The 9 Best Books to Learn French Fast

Kelsey Wetherbee Published on November 25, 2022
Best books to learn French

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There are many ways to learn French, but it can be overwhelming to find the best way for you. Books are a solid start to any language learning journey because they are affordable and portable so you can study anywhere. This article shows you the best books for learning French and how they can help you apprendre la langue. No matter your current level or whether you are self-studying or taking classes with a French teacher, each of these books helps you improve specific skills and take them to the next level.

French is an official language of 29 countries and has over 275 million speakers, making it one of the most spoken languages in the world (and 3rd most spoken in Europe). It’s also one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, and other large international organizations. In fact, about 20% of people living in the United Nations countries speak French. So if your goal is to communicate with people around the world, French is an excellent language to learn. Now let’s take a look at the best books to help you.

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How We Chose The Best Books to Learn French

For any language learning products we’ve tested or researched, we follow a strict methodology to make sure our experts make the same considerations and evaluate based on the same criteria. Here are the factors we looked at when testing French books specifically:

  • Structure and Topics: We considered the layout and overall organization of the books, then we examined which topics each book covered and how in-depth and relevant the explanations were.
  • Quality of Content: We read several chapters of each book to gauge the quality of the content, including the example texts, exercises, and explanations. It’s important that each book contained clear and easy-to-understand content in addition to practical and useful study materials.
  • Value for Money: We took the two previous factors and compared them to the price of the book to determine if it offers a good value for the cost.

Our Top Picks for Best French Books

Without further ado, here is our list of the best book that will help you learn French:

Best Overall French BookPractice Makes Perfect: Complete French All-in-One
Best for BeginnersFrench All-in-One for Dummies
Best for French GrammarEasy French Step-by-Step
Best for Speaking and CommunicationThe Berlitz Self-Teacher
Best for Self-StudyThe Ultimate French Review and Practice
Best for Daily PracticeFrench Grammar for Beginners
Best for PronunciationExercises in French Phonics
Best for Verb ConjugationsLa Conjugaison Pour Tous
Best for Creating a Study PlanFluent in French

Practice Makes Perfect: Complete French All-in-One is the best overall book to learn French because it has a huge amount of study materials. It’s a compilation of 7 different workbooks pulled together into one comprehensive source. I recommend it for beginner and intermediate learners because it covers topics ranging from masculine and feminine nouns to the passé composé tense and even verb transfers and prepositions. However, my favorite aspect of the book is chapters 33 through 36, which focus completely on French in conversation (with topics like meeting people, making plans, current events, and asking for help).

It’s more of a traditional language textbook because each section follows a defined structure: an introduction to the topic, example phrases and sentences, a list of relevant vocabulary, and finally some practice exercises. I like that all of the explanations are in English. This makes the content approachable and easier to comprehend. For its price, Practice Makes Perfect: Complete French All-in-One offers a large amount of value (because it’s 7 books in 1). You can read more about it here.

Key Benefits

  • The combination of 7 different workbooks allows you to practice all communication skills
  • The “French in Conversation” chapters guide you through conversations with native speakers
  • The free mobile app with audio and flashcards enhances what you learn in the books

French All-in-One for Dummies

Best for Beginners

I’m a big fan of the “For Dummies” series, especially when it comes to their language books. I’ve included them in a few different articles here on Langoly. French All-in-One for Dummies is no exception. It’s a comprehensive resource that can help you go from a complete beginner to an intermediate level. That’s why I think it’s the best French book for beginners – it starts at zero and guides you through different French concepts and topics in a lighthearted and straightforward way. Another reason I recommend it is because it focuses on teaching you how to navigate a variety of everyday situations, like shopping at a store or online, talking about money, and enjoying a night on the town.

