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French is a Romance language spoken around the world by more than 100+ million people as a first language, by 190 million as a second language, and by about another 200 million people as an acquired foreign language, with significant speakers in 54 countries. Most native speakers of the language live in France where the language originated. The rest live essentially in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Francophone Africa, Luxembourg and Monaco. Most second language speakers of French live in Francophone Africa, arguably exceeding the number of native speakers. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Francophone country with the largest population.

French is a descendant of the Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are national languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian, and minority languages ranging from Catalan and Occitan to Neapolitan and many more. Its development was also influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders.

Michel Thomas ( by Michel Thomas)  No memorizing, no text books, no drills, no homework!
The Michel Thomas method is unique and very addictive. The method is simple in that Michel breaks down the language and feeds it to you in small bits, asking you to say a particular sentence each time. After just a short while you will find yourself speaking French confidently and naturally through understanding not memory. The Michel Thomas method has only been mainstream for the last 10 years, previously it was only accessible to the super rich who paid around $18,000 for lessons with the great man. The only downside to this are the two students he uses in the courses. They are learning from scratch too and can be incredibly annoying at times! The courses are all audio. Please also look at the reviews others have given. There is now an Advanced course
 

 
C1 Fluency

Complete French ( by Gaelle Graham) 
Following hot on the heels of Assimil is this completely revised and user friendly pack for learning French to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.  This is a more traditional learning process rather than the mainly "intuitive" learning you get with Assimils'

The thematic approach is much in line with traditional language learning and does cover the subject in depth and more importantly progressively so you can see progress being made. Each unit starts with a "Statement of Aims" and completes the section by

a) Presenting the language

b) Practicing it

c) Description of language forms: For producing your own sentences

d) Pronunciation and Intonation

e) Information on French People and French Life

It is essential to have the CD's that go with the course to get the language practice, and work through the book since a lot of the exercises are listening and commenting. It's a very bad idea to try and learn a language without hearing it!

A very enjoyable course indeed and a great improvement on the older versions. Extremely well taught and presented. We recommend that you follow only one unit a week and really absorb it ! There are 25 units in total so will take 25 weeks to complete. Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages compares to a good A Level.

There is now a follow on course for C1 Fluency, entitled Perfect Your French

 

Assimil French With Ease ( by Assimil) 
Assimil has a glowing reputation for language learning based on their simple two fold approach. The first stage is known as "Passive Learning" which requires you to listen to the lesson, say it aloud (or to yourself) so you get the pronunciation right and then to follow it again using the translation, conveniently written directly opposite. The second stage is called "Active Phase" and starts approximately half way through the book. At this time you carry on doing the Passive phase (daily) then you revert back to the first lesson and translate it yourself without looking at the translation. It is more effective if you approach this as a written exercise rather than trying to recall it in your mind only. Then you do your next passive lesson and go to the second lesson of the book to translate and so on.... Don't worry, though, the instructions are clear and you won't go wrong. You need to do one lesson a day (also a translation when you reach that second stage which adds another half an hour). The dialogues are expertly written and played out by professional voice actors of the country. They are lively and humorous and keep your interest. The lessons are ordered so you build gradually on what you have learnt. Don't be tempted to do more than one lesson a day, there is a reason why its "little and often" so as to maximise your learning capability. This is an approach that will take at least 6 months to complete and by then you will acquire a level of understanding comparable to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. After this level there is an Advanced Level (using French) which will take you to C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This focuses on the subtleties of the language, idioms and phrases commonly used in everyday conversation and media. The lessons/stories are different for each language.
 

Paul Noble French ( by Collins) 
Paul Noble is a teacher of languages who has his own language school the "Paul Noble Language Institute" based in Central London. These audio courses are the same as his classes but with slightly more material.

The first thing I noticed is that this is very similar to the Michel Thomas method in that the "Ground Rules" are the same..ie, don't try to memorize, no writing etc. The method of teaching is essentially the same in that you make your own sentences from the words given to you. Grammar is mixed in but not elaborated on. There is no rote learning and recitations here. This method also incorporates the Graduated Interval Recall system of Pimsleur. At the start of the course Paul is quite happy for you to forget what you are learning so he can remind you at various stages.

