French language help

Dec 8th, 2004, 06:03 PM
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French language help

In preparation for our big France trip I think I need some immersion in the French Language. I took French in high school and college MANY years ago. I should have said MANY MANY.

Are there any suggestions for tapes?..

By the way I want to thank all of you for all the help here.
loisco is offline  
Dec 8th, 2004, 06:19 PM
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If you don't have the time or inclination to take a course from a local language school or college, then go the easy route and buy a combination of book with cds, such as Living Language. I think it's important to see the words in front of you as well as repeat phrases--at least it's helpful for me to visualize.

There's no point I don't think in learning complex sentences or learning, as some books insist, all the names for the parts of a rental car or all the items in a grocery store. Besides, memorizing a complicated question in French is likely to get you a complicated answer in French that you won't understand.

Stick with basic salutations and courtesies, please and thank you, 'where are the toilets?', 'is there someone here who speaks English?' etc.
elaine is offline  
Dec 8th, 2004, 06:25 PM
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I used the Michel Thomas 8-CD series over a 5 month period. It begins with some basic sentence structures and builds from there. Although he says at the very beginning that you're not supposed to memorize, I found it more effective if I backed up sections of the lesson until I'd "learned" them enough to move on.

I supplemented with some basic French books and a dictionary to help me get used to the written word. And I got a CD series from the library specifically for travelling. I'm a walker, so that was a good time to slip a CD in my portable player and listen to them during my long walks. I also used them in the car if I was going any distance.

Although I'm sure I butchered most of what I said, I was actually able to have conversations with people who spoke no English. It added enormously to my enjoyment of the trip.

With your grounding in French you would move along much more quickly than I did.
JeanneB is offline  
Dec 8th, 2004, 06:29 PM
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If you want a real short cut, check out With your speakers turned on you can hear pronunciations and take little tests. I've found it really helpful for many countries for just the basics. And, since you know some French it will be much easier for you.
nancy is offline  
Dec 8th, 2004, 06:56 PM
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I see from another post of yours that your trip is stil ten months away. I think you have a number of choices,and a lot has to do with how much you are motivated to make (as I do) your enjoyment of the French language one of the cornerstones of your trip.

For starters, I think you don't actually have to spend much, if any money - - assuming that you have any kind of substantive libraries near you. Public libraries are almost guaranteed to have one, if not several brands of audio learning materials in French. It's worth finding out what might be available through any local high school or college near you. If it's public, in particular, you may have borrowing privileges that you don't realize.

If it is available to you in any way, I find French in Action (available on PBS and/or other educational TV venues everywhere, and maybe academic libraries as well). It uses an immersion style, with some didactic thrown in.

I think you need more than French in Action, at some point - - its purpose is to make it fun (cornball, though it may seem, a good part of the time), and give you real French speakers to hear.

Eventually, you need to ask yourself, what effort you are willing to make. I'd suggest that 30 minutes, 3-5 times a day for 12-16 weeks, and treat it like real school work - - fill out the workbooks/homework assignments, make yourself flash cards, set goals and measure your progress - - and you can achieve some very substantial re-fresh.

Give yourself a goal of 500 words (or even a thousand), between May and September, and you will add immensely to your trip.

I am not convinced that it matters what brand/method you use. It's about your deciding to do it, making a plan and adhering to it. You DO need to SAY IT OUT LOUD, when you practice. No mumbling, no "saying it in your head" - - you have to get used to how (bad you think) you sound, and get over it.

There are many more threads on this subject, and almost all of them can be found by searching "Pimsleur" - - whether that's a method you use or not.

Meilleurs voeux,

rex is offline  
Dec 8th, 2004, 09:00 PM
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The French in Action series is great--and fun, too. We've worked through the first series and I just got the textbook and workbooks for the second time around. PBSUniversity is running the series again; so no need to buy the tapes or DVDs.
Underhill is offline  
Dec 8th, 2004, 10:15 PM
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I use tapes I got on Amazon called Flash French. I know there are many others and haven't tried them but I found these tapes very helpful because I did have a background of five years of french in high school and college. I started with the first set and it was a very good review and now I'm on the second set. Having the background really helped. The instructor works with a native french speaker for pronunciation so that was good. I keep them in the car and play them any time I'm driving somewhere. They helped me a lot. I can read some french because of course I learned to write but I am very rusty but I felt it was better at the time, since I was going to Paris, to concentrate more on my verbal skills. I was totally shocked when I asked a cab driver if he knew where our hotel was and he actually understood what I said. You could have bowled me over with a feather!!! I will say that not having an opportunity to speak the language on a daily basis, and especially not being able to HEAR the language made it difficult for me to understand when someone was speaking french to me. It worked out great however because I was very interested in learning to speak and understand better and I was appreciative when they would either correct me or tell me how to say something when I stumbled..and boy did I stumble. Anyway, since you have some background you might find these tapes helpful. He builds sentences in a very easy way so you can say a lot of things fairly quickly. Good luck and enjoy your trip. Let us know how it goes for you.
crefloors is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 03:53 AM
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Hi lois,

With 10 months, you should be able to be able to actually converse in French at a reasonable level.

I wish I had better facility with languages. Went to Paris last May following a visit to Italy the previous Sept.

I found myself saying, "Parlez-vous Anglais, per favore?".
ira is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 04:34 AM
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This a topic near to my heart. I actually took an intensive, one-year college course from Pierre Capretz, designer of French in Action, many years ago! I must admit that my commitment as a college student was not what I wish now that it had been, and though I continued to speak French off and on over the years, I really hadn't made a serious commitment to learning it until last year, during a flurry of visits to France to watch the Tour de France.

