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Five Netflix shows to Improve French skills

Mom always told me too much TV was going to rot my brain. That I should read or do just about anything else. But when I was in college, I discovered that movies provided a perfect opportunity to improve French skills without grammar drills.

improve french skills with netflix

Life is about so much more than cupcakes and skincare routines. I’m a multi-dimensional person and just being sick Mary Fran or a “cupcake therapist” wasn’t enough. This comeback (rebirth?) had to be all me. The makeup and the language obsession. My sci-fi obsession and the way I use UX design in everyday life. So, you’re getting it all. Including my obsession with keeping up my French skills.

People always ask me why I need to practice if I have a degree – what could I possibly need to improve my language skills for or why do I need to keep practicing? Haven’t I paid my dues? (15 year old me refused to do math homework for that reason).

Because it’s so easy to get rusty. Or better put, use it or lose it.┬áSome people have revised that old statement to say “Practice makes permanent”.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning languages and wanting (and needing!) to practice. Fluency came not just because of my classes and grammar drills, but because of what I was doing outside of class. When I realized that I had the vocabulary of a 17th century playwright and a business dictionary (not exactly the makings of a modern conversation), I decided I needed to do something to improve or I was never going to get a job in France. Or pass that DFPA exam… I joined conversation groups. I went out to restaurants and bars in my small college towns with groups who spoke no English.

And I watched movies. Lots and lots of movies.

Back when Blockbuster was still a thing and movies by mail was a new idea from a startup called Netflix, I would go to the local independent video store once or twice a week. I had a 2 at a time subscription to Netflix to get my hands on movies I couldn’t get locally. (Ok, it was also my introduction to the wonders of all the things getting delivered to me…) I probably watched at least 2 French movies a week. I watched Disney movies in French. If I rented or bought an American movie, I tried to pick one with a French audio track so I could watch it in French & English to really get the nuance.

Oh, and it proves my mom wrong. TV was helping my brain, not rotting it. Research shows you can improve French skills by active listening and repeat exposure. It’s part of what makes immersion successful.

French Shows on Netflix

Alas, I haven’t been able to convince my boss that the Paris office really needs my help, and vacations to Europe can be expensive. Flights to Quebec can cost just as much. So, I’ve been unable to send myself off to be immersed. The next best thing is local meetups and my Netflix subscription.


Currently, many Netflix originals are dubbed in multiple languages and have subtitles in as many. They also come from a wide variety of countries. TV shows are even better than movies – because they don’t end as quickly. As you binge (because you know you will), you slowly become more immersed in both the story and the language. A quick scan of the internet proves I’m not alone in this.

Four French Shows to Watch to Improve French Skills

If you’re still learning, chose a show with both French audio and subtitles. If they’re in English, your brain will skip processing the audio in favor of reading it’s native language. These shows are all originally in French, so they are the among the best shows to improve your French skills, however, almost all the Netflix originals have French audio. You can even browse by language if you visit the desktop site. (Unfortunately, you can’t do that in the mobile app.)

Spiral (French Tv Series)Spiral

This gritty crime drama is actually next in my queue. It’s been compared to the Wire and has 4 seasons available to binge.

Marseille (Netflix Original Series in French)Marseille

Gerard Depardieu stars in this Netflix Original that was panned by the French press, but decently well received elsewhere. It’s a political drama with corruption, gang warfare & drugs. It was renewed for a second season.

The Returned (Les Revenants)The Returned (Les Revenants)

The original French version is highly superior to the A&E remake that aired in the US. If you like zombies and such, this haunting series is for you.

Wakfu (Animated French Series)Wakfu

This kid’s show based on a video game is great if you’re a lover of animation and fantasy (or if you’re a kid…at heart).

Here’s to excusing Netflix bingeing with learning

From here, Netflix is a wide open world of movies and shows you can use to improve French skills. And according to my research, there are even more options on Amazon and Hulu. I think it is time to go watch some TV practice my French.

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