From perfume to pissaladière, YouTube makes it possible to become fluent in all things French without spending a dime or stepping out your door. Here’s a sampling of channels well worth subscribing to.
Comme une Française seeks to take viewers beyond classroom French to true biculturalism. With a ready smile, host Géraldine Lepère explains common French gestures, presents the history behind five French words derived from names, counsels viewers on mistakes to avoid when eating French bread, shares book and movie recommendations, gives a rundown of major French cities, and the list goes on. All videos are in English, with relevant French words and expressions clearly stated, repeated, and displayed on screen.
The American Expat Experience
Oui in France’s unaffected host, New Jersey native Diane Wargnier, has lived in the Loire Valley since 2012. Anyone considering moving to or spending any real time in France will find lots of useful information here, such as how much items cost at a farmer’s market and how not to embarrass yourself while shopping for them, as well as language tips and insights into cultural differences. There’s plenty for armchair travelers too, with Diane taking viewers along on walking tours of different French locales and behind the scenes in a bakery, a chocolate shop, and an organic vineyard.
Paris-based Jay Swanson has a slicker, more high-energy approach, with a good dose of humor. In addition to including walking tours of the various arrondissements, his channel offers an in-depth, up-to-the-moment window onto life in the French capital, from sampling fitness classes, ranking croissants and coffee shops, and struggling with the public bike share system pre-Covid-19 to navigating the new normal.
Those who love being well turned out but who could do without all the noise of the fashion industry will enjoy the thoughtful perspective of Berlin-based French clothing and jewelry designer Justine Leconte, whose videos range from how-tos (wear a scarf 20 ways, dress well on a budget, recognize quality) to an analysis of why Vuitton and Chanel products have become even more expensive in the time of coronavirus. Both well versed in fashion history and attuned to the darker aspects of today’s industry, she lends her engaging voice to the argument for more ethical and sustainable approaches while still celebrating the pleasure of wearing well-made clothing that fits just right.
Home cook and self-taught filmmaker Alexis “Alex” Gabriel Aïnouz brings his two passions together on French Guy Cooking, whose fun and somewhat frenetic videos capture the spirit of his avowedly obsessive pursuit of culinary mastery. While he tackles ramen, kimchi, Italian meatballs, and many other international dishes, there is no shortage of French specialties to choose from here, among them pot-au-feu and moules marinière, as well as modern takes on classics, such as a boeuf bourguignon burger, vegetarian steak tartare, and tarte Tatin in a rice cooker.
Those seeking strictly French cuisine and/or more traditional instruction can head to the French Cooking Academy, whose host, Stéphane Nguyen, walks viewers through the preparation of confit de canard, cassoulet, and other archetypal dishes.
For the Kids
Many well-known French children’s shows, including T’choupi, TroTro, and the classic Petit Ours Brun for the little ones and Les Légendaires for a slightly older set, have their own channels on YouTube, serving as an invaluable resource for French speakers and learners alike.
Article published in the July 2020 issue of France-Amérique. Subscribe to the magazine.