In the first post in this series, I have talked about the goals I have set for myself and whether I have achieved them. Now, in this post, I will talk about all the French courses I have taken with brief comments about how helpful they have been for me. As of now, I am listing the courses – in the course of the next few days, I will add my commentary about each of these courses.
The top 2 courses which have been of tremendous help to me are
- Michel Thomas French – I have completed all 3 courses – Total, Perfect and Master Class. This is the best value for my time and money of all the courses that I have looked at so far. Michel Thomas is a genius teacher and his methodology is a breath of fresh air in the market overcrowded with long-hours-of-learning-grammar approaches. There are 4 different aspects to learning a language – reading, listening, writing and speaking. I have written those 4 aspects in the increasing order of difficulty. Michael Thomas tackles the most difficult part right away from the first 5 minutes. He does not overwhelm you with lot of details, but builds up the details gradually. I am surprised at how much grammar he has managed to teach in around 12 hours of audio.
There are a few disadvantages to the course like his French with a heavy Polish accent, the mistakes made by his students, and of course the high price tag. But all of these disadvantages pales in comparison to the tremendous value you get out of this. This would be my top recommendation if you are starting on French or struggling with French. Please click here for a more detailed review of Michel Thomas.
- Assimil French with ease (first book in the Assimil series) – This is my next favourite. While Michel Thomas gives you a head start and gives you lot of confidence and speaking practice, he misses 2 other important aspects – Reading & Listening. You have to listen to lots of content by native speakers and you have to read a lot of content for your brain to get accustomed to French. There will come a point when your brain has gotten so used to French that it does not seem unnatural any more for you. But if you jump right into French content which is not devised for beginners, you might feel overwhelmed and might lose motivation, although there are some people out there who have managed to learn a new language this way just by immersion. But for the rest of us, Assimil is a great help.
Assimil provides easy-to-digest and funny lessons which start off very simple, very easy and very slow talking style. The pace of talking and the complexity of lessons gradually increases and you reach native speaker pace in the last 10 lessons with really high levels of French. It is amazing what Assimil manages to achieve in such a short book. The vocabulary is extensive and the grammar becomes so much a part of you without you having to memorize anything by rote. All you have to do is stick to a routine and do 1 or 2 lessons every day – that means around 30 minutes to 1 hour. What is important here is not just reading and listening, but repeating aloud. Let me repeat it again so that it is not lost – Repeating the content aloud is the most beneficial and the most important part of learning with Assimil. Do not miss it!
Here are the other courses I have completed
- Babbel.com (Stage 1 of the 1-year-long course consisting of 4 stages) – Babbel has lot of fanfare and this was the very first course I have started on and I was pleased with it in the first few days. But soon I realized that the approach is very traditional and you don’t learn a language like this – at least, I don’t learn a language this way. This could be an excellent supplement to another primary course like Michel Thomas or Assimil, but I would not recommend it as the first and the only course that you take. I have written a longer review on Babbel here about 1 year back and yet this is the most popular post in my blog.
- LiveMocha.com Active French (All 4 levels)
- Live classes for 4 weeks conducted in my office
In addition to these courses, I have also done the following which are not necessarily courses, but these materials have helped me to improve my French
- I have read 3 French books (2 of them on LingQ.com and 1 on Kindle)
- I have listened to a lot of Podcasts from NewsInSlowFrench.com
- 2 Audiobooks from FrenchToday.com – A Moi Paris 1 & A Moi Paris 2
In addition to these, I have sampled a number of other courses, but did not pursue them fully – I have done a few lessons in most of these courses to allow me to evaluate whether they would work for me. Here is the list of courses I have looked that I can recall
- LiveMocha.com French
- BBC French
- French in Action
- TV5 Monde
- Carnegie Mellon Elementary French course
- Easy French Step by Step book
- Easy French Reader book
- Smart French