It’s a compilation of 6 different books, and each one serves as a reference for a different concept or topic. For example, Book 1 covers speaking in everyday conversations, Book 3 focuses on building a solid foundation in grammar, and Book 6 has verb conjugation tables, mini dictionaries, and even a couple of French games you can play to practice your skills. In terms of price, French All-in-One for Dummies gives you a significant amount of content for a reasonable price. It’s the perfect balance between formal explanations and informal conversation practice. You can learn more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Perfect for beginners because you learn practical conversational skills in the first chapters
  • It helps you build a solid foundation in French grammar without overwhelming you
  • Serves as a reference because of its visual exercises and the mini dictionaries in the back of the book

Easy French Step-by-Step

Best for French Grammar

While some might argue the word “easy” should never be used when talking about grammar, Easy French Step-by-Step truly makes understanding French grammar easier. If you already have an upper-beginner level in French, I think you should check this book out to fine-tune your grammar skills. I recommend it as the best book to improve French grammar because of its clear organization and concise explanations. The structure is also progressive, which means each unit builds on what you learned in the previous ones. I love this structure because it makes the topics easier to understand and also reinforces what you already learned.

The book starts with the most basic French grammar topics: nouns, articles, and adjectives. Over the next few units, it teaches you about être and avoir, the present and past tenses, and how to talk about the future using aller. In the later chapters, the book guides you through more advanced topics like indefinite adjectives and pronouns and the subjunctive tense. Along the way, every chapter has an explanation of the topic at hand followed by key vocabulary and a reading comprehension exercise. Especially in the last chapter, the reading exercise helped me see how (and when) to use the subjunctive tense correctly. You can check out the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The progressive structure helps you internalize grammar rules and use them more naturally
  • Every chapter includes a reading comprehension exercise that ties together everything you learned
  • The book’s explanations are clear and teach the topics in a simple and straightforward way

The Berlitz Self-Teacher

Best for Speaking and Communication

Even though it’s a little older than other books on this list, The Berlitz Self-Teacher is still the best for speaking and communication because it focuses on speaking right from the very beginning. The idea is that you study the lesson and the examples given, and then you practice what you learned by speaking out loud. I wanted to put this book on the list because of its pronunciation breakdowns too. Even though it’s a book, it still shows you how to clearly pronounce the different French sounds (which is something most native English speakers have a hard time with).

As you work through the different sections, you’ll read a French conversation and see a pronunciation guide under every sentence. For example, in the first chapter, you’ll read the French sentence “Oui, monsieur, c’est le crayon.” Underneath it, you see the pronunciation guide that shows you how to pronounce that sentence: “Wee, muss-yuh, seh luh kreh-yohng.” The book doesn’t follow any specific structure, but if you work through all of the lessons, you’ll notice improvements in your conversation and pronunciation skills. Take a look at the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The example sentences are simple, informal, and conversational to help you learn quickly
  • The pronunciation guides are exceptional and break down how to correctly say each syllable
  • By the end of the book, you’ll start thinking in French instead of translating in your head

The Ultimate French Review and Practice is a “total grammar study program,” and it’s a particularly good choice if you’re studying French by yourself. It’s not the most entertaining book, but if you’re serious about self-studying your way to French fluency, you need this book in your library. The book has 6 sections: Verbs, Nouns and Their Modifiers, Other Elements of a Sentence, Verbs in Two-Clause Sentences, Idiomatic Usage, and a final review section. I like how direct the explanations are, and I think the organization of the book is logical.

To expand on the content of the book itself, the updated edition also comes with a mobile app that has additional practices like flashcards, quizzes, and audio so you can hear how French is spoken. This book is more of a textbook-type read, but it’s straight to the point and helps you efficiently learn the most important grammar to speak accurately. It will also be a book you reference over time, even as you reach more advanced levels of French. This makes it worth the price. You can check out more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The book introduces grammar topics in a logical order, which makes them easier to understand
  • The practice exercises are actionable and follow the explanations closely
  • The updated edition includes audio material to help you refine your pronunciation and listening skills

French Grammar for Beginners

Best for Travelling

French Grammar for Beginners is a crash course in the skills you’ll need during your next trip to a French-speaking country. The book has 30 lessons that break down grammar concepts and it also includes short stories and an essential phrases section. It takes a straight-to-the-point approach and will help you get a handle on the basics in 30 days (you’re supposed to complete one lesson per day). There’s also an embedded workbook where you practice everything you learn. I recommend this book for travelers because it’s meant to be a quick introduction to the language. It’s not a comprehensive grammar book like Easy French Step-by-Step and it certainly won’t help you reach fluency, but it’s a useful too that helps you communicate more comfortably.

