French for Beginners

With Bill 96 in the works and many discussions about the preservation of the French language in Quebec, it is a good time to begin or continue learning French. The McGill Library has many resources in the collection if you’re a beginner. Below will highlight some key online resources for you to drive into student mode. Remember to make this process fun: a new language uncovers a fresh way to look and interact with the world. 

Si, sans plus tarder, commençons! (Let’s begin!) 

Unsplash// Adrien Olichon

A Few Great E-Books:

French essentials for dummies 

This guide focuses on just the core concepts you need to communicate effectively in French. The dummies franchise has perfected the way of making you an expert in numerous topics.

Table of Contents: 

  • Getting down to basics 
  • Narrowing the gender gap 
  • It’s happening in the present 
  • Being descriptive and connecting your thoughts 
  • Connecting with prepositions
  • Asking and answering questions 
  • Uncovering the past 
  • Foreseeing the future 
  • Recognizing verb moods
  • Ten important verb distinctions 
  • Appendix: Verb charts.

Learn French in a hurry : grasp the basics of français tout de suite!

Learn French in a Hurry features:

  • Common French phrases (days of the week, numbers, letters)
  • Pronunciation and conjugation tips and tricks 
  • Grammar made easy
  • Useful words and terms
  • Helpful French-English and English-French dictionaries

With Learn French in a Hurry, you’ll master le francais right away!

For Audiobooks: 

The McGill Library Overdrive has a great selection of audiobooks for  the French language learners. There’s also an app called Libby you can use to listen along while you’re on the metro or walking to campus. 

You can use specific filters to view the whole selection, or check out these suggestions: 

Essential French in Two Hours

by Paul Noble

“In this audiobook, Paul will introduce you to the basics of the French language and guide you through 2 hours of practical, everyday scenarios that will build your confidence. A native-speaking French expert will help you to perfect your pronunciation as you progress through the course and allow you to quickly make your new knowledge work for you in a variety of practical situations.”

Learn French: Level 4: Beginner French

by Innovative Language Learning, LLC

The hosts are really fun in this one and as they chat after each lesson you learn a little more about the culture and grammar of the French language. “Interactive. Effective. And FUN! Discover or rediscover how fun learning a language can be with the future of language learning.”

Other Resources:

A major component of learning a new language is listening to others speak it. Our collections grant  access to French movies and even children’s song books, and whole albums. Immerse yourself in the language. 

If you would like to find out more, learn about Quebecois-French or even just practice reading in French, the curated library guide, Ressources en langue française, from Micheal-David Miller, Liaison Librarian for French Literature, is a great place to go. You can find even more resources to start engaging in French media through different outlets.

No matter your style of learning there is something at the McGill Library for you. Grab your headphones, journal, or conversation buddies and start today.

Bon chance!

If you have any questions, email

Indigenous Rights and Data Sovereignty: A story of success and community

Keoni Mahelona and Peter-Lucas Jones on Indigenous Data Sovereignty, March 3, 2021.

In the era of big data, it is difficult to know our privacy rights and how our information is being used. Hosted by the Feminist and Accessible Publishing, Communications, and Technology Speaker and Workshop Series and by the Initiative for Indigenous Futures , I attended the workshop by Keoni Mahelona and Peter-Lucas Jones speaking on Indigenous Data Sovereignty through their roles at Te Hiku Media in New Zealand. 

Te Hiku Media is a charitable media organization coming from Far North Iwi (regions) of Ngāti Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rārawa and Ngāti Kahu in New Zealand. The organization creates ways for members of these regions who are living away from traditional territories to access their culture and historical knowledge through radio, online television, and other media. Like many Indigenous groups, these regions are struggling with the decline of their historical language, Maori. On top of the fantastic cultural preservation and revitalization efforts, Tehiku Media decided to tackle this issue as well. “Language provides a gateway into the mind of our people. It is imbued with cultural memory and ideological thought. [Language holds] all of the things that inform our world view. When we lose a word in our language, we lose a part of our culture” states Peter-Lucus Jones, Te Hiku Media Manager. 

All current language processing giants in big media such as Duo Lingo and Google have methods available to record and process new languages at little to no cost, however there is a catch: the data you share with these companies is no longer yours, and can be sold as they see fit.

“To have our language stolen from us by the colonizers through generations of abuse and residential schools, and then for them to turn around and sell it back to us?… We couldn’t do this. It wasn’t right” explained speaker Keoni Mahelona.

Rather than turning to these companies, Te Hiku Media decided to take matters into their own hands. For the past 30 years, they have collected recordings from many Maori speaking elders, paying special attention to specific dialects that are not well recorded. Through these datasets, Te Hiku was able to create programs which store language, and eventually were able to build their own Maori speech-recognition software. The goals for this project were to maintain sovereignty, make the Maori language more ubiquitous, and promote language and culture. 

A major challenge in this data sovereignty journey was the choice to license the data. Maori historically does not include the concept of ownership, however, if the data isn’t licensed there is potential for a corporation to steal it. The difficult decision to license the data was ultimately made, and the communities have entrusted guardianship of this data to Te Hiku Media for safekeeping. 

In order to hear more about Te Hiku Media’s preservation of Maori culture, take a look at their website at

A recording of this discussion is available. Access it here: