeed has versions for other countries/languages as well: Brazil, Germany, Spain, MexicoSpanish, and Japan.

Learn Informal French, French Slang, and Spoken French Expressions with authentic and spontaneous mp3s by several native speakers of French - transcripts and exercises also included!

Learn Informal French and Spoken French with new e-book and mp3s!

Informal and Spoken French e-book + mp3s now available

The companion to French Language Tutorial, Informal and Spoken French, is now available. This e-book is also more than 200 pages with 91 mp3s and free lifetime updates. It is designed to help you learn informal French that is often missing from textbooks and grammar books.

Learn informal French, French slang, and spoken French with authentic mp3s

This new e-book includes: reductions in speech, slang vocabulary and informal expressions, proverbs and idioms, 61 authentic and spontaneous French listening resources with fill-in-the-blank exercises and transcripts, and various realia images from Europe that show how French is used in real life. Both PDF and Word formats are included for easier editing and printing of the exercises. French teachers, feel free to use them in your classes! There are also online exercises to accompany the informal vocabulary lists and listening resources. Download a sample of Informal and Spoken French (including the table of contents).

Buy Informal and Spoken French

Buy Informal and Spoken French with French Language Tutorial!

Buy French Language Tutorial and Informal and Spoken French Together!

You can also buy the two French e-books together at a discounted price. These two products together include over 450 pages, 300 mp3s, and SEVEN HOURS of recorded French.

Buy French Tutorial + Informal French

If you had previously bought French Language Tutorial via Gumroad, you will receive an e-mail with a link to purchase Informal French and Slang at a large discount. E-mail list subscribers also receive a discount on ALL products!

Thank you for supporting!

(Italian Language Tutorial will be available very soon!)

Australian Society for French Studies Conference 2014

Last week I was in Melbourne for the annual Australian Society for French Studies conference, held at RMIT. I hadn’t been to this conference since 2011 since it’s usually held in December when I am often traveling. Thanks to my frequent flyer points and no registration fee for full-time students, it ended up being a very inexpensive conference trip for me.

Australian Society for French Studies Conference

The first plenary speech, De l’aventure napoléonienne au malaise européen actuel, was given by former prime minister of France, Lionel Jospin. He gave the same talk in English, From the Napoleonic venture to the current European malaise, at a public forum the same night.

Most of the presentations I attended were on teaching or translation. One that was particularly interesting, especially for the purposes of teaching French conversation, was La discussion française comme conflit ludique: lien entre atmosphère sonore et réussite de l’échange. Conversations that were considered the most réussi by native French speakers (from France) were those that included more concessions, overlaps, refutations, questions and brouhaha as well as less silence and fewer instances of “saving face.”

A talk on Variétés du français en Louisiane: tensions sociolinguistiques d’hier à aujourd’hui was also quite interesting and made me really want to visit Louisiana the next time I’m in the US.

Next year’s conference will be at Newcastle (north of Sydney).

Bescherelle Le Jeu and Other French Language Games

If you are looking for games to buy for learning French or to use in French classes, I recommend the following: Bescherelle Le Jeu, Jeu de 7 Familles, Tam Tam Safari, and Apples to Apples.

Bescherelle Le Jeu: Le défi des conjugaisons et de la langue française is a very cool and nerdy game about the French language, mostly focusing on verb conjugations. (Click on images below for full size.)

Bescherelle Le Jeu Board

The board is supposed to simulate the French school year, beginning with la rentrée and ending with les vacances d’été. You can read the rules online at the official site, but essentially the spaces you land on are either pronouns (conjugation questions) or Bescherelle (other grammar questions). If you land on a pronoun, you also have to spin the spinner to find out which verb tense you need to conjugate for.

Bescherelle Conjugation Cards

The conjugations are mostly indicative tenses (including passé simple). Some questions on imperative, present subjunctive, and imperfect subjunctive can be found in levels two and three of the langue française cards; however, conditional is not included at all. The langue française cards also include questions on gender, plural nouns, spelling, homonyms, paronyms, etc.

Bescherelle Niveau 2 Cards

Le jeu de 7 familles, or Happy Families, is a great game for learning family members and the question do you have…? I bought several decks on and had students play in groups of 4. Most decks I found online use animals for the families, but I’ve also come across professions, nationalities, etc. There are also some free pdfs online if you’d like to print/laminate your own cards for different vocabulary topics.

Jeu de 7 familles / Happy Families

Tam Tam Safari is a deck of cards that I came across when I was last in France. There are actually many ways to play with the cards, which include both words and pictures. The deck I have is CP level 1, but there are other levels available as well.

Various ways to play Tam Tam Safari

I haven’t yet had a chance to use these cards in my classes, but I imagine you would need a few decks so that students could play in groups of 4 or 5.

Tam Tam cards

Lastly, there is a French version of Apples to Apples! I had trouble getting my hands on it since Canadian Toys R Us wouldn’t ship outside Canada and sellers on wouldn’t ship outside France. I bought it ages ago but picked it up when I was in France in June. My students really enjoyed playing this, even if the first years couldn’t understand some of the red cultural cards. The green adjective cards have four synonyms though, so it’s great for learning more vocabulary.

