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The Best Self-Study French Course There Is
on January 20, 2011
First, let me point out right up front you need to have not only this workbook, but also the Audio CD, and the video to make this course really work. It's a very hefty investment, but if you really REALLY want or need to learn French, this course is by far the best, and I have used an awful lot of them. (You can get the videos for free online, but you really still should have the Audio CDs. They are crucial for the oral production part.)
Let me tell you my story, and my recommended path for the person learning French, starting from absolute scratch.
I found out, a year or so in advance, I was going to be moved to France. I had learned some Modern Greek a while back using a Pimsleur course, and I liked it, so I started by getting the French I Pimsleur course. They are expensive, but they are good, especially if you are starting from nothing. I did all three Pimsleurs (there may be four of them now, but I'm not sure) which cost a fortune, but really helped me get started. But frankly, even after all three sets, the Pimsleur course still leaves you as a complete beginner in many ways. Their real strength is in oral production, a major weakness of most other courses.
After I finished the Pimsleur courses, I needed something to keep the momentum going. I tried a few random courses here and there, most of which were pathetic and then I stumbled upon French in Action on the web. There are 52 1/2 hour "episodes" of this (all of which you can find free on the web.) I thought they were great. Then I found out that they were just the tip of the "French in Action" iceberg of material. There is a textbook, workbooks, and (in my mind, most importantly) the audio CDs. These were the perfect second step after Pimsleur. I bought all the stuff for a ton of money, and I have never regretted it. I moved to France and I was able to not only survive, but really do quite well. Was my French perfect? God no. I made all sorts of crazy mistakes. But... in one year's time, I was able to survive my relocation.
After FIA you still have a ton of work to do to become fluent. The long trudge of vocabulary acquisition is the hardest part. I ended up getting all the Harry Potter books in French and on Audio CD and that has helped a lot. I read the French online newspapers, and I watch and listen to French news programs (France 24, France Info, Le Journal en Français Facile among others.) I also subscribe to the DailyFrenchPod by Louis. His podcast is wonderful for learning new words.
So if you have the resources (and I'm not pretending it's not a lot of money here, it is) the best way to learn French from stratch (IMHO) is:
1) Do all the Pimsleur courses.
2) Do all of French in Action (and don't skimp on the Audio CDs and books).
3) Start listening and reading french books, newspapers, podcasts, talking to french people, etc.