French Listening Comprehension (So tough!)

Improving listening compression in French is so hard! Is there really light at the end of the tunnel?



I am a native French speaker so French listening comprehension is not a problem for me, however I am faced with the same issue as a learner of Korean.

In order to improve your listening comprehension, you need to listen again and again and again. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a long process. It takes time and resilience.

I do not know what your current level of French is, but do not overlook pronunciation and phonemes. There might be sounds that you think you have mastered by now, but you may still have trouble differentiating them when people speak.

One of my favourite Youtubers (Matt VS Japan) released a great video a few months ago on why people still struggle to understand their target language. His advice can be applied to any language.

With regards to listening, you need to find content that is slightly above your current level. It must challenge you, but you should not be using material made for advanced learners if you are lower intermediate for example.

Practice both active and (semi-passive) listening. Listen with a transcript if you can and do not choose overly long pieces of audio if you are at a lower level (2 to 5 mins max). Vary the content: podcasts, audiobooks, short YT videos etc…

You will get there. However bear in mind that in order to listen to your target language and understand almost 100% of what you hear regardless of the context, you need to have hundreds if not thousands of listening hours under your belt.

Bonne chance !


That was a very encouraging post thank you!!

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Yes there is. Keep going. On youtube you might watch to watch “alice ayel” for beginners or inner french for intermediate. Both of those helped me a ton.


Yes. I’m Mexican working on Chinese Mandarin now and eventhough I’m supposed to be B1 level, my listening is not that good because it’s such a different language, my brain hurts everyday. I also follow Matt vs Japan and his website, and the secret to get better at listening comprenhension is… listening a lot for a long time. Everyday listening both attentively and passively, inmersion. So it will maybe take you 1 or 2 years to comprehend French the way you want to by listening everyday, but this is a marathon so you have to just keep going with ups and downs.

As an example, for Chinese (a difficult language) I’m supposed to listen attentively checking words and vocabulay for 30 min, then 90 minutes of listen attentively without checking anything, just free-flow. Then passive listening for maybe 60 minutes more. EVERYDAY.

I can’t do this everyday because I have a job and family, but this is like the “low bar” Matt sets to be able to quickly advance (6 months - 1 year) in a difficult language. Therefore, I realistically expect my listening will be good in maybe ~2 years, which seems like a lot but it’s not if is Chinese.

On a side note, my level of English got to a C2 listening level until after 10 years or so without active study, and English was my first time learning a language. If French is your first attempt to study another language then it will be hard, but you can get there.

I’ve been where you are, and my suggestion is to enjoy the ride, this will be long but it’s possible for everyone to get better.


The great balancing act with the input hypothesis is to just keep the ball rolling–if you go in with 5% understanding, trying to get it to 6,7, 10, etc–OR, to repeat the same materials over and over, or some combination.

Of course, language is not music–fluency means you don’t have to labor over a sitcom episode, you just take it in; whereas even a trained musician has to move part by part with a new piece of music. So I think its best to tend toward just letting it roll and keeping the clock ticking, BUT–i think its very helpful to find one or two pieces of content you’re willing to do over and over again.

I did a lesson of a Ted Talk that amused me, I didn’t think much of it at first but stumbled back into it and realized how amusing/charming I found the presentation. What the guy was saying was interesting, but there was also something funny and exaggerated about his manner, so as a primary source it became easier to engage with than just raw information. I put it on whenever I have 10-15 minutes to spare or am in between podcasts when out with my dog and have listened to it dozens of times and its helped a lot. Only rarely do I go back to reread it, which by now is super easy, the challenge is to close the gaps when recognizing the constructions in real-time. If you’re a native English speaker French is a lot easier to read than to listen to, unlike Spanish, which is perfectly phonetic but whose literary language is much more anarchic and frustrating. There are tons of cognates you recognize immediately but one the one half syllable they get in flowing succession barely gives you time for a breath in spoken french, so pairing a repeated written and aural lesson, even just one, can help plow past this intermediate phase. I really feel your pain and am not fully out of the hump myself but *have sort of turned that corner finally where I’m not fighting against the language, just trying to close gaps in a basically recognizable structure.


listening comprehension is the most difficult part of learning a language andfrench is one of the more difficult ones because of it’s peculiarities like silent letters ,and the diference between the written and spoken language but the process is still the same as any language keep exposing yourself to the language and you will get there.i’m also learning french so i know the frustrations but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel but it’s long tunnel

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I’m also following the input hypothesis. My challenge is to find comprehensible stuff at the beginning that is not boring. Beginner stuff you can understand is usually following a TPRS type approach. In French, the youtuber Alice Ayel is an awesome example. The next difficult stage is to find something just at the edge of comprehension that doesn’t have a crutch like LingQ or TPRS. There’s not much of that material around even for French which has tons of content. The Extra French TV Series on youtube is kind of like that. It’s easy french and gets harder as the episodes go on.

What I found difficult when using the input method was trying to listen to something that was hard to understand at all in order to get just the flow. I found it psychologically demotivating if I tried to do that every day.

So I stuck with TRPS and Extra for a couple months then for the third month I’d watch one random episode of slowly spoken news which stretched my comprehension a bit.

By the fourth month I could more or less grasp about half of what the innerfrench guy, solange te parle and the piece of french youtubers were saying. I stuck with them till the end of my six month challenge and now I can more or less understand everything they have to say.

I can’t understand freeflow netflix though. Too much slang.

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