Apples to Apples in French cards

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

Dry erase boards and markers for use in the classroom are well worth the money. It’s no secret that I love to make games for my French classes, and I am so glad I decided to invest in both dry erase boards and dry erase pockets.

You can actually buy sheets rather than boards so they weigh less and take up less space. I bought a pack of 30 sheets that are .5 cm thick here in Australia for $40 AUD (including shipping) but I’m sure they are cheaper in the US. For comparison, individual dry erase boards tend to average at least $5 each in both countries – and when you have 20 students, that’s a bit too much.

For beginning French classes, Hangman is an obvious choice for a game to practice the alphabet. Drawing activities (such as drawing a floorplan of a house from oral descriptions of locations) are a little easier to do on dry erase boards. Trivia games are fun to do if every student or team has a dry erase board, as well as Scattergories or Pictionary.

Dry erase pockets, or shop ticket holders, are also useful for playing games in class. I recently bought a set of 25 dry erase pockets for less than $20 USD from Amazon and a bunch of ReWritables Mini Dry Erase Markers – with the not so correct French translation of sec-effacez – since they come in many colors and have erasers on the caps.

Teaching Tip: Dry Erase Pockets

Connect 4 to review verb tense and Guess What to review food and colors


The dry erase pockets waste less paper since students can easily erase and start a new game. They are also handy for preventing students from quickly writing down translations when you want them to try to work from memory and speak spontaneously instead of reading their written notes. Here are some of the games you can use them for:

Guess Who/What – I’ve used the traditional Guess Who set of people for describing physical characteristics, but I also created a Guess What version for fruits and vegetables (and colors, shapes, etc.)

Connect 4 – I’ve mostly been using this game to review verb conjugations; students must say the translation in French in order to color in that spot

Tic Tac Toe – again I’ve used this mostly for verb conjugations with the tic tac toe grid including the subjects and verbs student must use, but I change which verb tense they must use every few minutes

Bingo – obvious choice for practicing letters and numbers, but could also do vocabulary with words written in English but students will hear and have to say the words in French

Battleship – can be used for letters & numbers, subjects & verbs, or even prepositional contractions (je vais, je viens, tu vas, tu viens, etc. in top row and places/cities/countries in left column so students must say complete sentence with correct preposition or contraction)

Scrabble – this can work as a smaller version of Scrabble (don’t make the squares too small to write letters in), but since my classrooms have large tables, I am able to print out this Scrabble board on size A3 paper instead

Any other games you can recommend? I am always looking for more ways to get my students speaking in every class.

Applied Linguistics, CALL and French Conferences in 2014 and Beyond

Upcoming conferences on applied linguistics, computer-assisted language learning/teaching with technology, general language teaching & learning or French studies:

Applied Linguistics / Materials Design

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) March 22-25, 2014 closed Marriott Downtown in Portland, Oregon
Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics (CAAL / ACLA) May 26-28, 2014 ?? Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario
Materials Development Association (MATSDA) July 28-29, 2014 ?? University of Liverpool in Liverpool, England
International Applied Linguistics Association (AILA) August 10-15, 2014 closed Convention Centre in Brisbane, Australia
British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) September 4-6, 2014 March 1, 2014 University of Warwick in Coventry, England
American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) March 21-24, 2015 August 20, 2014 Fairmont Royal York, Toronto, Canada
International Applied Linguistics Association (AILA) August 2017  ?? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I don’t believe the applied linguistics associations of Australia or New Zealand will be holding conferences in 2014 since the AILA World Congress is in Australia.


Computer-Assisted Language Learning / Teaching & Learning with Technology

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO) May 6-10, 2014 closed Ohio University in Athens, Ohio
European Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (EUROCALL) August 20-23, 2014 January 31, 2014 University of Groningen in Groningen, the Netherlands
Technology for Second Language Learning (TSLL) September 12-13, 2014 May 23, 2014 Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa
Globalization and Localization in Computer-Assisted Language Learning (GloCALL) – jointly sponsored by Asia-Pacific and Pacific CALL associations October 10-11, 2014 April 30, 2014 Ahmenabad, India
Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) November 23-26, 2014 ?? University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand
International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT) August 11-15, 2015 ?? Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts


Language Teaching & Learning (Secondary and Tertiary Levels)

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
Association for Language Learning (ALL) April 4-5, 2014 ?? Lancaster University in Lancaster, England
Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics May 9-10, 2014 February 15, 2014 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
New Zealand Association of Language Teachers (NZALT) July 6-9, 2014 May 16, 2014 Convention Center in Palmerston North, New Zealand
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 21-23, 2014 January 15, 2014 Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas
Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT) with International Federation of Language Teachers Association (FIPLV) and Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association (OMLTA) March 26-28, 2015 May 1, 2014 Sheraton/Crowne Plaza, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Association (AFMLTA) July 9-12, 2015 ?? Melbourne, Australia
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 20-22, 2015 ?? Convention Centre / Marriott Hotel, San Diego, California
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 18-20, 2016 ?? Convention & Exposition Center / Westin Riverfront Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) November 17-19, 2017 ?? Music City Center / Omni Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee


French Studies

Organization Dates Abstracts due Location
Association for French Language Studies (AFLS) June 25-27, 2014 January 10, 2014 University of Kent in Canterbury, England
The Society for French Studies (SFS) June 30-July 2, 2014 closed University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland
American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) July 19-22, 2014 ?? Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana
Federation of Associations of Teachers of French in Australia (FATFA) July 25-26, 2014 February 21, 2014 University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia
Association canadienne des professeurs d’immersion (ACPI) October 23-25, 2014 ?? Halifax, Nova Scotia
Australian Society for French Studies (ASFS) December 3-6, 2014  June 30, 2014 RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) July 8-11, 2015 ?? Saguenay, Quebec

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 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

Beliefs of American University Students Towards Foreign Language Requirements and Textbooks

I’ve been reading articles and dissertations on students’ beliefs and perceptions of foreign language study recently, and came across two with some incredibly painful quotes that I had to share.

Foreign Language Requirement

Price and Gascoigne (2006) reported on 155 incoming (directly out of high school) college students who responded to this essay prompt:

One goal of a college education is to become a well-educated person. In the past, most degrees required that students study a foreign language, but many degree programs have dropped that requirement. As a new student, write an essay in which you explain both sides of this issue: why students should and why students should not be required to study a foreign language. Include your personal opinion in your response.

[Currently in the United States, around 50% of higher education institutions (according to a recent article in Forbes) have a foreign language requirement for students earning a Bachelor’s degree.  In the mid-90’s, the figure was 67.5%.]

Some choice quotes from the not-so-well-educated teenagers:

“If you come to the US, you speak the language spoken in the US. Everyone in the US should not have to learn Spanish.”

“The US was founded in English, let’s keep it that way.”

“We are Americans and our language is English.”

“There are so many foreigners entering our country, both legally and illegally, who do not know the English language, that we now have to learn their language just to get by from day to day.”

“In the Constitution of the United States you have to be able to read, write, and speak English.”

I just… ugh… what?

The United States was not “founded in English” nor is it the official language of the US and English is certainly not mentioned in the Constitution. I’m a little confused as to why these students decided to complain about immigrants instead of actually talking about Americans learning foreign languages. Do they really think that  Americans learning other languages equals immigrants in the US no longer needing to learn English? That the only reason to learn another language is to cater to immigrants? What about cultural understanding, breaking stereotypes, better job opportunities, travel, self-improvement, cognitive benefits of bilingualism, appreciation of other human beings?  Youth of America, I cry for you.

To be fair, there were many “pro” comments that were intelligent and not borderline racist. Overall, 57% of the students had a positive attitude towards the foreign language requirement. So there is still hope…


Foreign Language Textbooks

Virginie Askildson’s (2008) PhD dissertation from the University of Arizona, “What do teachers and students want from a foreign language textbook?”, gives us some great quotes on what students think about French textbooks. Over 1,000 students of French at American universities responded to the questionnaire. Agreeing with the statement “I trust the cultural content of my textbook,” the students explained why:

-“its a text book for a reason, if the cultural info was false it wouldnt be printed or chosen by the department. So I do believe the cultural topics.”

-“it’s proofread and someone will pick up the fact that it’s wrong if it is indeed wrong.”

– “its published in my book”

-“ if the cultural info was false it wouldnt be printed or chosen by the department.

– “I figure it had to be read by multiple people who know the material well.”

-“Because it was written and published by professionals”

– “They wouldn’t get into so much detail over something if they were going to lie about it. It simply seems unlikely that it’s made up.”

– “it is written by professors and i just trust it.”

And my personal favorite:

“books can’t lie. It’s unheard of.”

Yes, that’s right. A university student believes that books cannot lie.


I am speechless.

Authentic French with Commercials and Films

Friday was my 30th birthday and as my birthday gift to all of you, I give you even more authentic French listening resources and exercises!  Luckily we have a great language lab at my university so I have been able to create some listening exercises for my students to try out, and of course  I want to share them with other educators and learners. So as a sister site to the original French Listening Resources – where you will find authentic and spontaneous mp3s and videos of French spoken in France – I have created a new page on for learning authentic French with online videos and transcripts.

Authentic French with Commercials and Films

There are watch & read resources and some gap-fill exercises available for commercials, film trailers and the mini-série Bref. I also have a few transcripts of short scenes from films, but the clips are not available online so you’ll have to use the DVDs. The resources include Belgian, Canadian, and northern France (Picard / ch’ti) accents in addition to the standard French of France accent.

As of right now, the resources are: commercials for McDonald’s, Orangina, Nutella, and the film trailers for Rien à Déclarer and French Immersion as well as one episode of Bref. The DVD scene transcripts are available for L’auberge espagnole, Bienvenue chez les ch’tis, Prête-moi ta main, and Bon Cop Bad Cop. (I will add the time codes soon.)