I enjoyed this book because of its concept: 1 lesson that covers 1 different topic each day. It’s easy to stay on track with your studying with this simple structure. It’s also perfect for timing – you only need to start using this book one month before your trip. The topics are practical too. For example, it explains how to use Il y a correctly and the difference between en and y (both of which you’ll hear frequently in France and beyond). The book is inexpensive compared to most others, so it’s a worthwhile travel companion. You can check it out here.

Key Benefits

  • The book follows a clear timeline so you can prepare for your upcoming trip
  • It has a workbook where you can practice words and phrases you’ll hear native speakers use
  • The audio helps you understand spoken and written French

Exercises in French Phonics

Best for Pronunciation

Exercises in French Phonics is a deep dive into how to correctly pronounce words in French. It’s an oldie but goodie! At 79 pages, it’s short and sweet but packs all the essential pronunciation rules into one resource. It covers topics such as nasal sounds, silent letters, and letters pronounced irregularly. There’s also a whole section on how and when to pronounce the liaison between words, which is something I always struggled with in the past. This book helped me understand when it’s appropriate and when it’s not – for example, why you need to use the liaison in deux‿heures but not in ils regardent ( ) un chat noir.

This book is best for serious students and it’s not meant for a casual learner looking to pick up a few words and phrases. It’s not a very entertaining read either because it strictly focuses on pronunciation. Each chapter teaches one specific sound. There’s a chapter dedicated to the AI and AY sounds, the GN sound, the opened and closed O, and so on. So, if you’re a motivated learner and you have a genuine desire to improve your pronunciation, Exercises in French Phonics will help you. You can grab your copy here.

Key Benefits

  • Each chapter helps you master a specific sound, which makes it stand out from other pronunciation books
  • The explanations are detailed and visually explain the pronunciation rules
  • If you ever have a doubt about French pronunciation, this book is the ultimate reference guide

La Conjugaison Pour Tous

Best for Verb Conjugations

La Conjugaison Pour Tous is THE reference for conjugating French verbs, so I had to include it on this list. It’s divided into 4 parts that carefully explain how the rules work. It also uses diagrams to show similar types of verbs to help you remember the conjugations. Knowing the three types of verbs (-er, -ir, -re) is an essential aspect of French grammar, and the diagrams helped me remember the different rules for each type. I recommend this book for all French learners because of how it depicts the different tenses. It uses mind maps, which I haven’t seen in any other books. The mind maps made something so difficult (the tenses) so easy to understand.

While recently updated, this book has been around for a long time. Even native French speakers use it in school. While I think everyone learning French should have a copy, it may be a little difficult for complete beginners. That’s because the whole book is in French. However, if you already have a strong base level in French, that shouldn’t be a problem. The main advantage this book has over others is how visual it is. The mind maps, diagrams, and even the colors are excellent memory tools that make conjugations become second nature. Learn more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Understand the rules about conjugating the three different verb types
  • There are 105 conjugation tables that clearly illustrate the most important conjugation rules
  • The mind maps help you absorb and remember how to conjugate in different verb tenses

Fluent in French

Best for Creating a Study Plan

Fluent in French isn’t your typical French course book. It’s a guide that shows you how to learn French and how to create your own study plan. It gives valuable tips and tricks to learning French as well as helpful techniques to increase your fluency. For example, it includes a chapter about the myths of language learning and another one about common mistakes in French and how to fix them. The approach of this book was refreshing when I read it because it’s more about the strategy of learning French instead of a textbook that explains the details of the French language.

Every person who learns French eventually hits a plateau where it seems impossible to reach the next level of fluency. This book helps you overcome that plateau with actionable advice. There’s even an entire chapter specifically about overcoming that plateau (chapter 11). I want to make it clear that this book is a supplement to your other French resources – it’s not going to teach you French itself. But it’s relatively inexpensive, and the strategies it shows you will save time, energy, and a lot of frustration as you continue progressing. For that, I think it’s worth the price. Read more about Fluent in French here.

