Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Conversational French Lessons? (

fran Jan 1st, 2002 09:39 AM

Conversational French Lessons?
I'm going to France in September. Can anyone recommend a conversational French CD learning tool? (I know some basics---studied French in high school and college). Just want to know enough to make myself understood, and to understand others. Thanks.

kris Jan 1st, 2002 11:22 AM

you might just want to take out a library book on french. if you already have the background that is probably all you'll need. i too studied french in high school and college and i have done ok during my trips. i think the french really just want to see that we are making an effort... happy trails.

fran Jan 1st, 2002 12:27 PM

Kris---listening to a CD and hearing the language would, I think, be more helpful than just getting a book on French. I want to do more than make an effort--- I would like to understand and be understood. So, if anyone out there knows of a good French learning tool, please advise. Thanks.

c Jan 1st, 2002 01:59 PM

If you live in or around NYC-you can take classes at Alliance Francais..they have these intensive study weekends, where you do not speak any English,it is scarey and fun!or just take a course of regular classes.. Also they have weekends where you can go to the Mohonk Mt House and do the same thing...

Bob Brown Jan 1st, 2002 02:30 PM

My suggestion is to locate a native French speaker and pay them a fee for tutorial lessons. I don't know your financial situation, of course, but that is what I have done to improve my German. I wasted about $90.00 on a CD language kit. The problem with learnsing tools of the recording type is that you sit and listen, but don't participate actively enough. If you don't get that practice with some real time feedback to correct your errors that also gives you a chance to hear the spoken language, I don't think your time investment will be as worthwhile as you might hope.<BR>My problem has been that I in the past have listened to a variety of recordings and read quite a bit, but I succeeded only in developing a fair passive knowledge of the language. With a tutor, who is a native speaker, I have gotten more of the interaction that I had been missing. <BR><BR>I do not know what you would have to pay for lessons in your area, or even if there are any French graduate students or undergraduates available within reasonable distance. But the going rate where I live has been $15.00 an hour. Of course if you live in a town with no college or university the problem is a little larger.<BR><BR>If you are going to make real headway, be prepared to invest several hours a week in the project. I have found that it is not a trivial undertaking. <BR>Good luck with your effort.

greg Jan 1st, 2002 03:56 PM

Fran,<BR>You asked for CD? I have listened to many CDs. One above all others are the Pimsleur CDs. Unfortunately they are most expensive also. Try finding them in a library first.

Barb Jan 1st, 2002 05:21 PM

Fran--check your local colleges and community colleges, and you may find a short term course such as "French for Travelers". I'm taking an Italian class in Atlanta and I know they also offered French. Also, some large churches offer adult enrichment classes. I have borrowed tapes from the library, and purchased a cd for the computer. Everything helps a little--it takes a lot of repetition. Good luck, Barb

fran Jan 1st, 2002 06:46 PM

Thanks, everyone--a local community college is offering a course in conversational French but it's given at 9am on Saturdays (way too early for me!) I will see if they plan to offer it at any other times, and will also check out some other schools. I appreciate everyone's advice.

Shanna Jan 2nd, 2002 06:52 AM

Fran, I'll agree with Bob Brown that the tutor is the way to go. I had one for German several years ago and learned a lot, very fast, and got the feedback and interaction I needed to better understand the language. Forgot every bit as soon as I returned and used the short, cheaper Pimsleur CDs for the most recent trip. Just not the same. If the community college class is too early, you might contact the professor and ask if s/he can offer private sessions.

