Tag Archives: Assimil

French Courses I have taken – Part 2 of 1-Year Progress Report

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

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

Progress Report – 9 Months of French

I have just returned from a trip to Paris last week, which was the culmination of my attempt to practice my French. When we started learning French, I and my wife decided that we will visit Paris when we finish the French courses that we have bought and we are at a reasonable level of fluency. We are nowhere near to completing all the courses that we bought. Anyway, we took the trip to see how much we have really learnt.

It felt so good to be able to talk to people in Paris in French, to ask for directions and  to understand what they were saying. To my surprise, a lot of people in Paris spoke English. I was expecting that everyone would talk only French. So, I was a bit disappointed :). My listening comprehension has improved a lot, especially when it comes to listening to answers that pertain to situations in everyday life. I could read most of the materials that were available for travelers in French and to understand them.

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Progress Report – 8 Months of French

The last month was the most rewarding month in my French learning. Though I could spend very little time in studying any of the courses that I have purchased, I was able to use what I have learnt  in a lot of practical situations while I was in France. I have traveled to France a few times in the last month and I am so happy that I could manage moving around in France using French. Now, I am able to understand more and more of what the natives are talking back to me when I ask them a question and it feels so good. Continue reading

Progress Report – 7 Months of French

This month, I have been able to spend very little time in learning French compared to previous months, due to other priorities taking over. I am well on my way into reading my second full-length French book – The Linguist by Steve Kaufmann who started the LingQ service. I have read about 10 chapters so far and I understand most of what I am reading and my confidence in understanding written French is increasing. LingQ website provides a facility to mark unknown words in every passage I read and then it calculates a statistic of how many words I know based on the texts I read and the unknown words I mark – as of now, it says that I know 3213 words in French.

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Progress Report – 6 Months of French

I have completed reading my first full-length book in French and it feels so good. Based on the advice given by Aaron of Everyday Language Learner in his Guide to Sustaining, I have picked up a book on a topic that I am very interested in reading about. Though there was lot of new vocabulary and there were parts that I could not fully make sense of, I understood most of the contents. Continue reading

Progress Report – 5 Months of French

In my last progress report, I mentioned that I will see  you again with my report of how I have fallen in love with French again. Fortunately, the forecast turned out to be true. Now, I am enjoying learning French all over again. The trick is to keep at it even in the in the face of loss of interest. What goes down comes up and what goes up comes down – this is a fact of life. We have to use the moments of high interest to achieve what we want before our interest wanes, but you can always get it back if you stay at the process for enough time – the key is persistence.

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Michel Thomas French Total: Learning French can’t get easier than this

Most people who have tried learning French have a common complaint about French: French is very difficult to learn; the pronunciation is very difficult, the grammar is extremely hard, and for every rule, there are so many exceptions and so on. I also had the same impression when I started learning French. The few online courses I tried including LiveMocha, Babbel.com and even my favorite Assimil course served to reinforce the impression that French is a hard language to learn.

Enter Michael Thomas. I discovered Michael Thomas after I have completed about 30-40 lessons in Assimil.  When I completed my first hour of the Michel Thomas audio course, I had a question to myself: ‘Is the French language so easy to learn?’.

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