I took 4 years of French in high school and 1 semester in college. I had a pretty good understanding at the time. Many, many years later I have the opportunity to go to France and so I want to refresh my French language skills.
Here’s the plan:
First I listened to a very repetitive Playaway from the Pimsleur language programs called The Short Course. I can recommend these Pimsleur courses because they build in an easy way things you’ll really want to say like, “I’d like something to eat.” They are designed to teach the listener French without the use of reading materials.
If you’ve never used a Playaway. they’re very small and convenient but you need your own AAA battery and ear buds.
Then I moved onto a Berlitz Playaway which moved at lightning pace but was challenging for someone like me who has had a modicum of French and needs some catch-up. I was surprised at the words I could understand.
I listened to Living Language Ultimate French, Beginner and Intermediate. It had lots of conversations, lots of vocabulary, lots of grammar but you really needed to use the accompanying book to get much out of it. I listened to the CDs while driving so it was difficult to consult the book. After listening to 3 of 8 CDs I returned them to the library.
This course called beginner’s french by Everyday Communication was produced in England and had different syntax from any of the other courses. For example: Instead of saying “Where are you?” the question was phrased “You are where?” Not wrong, I suspect, just different. This, too, is used with a book.
Finally, I listened to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to French Playaway. Theoretically this course moved quickly in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure but it was the only one of the group really created for a vacation traveler to France. The first dialogue helped you get your luggage, then go through customs, arrange transportation, etc. It seemed the most practical of all the options because it introduced you to the French you would need as soon as you step off the plane.
To summarize my favorite French study course was the Pimsleur Short Course, followed by The Complete Idiot’s Guide. The other courses either needed a book in conjunction with the tape or moved at a very quick pace, great for someone who was brushing up but not great for someone who wanted to get some practical phrases under their belt for a vacation.
By the time we leave for France I will have fulfilled another item on my 101 Things to do in 1001 Days list. Charlie will know how to say, please and thank you and ask for coffee.