Betty Jan 2nd, 2002 07:36 AM

Hi, Fran. I am a retired French teacher who is planning to teach a "French for Travelers" course next spring at UNCA's (Asheville, NC) College for Seniors. (If you are age 50+ and live in the Asheville area... not very likely, I guess.) Over the past several weeks I have been looking for materials I could use in my course and recommend to my students. Believe it or not, the best thing I've found thus far is "French for Dummies," which includes a CD. The only problem I see with it is that there seems to be quite a jump from Part I (Greetings, etc.) to Part II in which the conversations get rapidly more difficult. Also, not all the conversations are on the CD. Still, it's not bad, and is very thorough. Since you already know some French, it might suit you well. I also looked at Barron's "Getting by in French" and Fodor's "French for Travelers," both of which include audio tapes, but are organized more like phrase books (too much vocabulary, not enough conversation.)<BR><BR> I agree with Bob Brown, and a few others, that a class or private tutor might be the best solution, but that can be expensive and, as you mention, sometimes difficult to fit into your schedule. Also, not all courses are created equal. Just because someone speaks French doesn't necessarily mean they know how to teach it. (Would you know how to go about teaching someone English?) If you find a class that suits your purse and your schedule, I recommend you try to find someone who has taken it and ask how useful they found it. One common problem is that, often, students are at various levels of ability and some find the course too easy, others too hard.<BR><BR>But, since you asked about a self-teaching CD (that's a bit different from a text to be used in conjunction with a course), let me recommend "Learn to Speak French" put out by The Learning Company. I bought it a few years ago, thinking that I might use it as a supplement with my high school students. Unfortunately, I never found the time to make much use of it in class except for the "Cultural Movie" sections which I used occasionally as a listening comprehension exercise for my more advanced students (small class). The program consists of 3 CD's, 10 chapters, going from the very simple to almost native level vocabulary and grammatical structures. Each lesson progresses from vocabulary presentation to a "story,' using cartoon figures, to "action," with live native speakers carrying on conversations in various situations. There are also grammar presentations and exercises, games, etc. There is even a section where, if you have a microphone connected to your computer, you can record words and phrases and compare them to the original. You can even participate in a conversation. As I mentionned above, there is also a "Cultural Movie" (8-10 minutes) at the end of each chapter on various areas of France that I think are fairly challenging as a listening comprehension exercise and also quite interesting and educational from a cultural viewpoint. I have not seen the Pimsleur series that some else recommended above but I understand that it is pretty expensive. I believe I paid about $70 for the "Learn to Speak French" program at Best Buy. Learning to speak a foreign language well is not easy and using a program like this takes a lot of self-discipline, but as you seem to be highly-motivated, it might work well for you.<BR><BR>If you are being a bit modest about your abilities or, if you progress rapidly, you might want to try listening to the French TV news ( ) as a real test of your listening comprehension.<BR><BR>Finally, I applaud you for wanting to "brush up" on your French before your trip. Although, as others here have said, you can "survive" without knowing much French, your experience traveling in France will be greatly enhanced if you are able to really converse with the "natives." I wish you "Bonne chance!" and a "Bon voyage!"

fran Jan 2nd, 2002 09:00 AM

Betty, thanks for your reply and listing the materials you think would be helpful. I wish I were in your area; I would take your class! But I'm in Arizona. I can get the Pimsleur CD on ebay for $18.50---think I will try. If it doesn;t work for me at least I'm not out alot of money.

fran Jan 2nd, 2002 03:04 PM

Betty: Just fyi---I was wrong about the Pimsleur CD on ebay. What is advertised there is an audiotape for $18.50.

lisa25 Dec 31st, 2010 07:22 PM

I need experienced tutor that also know english so it becomes easy for me to learn french ...please can anyone have any idea about experienced french tutor.

Sarastro Jan 1st, 2011 08:04 AM

Community Colleges or continuing education programs are widely available at modest expense.

However, if you really want to evaluate and improve your present level of fluency, simply tune in to any French radio/tv programs or podcasts on the internet. Here is a list of a few channels:

Also there are a good number of free programs available on the internet. I think that the BBC courses are particularly good:

These resources will allow you to evaluate your interest and abilities before you spend any money on tutors.

tom18 Jan 1st, 2011 08:04 AM

I've used a lot of French language CD programs, and the best I've run across is "Learn in Your Car: French." It comes in three different levels and does some grammar drills along with the usual conversational greetings, etc. You might be able to find it in your local library. By the way, libraries are great sources. Also check out and Bonne chance!

avalon Jan 1st, 2011 08:11 AM

Check out the BBC website they have French speaking sites and language help...and it's free

Christina Jan 1st, 2011 08:56 AM

Lisa, to find a teacher, you need to say where you are. It appears somewhere in Australia. Check the bulletin boards, etc. at your closest college that might have a French dept and any French organization, like Alliance Francaise.

Cathinjoetown Jan 1st, 2011 09:40 AM

French in Action series on site is very good. Also, BBC site which as mentioned has self-assessment.

alihutch Jan 1st, 2011 09:41 AM

Do you not have 'evening classes' in the US?

Coquelicot Jan 1st, 2011 10:38 AM

You can have fun with Forvo. Forvo is a website that pronounces individual words or phrases in many languages. Type in a French word, pick French in the language box, click on the audio, and listen. You can click on the screen name of the speaker to see where she or he lives. I prefer to hear pronunciations from a native French speaker from France (on the French section I've come across speakers who are Belgian, American students of French, Dutch, or French Canadian).

I discovered I was saying "besoin" wrong. I learned it years ago and far away from France. Did the language change, or have I been wrong all along? No need to answer that.

I also used to listen to French news on the radio but it gave me a distressing vocabulary (I know the French words for target, drowning, killing, wounded) which luckily didn't come in handy in our travels). I had more fun listening to France pop stations over the internet.

Some movie DVDs let you listen in French with English subtitles. On Youtube, French music videos sometimes show the lyrics in English. I just watched a clip of Jeanne Moreau singing Le Tourbillon from Jules and Jim.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:19 PM.