Key Benefits

  • Instead of teaching you French, this book teaches you strategies that will help you learn French effectively with other resources
  • It includes a big list of resources you can use to immerse yourself in the language
  • There are methods to improve each communication skill – reading, writing, listening, and speaking

Other French Books We Researched

I tested all of the French books on this list, and I also researched a bunch more that didn’t quite make the cut. Here are a few other options I reviewed that may be worth checking out but that I can’t fully recommend:

  • French Crash Course: This book promises to teach you basic French in seven days, which is completely unrealistic. The content is decent and covers some useful basics for beginners, but there are only seven lessons. It’s not worth the price.
  • French Gender Drill: The concept of this book is interesting because it focuses on the gender of French nouns, but its content is a little generic and limited. It’s a cheap book, but I still wouldn’t pay for it.
  • Conversational French Quick and Easy: I was excited to review this book because of its title, but it didn’t meet my expectations. The topics are somewhat basic, and this author has published the same book for a bunch of different languages (Conversational Italian Quick and Easy, Conversational Bulgarian Quick and Easy, etc.). It’s also a bit expensive for what it is.
  • Easy French Phrase Book: To be fair, this book’s title is an accurate description of what it is – a book of phrases. It’s a useful reference you could take on a trip, but a few of the phrases seemed unnatural or somewhat impolite. There are some helpful pronunciation explanations though.

Why You Should Use Books To Learn French

Using books to learn French is an easy and effective way to learn the language. They included detailed explanations that thoroughly cover the most important topics of French. It’s also a good resource to take, and study, almost anywhere. Thanks to technology, many books now include CDs or access to online audio clips so you can hear correct French pronunciation.

How To Use Books To Learn French

Using a book to learn French is best used as part of an established study routine. Dedicating a few minutes every day or a few times a week to focus on studying will help you see continual improvement. If you’re using a book you purchased (not from the library) it’s a good idea to highlight topics you want to remember or make notes on items you want to investigate more. Make it your own!

While books are quite comprehensive and give detailed descriptions, it’s best to use them alongside other study methods such as French language apps or online French courses. Books excel at teaching grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure, but to practice listening and speaking, another resource with technological capabilities might be a better option.

Best Books To Learn French: Final Thoughts

Using one or more of the books on this list can be a valuable addition to any French learning routine. But just buying the book isn’t enough. It’s best to establish a set time to study without distractions. You can also combine books with other ways to learn French so that you can practice all the language skills necessary to become fluent. You’ll be speaking French très bien in no time!

Best Books To Learn French: FAQ

What book is best for learning French?

Practice Makes Perfect: Complete French All-in-One is the best book for learning French because it’s the most comprehensive and covers all areas of language learning. But it’s meant for people that already have some knowledge of French. If you’re a beginner, French All-in-One for Dummies is a similar choice that covers all the same topics but is geared towards a lower level.

What is the best way of learning French on your own?

The best way to learn French on your own is to use a variety of resources. Using a book, such as the ones on this list, is a great way to practice grammar and vocabulary. But to practice other skills, such as speaking and listening, another resource such as a language app or online class might be a better option. The good news is that there are tons of resources available.

Does reading books help you learn French?

Yes, reading books can definitely help you learn French! If you are a beginner, you might benefit from a comprehensive French language guide that teaches the most important aspects of grammar and vocabulary. Once you reach an intermediate to advanced level, you can read literature that was originally written in French, such as Les Miserables and Le Petit Prince.

How long will it take to learn French?

According to the U.S. Department of State, it takes 33 weeks (or 750 class hours) to reach a proficient level of French. French is considered an easy language for English speakers to learn because the two languages share many similarities. If you know a language that is similar to French, such as Spanish or Italian, you might be able to learn even faster.

To see how long it will take you to learn French, check out this fluency calculator.

Kelsey Wetherbee

Kelsey is the Content Manager and Editor of Langoly. She is a TEFL-certified English teacher with more than eight years of classroom experience in three different countries. She’s an avid language learner with an advanced level of Spanish and is currently studying French. Whenever possible, she loves to travel and enjoys meeting people from all over the world. Connect with Kelsey on LinkedIn.

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