To be fair Paul Noble (who speaks 6 languages and gained membership of MENSA with a score of 174 at the age of 14!) has produced a more rounded course but also longer than the Michel Thomas one. The claimed vocabulary of 6000 words that you learn also includes a lot of cognates so don't get too excited! In reality you will learn slightly more than the Michel Thomas courses (Foundation & Advanced) but with the benefit of a native speaker alongside Paul himself, and Mr Noble does not have an accent like Michel Thomas did which was often a distraction in discerning certain sounds. Michel Thomas or Paul Noble..you choose!

 

 

 

Linguaphone All Talk (Linguaphone) 
Linguaphone's "All Talk" range is surprisingly good in that it is entirely audio and revolves around a soap opera type style of dialogues, involving a 'posh' Englishman called George  arriving on business in Paris and being helped by a Helene, who speaks little English. You are always wanting to hear what happens next to our hapless heroes!

The dialogues are lively and funny, with background sounds (much like a radio play). After you are introduced to each dialogue you are then tested on the vocabulary and structure and also you are expected to apply it to alternative scenarios. These complete "All Talk" programs are 16 hours in duration and will give you a vocabulary of 2000 words, which is good enough to make yourself understood and converse simply with native speakers. It is a painless way to acquire an excellent understanding!

 

 
Berlitz( AvanQuest) 
Berlitz Premier French is an excellent value for money package containing three levels (Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced) of tuition. The software is crammed full of media rich content with native speakers speaking natural French in normal surroundings. Unlike most software learning packages you don't need to be at your computer to do it. If you have an MP3 player, Cd's Ipod, etc, you can transfer teaching materials to the device and continue learning while on the move, commuting, jogging etc. Berlitz Premier is such good value for the quality and quantity of structured material. If you want to take the first step in learning French, Berlitz French will be a great move.
 

 
Pimsleur ( by Paul Pimsleur) 
Only the first 1-5 lessons of Level 1 are linked here. You should try these as samples to see if it fits your learning style. There are 5 Levels in total for Pimsleur's French. The Pimsleur language system has been around for sometime (40 years or so) but has only been available mainstream recently. Once used exclusively by Govt Departments, FBI CIA, etc, the Pimsleur method is available to all. What is it?? Well simply it's an all audio conversational learning programme with native speakers and an American 'host' You join in with native speakers and their conversations with prompts as to what to say by the host. You are only told the meaning of new words (and already conjugated verbs)... there is no explanation of verb conjugation etc. You will learn to speak French and understand it being spoken to you. You learn without realising it and its very effective. Unfortunately, due to the high price we have given it 4 stars. You can read about the method here. Download more detailed information on course content here (PDF)

 

Rosetta Stone ( by Rosetta Stone) 
Rosetta Stone is a strange learning sensation because there is no translation of any kind and you learn by matching words and sentences to pictures. After which each word or sentence is repeated by a native speaker. The product shown includes all 5 levels for the PC/Mac. this is actually very good value from Rosetta Stone as you can pay this price for just one level! You need to have handy a French-English dictionary, since there is absolutely no explanations of verb conjugations etc Despite this you do learn French and know what to say in many situations. Designed for those who learn visually.
 
 

 
Learn in your Car ( by Henry Raymond) 
The Learn in your Car series is a slight improvement on Vocabulearn in that the quality is slightly better and the music has gone! What you have instead are around 100 audio lessons of an American man saying things in English for the enthusiastic French lady to translate for you. These native speakers are dialect free and the series is great for revising on the go. Like Vocabulearn you play these over and over again, but they do work. I don't recommend them for beginners because they don't give any instruction on verb usage or sentence construction. It is however a very pleasant revision experience. Level 2 and Level 3
 

 
Earworms ( by Marlon Lodge) 
This is a very simple idea that makes learning French fun and easy. Its an English man conversing with a French woman and asking her how to say things in French. All the time there is a rhythmic sound/beat going on to her syllables which is designed to stick in your mind rather like a catchy song. The vocabulary being taught is basic but essential and is a relaxing experience. You don't need to make any real conscious effort as your brain is absorbing it through the beats. There are two cd's in the French range and you can listen to samples by clicking the pictures on the left. Overall a fun and enjoyable experience, reasonably priced and it works! But only for basic survival skills. Product shown is complete set of all 3 Levels.
 
Recommended Study
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

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