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According to the University College of London, approximately 390 million people in the world speak French as a second language, making it one of the most popular second languages in the world. Ethnologue reports more the 75 million people in 51 countries speak French as their primary language. Some of the most notable Western novelists and philosophers are French: Camus, de Beauvoir, Foucault, Kristeva, Sarte, to name a few.

Whether one wants to read French philosophy or pick up some "survival" French, there will be some standard steps to learn how to speak French online.

Studying French online

A student will likely need to reset their computer's operating system in order to access French characters on a standard keyboard. This is possible by accessing the control panel, or preferences, on a PC or Mac, selecting "add French" and following the prompts to download any necessary software.

Since French is spoken around the world with different dialects, it may be advisable to select Canada, Caribbean, Monaco, or other region where French is the dominant language. Depending on the course of study, there may be additional software necessary or an instructor may have further instructions on how to to perform tasks online. These may include software downloads or other modifications necessary to assess your pronunciation.

Some online language courses require a phone call on a weekly basis with the instructor so they can assess pronunciation. Other programs may allow students to Skype with their instructor.

Online French course structure

French language programs are typically offered at traditional institutions, but one-off introductory courses could also be useful for prospective learners looking to pick up basic French for travel or other purposes. Looking at the course curricula for several French courses turned up some common subjects:

  • French vocabulary and grammar
  • French usage of special alphabet characters like ç, ë and â
  • Proper pronunciation
  • French cultural aspects

The French Institute Alliance Française (FIFA) offers online private tutoring in French and relies on a software program called Speedlingua designed to help students achieve perfect pronunciation. While both Verbalplanet and FIFA may meet a student's needs, credit for the courses will not necessarily transfer to a college or university.

Some universities, including Oregon State University, have online French courses taught by the university's faculty. Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh offers free online courses in French.

Sources

About Us. "The French Institute Alliance Française." July 25, 2014. http://www.fiaf.org/about/index.shtml

"UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)." University College of London. July 25, 2014. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/clie/learning-resources/sac/french

"Elementary French I." Open Learning Initiative. July 24, 2014. http://oli.cmu.edu/courses/free-open/french-i-course-details/

"Elementary French II." Open Learning Initiative. July 24, 2014. http://oli.cmu.edu/courses/free-open/french-ii-course-details/

"French as a Second Language Distance Learning Course Summary." Stratford Career Institute. July 24, 2014. http://www.scitraining.com/French_As_A_Second_Language

Verbalplanet.com. July 25, 2014. http://www.verbalplanet.com/french-conversation-classes.asp

"Why Learn French?" Oregon State University. July 24, 2014. http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/online-degrees/undergraduate/foreign-languages/french.htm?gclid=CITV3s7W378CFQKpaQodt7IAbg

"Summary by language size." Ethnologue: Languages of the World. July 23, 2014. http://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/size

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