Whenever I am planning a trip back to France my favorite way to ease gently into French is by low-pressure immersion. That can be a really difficult thing to do when you don't live in a French speaking country. But in the next two blog posts I will give you a few ways to help surround yourself with as much French as possible.
Watching French TV & Movies
With the internet, we now have access to so much more international content than we did when I was growing up. However, TV can still be difficult. Streaming French TV is basically impossible unless you use a VPN. Here are the ways that I have found to get around that:
Haiti TV Network on Roku (not the most convenient or easiest option but worth checking out)
Adding HTN to your Roku channels gives you access to a lot of odd channels and a fair number of channels that don't work. But there are a few hidden in the mess that make it worthwhile. The ones that I tend to watch are Arte, Gulli (for kids shows), Antenne Réunion, and a couple of 24 hour news channels. Antenne Réunion shows a lot of standard shows that will be familiar to Americans, like the French "The Voice" and "le Meilleur Patissier" (the way better French version of The Great British Baking Show). The only problem with Antenne Réunion is that there is a big time difference (11 hours ahead of Montana time). You can view the schedule of shows for the week here, just remember to account for the time difference.
Side note: It was very helpful twice last year for me to be able to watch French news in real time (with French commentary) to better understand what was going on during the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the more recent attacks in Paris. The French news channels on HTN are the first place I go when there is a major event happening in France.
There are some decent French movies on Netflix as well as a couple of good French TV shows but they aren't always easy to find. It is definitely easier to search on your computer first and add to your watchlist than to search on the Netflix app on your TV. And if you have seen any of the articles recently about searching category IDs I've rounded up a couple of totally random ones related to French. I'll keep adding as I find more.
French Movies: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/58807
French-Language Military Dramas: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/337
French-Language Coming of Age Dramas: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/308
Romantic Movies Starring Juliet Binoche: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/3564
There are just a few French TV shows on Netflix, including the two listed below:
The Returned (les Revenants) - TV show with one season about dead people coming back to life (not surprisingly it is kind of creepy and suspenseful)
Spiral - French Cop show (also available on Hulu)
There are also some American shows/movies that you can watch dubbed in French with or without subtitles. I am not normally a big fan of dubbing but it does offer a little more choice, plus being able to turn off the subtitles when you want to test yourself is great. Most of the Netflix original shows come out immediately available in French so you can stay up on all of the shows that your friends are talking about while also getting some French practice in. Here are some of the ones I've found:
Grace and Frankie - Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda
Master of None - Aziz Ansari's new show
Chelsea Does (they dubbed over the English while still leaving the English in the background so it can be kind of distracting and annoying on this one) - Brand new show from Chelsea Handler
Making a Murderer (same note on the dubbing) - If you haven't heard of this one just spend 5 minutes on Facebook and you will!
Orange is the New Black - Really, you should know this one too.
River - British detective show
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Silly comedy created by Tina Fey
Hulu actually has a lovely selection of older French movies including many of the classic New Wave movies. They also have just a few TV shows with some overlap with Netflix. One new one that I spotted recently is called Maison Close and is about a brothel in Paris in the late 1800s. Some of my favorite French movies that you will find on Hulu are:
La Haine - I can not believe that it has been 20 years since this dark and thought-provoking film by Mathieu Kassovitz was released. This is one of my all-time favorite movies.
Jules and Jim - A François Truffaut classic from 1962
Au Revoir les Enfants - A moving Louis Malle film about boys at a boarding school in Occupied France during WWII
Cléo from 5 to 7 - Two hours in the life of Cléo, a singer waiting for the results of her medical test to learn whether or not she has cancer.
Breathless - A classic, must-see Jean-Luc Godard film
The Battle of Algiers - This movie is technically Italian but the story is about the Algerian fight for independence from France.
There are quite a few French movies on Amazon Prime that I have not seen yet. But one that I really enjoyed and would recommend when you're in the mood for some light, fun viewing is Romantics Anonymous. And of course, Amélie!
That should be enough to keep you busy for a little while! I'll be back soon with steps 2 and 3 for easing into French. And of course, if your French is at a level where you are able to read some easier novels, take a look at my post on French mysteries.