Like many other francophones outside French-speaking territories, I’ve had some difficulty to keep my French sharp. Contrary to English, which I use on a daily basis for both work and fun, French remains entirely a luxury, albeit one I value very much. I’ve learned a few tricks, though. In particular, for training my ears, I often watch French TV online. This is not as easy as it sounds, however, because like many similar services in other countries, such programs are geographically protected, which means normally one cannot watch them outside France itself.

There’s an easy solution to this: use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that has servers in France (or any other country with similar restrictions) and then access the Web as if you were in the chosen territory. I use Overplay, but there are numerous other providers. They are all paid, but well worth the little money you put in.

Once you complete this step, you can access a lot of free content. I enjoy mainly these:

  • pluzz.francetv.fr, which includes content from France 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
  • ARTE, which is a Franco-German channel and has a number of unique shows and documentaries.

As often as possible, I try to get my daily or weekly news from one of these sources instead of my local news channels. I’ve found that this is a great way to incorporate a little bit of France (or whatever country one happens to be interested in) in my daily life in a very natural way. And because it is natural, it quickly becomes a habit. By the way, fans of the BBC living outside the UK can employ the same strategy using BBC’s iPlayer, which makes all of the excellent BBC channels available online. The same thing applies to Portugal’s RTP. I suppose other countries have similar offerings and restrictions.

It is hard to understand why anyone would bother to block public content that is not exported anyway (I’d gladly pay). I guess it is just a default policy nobody really though hard about. After all, to make all of this content available can only serve to the rayonnement de la France that the French seem to want so badly. In any case, I hope this simple tip may help someone out there eager to train their French or other language of choice more often.