I used a variety of materials including a website that my daughter's class used for French I called French Rouge. That website: They also have a second level called French Blanc which I have "graduated to."

You can imagine the peculiar deja vu sensation that I've had restudying French in Action in my relative dotage. Pierre Capretz, along with celluloid characters Robert and Mireille, haven't changed a bit, whereas my life circumstances have considerably! The cool thing is that you can access all the tapes without purchase right on your ordinateur: (Funded by the Annenberg Foundation)

Finally, I live in Boston, so last night I actually went to the Alliance Francaise/French Library and took a placement test to see where they might put me in a course. I've been reading novels in French the last couple of months, with a thumb ever stuck in the dictionary, but I hadn't been faithfully reviewing/learning much grammar recently. I kind of froze on the written part, but ended up with a mid-intermediate placement, which is probably where I should be. I've really enjoyed my venture into learning French and I've encouraged my children to do so as well. I agree with Rex wholeheartedly in that I thing it's a near every day commitment in order to really grasp it, but the rewards are commensurate! Last summer I stood with some fellow Americans at the Tour finish line in Nimes. None of them spoke French, so it was fun acting as a quasi-interpreter and more fun still when I was actually interviewed by a French TV camera crew for being an American enthousiaste at the Tour!

As others have said, I believe that you have enough time to learn alot before you go.

Bon chance!
letour is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 04:56 AM
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I wrote about my experience with various language learning methods at:

A colleague of mine who just returned from a year in Chile (where he and his family started learning from scratch) said that they found my Pimsleur Spanish CDs much more helpful than the Rosetta Stone program.

You'll also want to consider: (a) how much French you want to learn; and (b) why you want to learn it. Do you just want to get by a tourist and/or be polite/show courtesy? Or do you want to re-learn the language as part of the cultural package you're looking forward to experiencing as part of your trip?

I've studied a little Italian (using Pimsleur) in order to "get by" as a business traveller and be polite. But in preparation for a trip to Morocco next spring, I'm going to complete a basic workbook (to learn the Arabic alphabet) and then take private lessons with a Moroccan expat because I view the language prep for the trip as part of the excitement of entire experience (the planning part and the trip itself). If I had time on the trip itself, I would enrol in a one-week language course once I got to Morocco.
Kate_W is offline  
Dec 9th, 2004, 04:58 AM
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Letour, maybe I saw you being interviewed on TF1 or FR3.

(That's BONNE chance )
kappa is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 07:04 AM
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I was just sent a new website for learning French that's free and looks like fun. Basically, you are asked to solve a mystery and the program offers various levels of French instruction while you try to solve the crime.

Here's the site:
letour is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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Very funny, Ira. Thank God I'm not the only one who gets French mixed in with Italian. I don't even have to visit both countries to make this mistake.

I blame all my brain/mouth/typing hand dysfunction on brain activity overdrive. I think faster than I can do anything else. Thank goodness I don't eat fast.

The best way to learn any foreign language is to immerse yourself in a class. You NEED to speak to others as you make mistakes. You can learn quite quickly this way. Taking a class just before you go is a perfect way to exercise what you learn. Even if you can't speak the language easily, you'll be able to understand so much more.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 08:21 AM
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Kate, you chopped off the &tid in the URL you posted. That's the thread identifier.
Robespierre is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 11:56 AM
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Great suggestions. I have the Plimseur cassettes and cds coming from the library. If I like them I will buy them. Someone asked my committment to learning the language. Since I am obsessive by nature, I will find time to do it daily.

On another note, there is a french deli here (god knows why...I am in San Diego) and they have French wine and cheese tastings. We are going Friday so I consider that my first lesson in French...unfortunately here in San Diego Spanish is the chosen language. I took a class in Spanish and answered in French.

Incidentally I find my 4 years of Latin really help me in understanding other languages.

loisco is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 12:06 PM
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Loisco, I have used Pimsleur as well and completed all 3 sets. They are great, however, I wish they had one just on ordering in a restaurant (they do go over the basics). For example, I guess we all know fumeur ou non fumeur? Seems so basic yet my son didn't have a clue when presented with this question. I would study the names of foods and know what veal, rabbit, etc. is.

Pimsleur also has vocabulary for business such as appointment, meetings, work. Can't hurt to learn it but I really needed more restaurant help.
Ronda is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 12:15 PM
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Incidentally, I found it helpful to do the lessons first at home, in a quiet place, all the way through. After I had listened to them at least once, I could do them in the car but there are a lot of distractions in the car. I would listen to them 2x per day and then if I didn't have the material down, give them a second day before going on to the next lesson.

Can I speak French? I don't think I do that well but my husband was impressed. I'm very self conscious. I would now like to find a class or some how go on with my studies. I have the French in Action books and workbooks and am starting those now. Also can check out videos and the language tapes at the library.

I had tried the French in Action series before but was frustrated because I couldn't catch on or understand. Since doing the Pimsleur tapes, I started the French in Action lessons again and am pleasantly surprised that I understand almost every word in the first 3 lessons I have done so far.
Ronda is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 03:18 PM
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It looks like Kate was trying to cite this thread - -

rex is offline  
Jan 28th, 2005, 10:41 AM
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Here's another website that offers interesting articles produced by the BBC in French, so you can read and listen to them at the same time. Very helpful!
letour is offline  
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