The 5 Things You Need Most in Your French Software Program

By: Dennis Cordy

When you're searching for the best French software program you want to maximize the benefits that learning French on your pc can give you. There's no point buying French software that's little more than an online book, you need interactivity and playability. The more you get involved with the software the more your new French language skills will stick.

I've broken the requirements down into the following 5 "must haves":

1. You must enjoy the experience. Learning French should be stimulating.

Take a look at what's being offered in your French software program. Does it look a bit dry and dusty or does it look fun. I know advertising techniques can sometimes fools us, and they might make something look great that isn't, but if it starts out looking dull you probably want to leave it. It is possible to learn French while being bored to tears but it's much better if you're enjoying yourself!

2. You need achievable goals and the "feel-good" factor of making progress.

Although you obviously want as comprehensive a French course as possible, for fast and easy learning you want bite-sized chunks so you can clearly see that you're progressing. It's no good if something just hammers at you repetitively like you were back at school. Good French learning software should feed you small parcels of information that you can absorb and retain. You want a feeling that you haven't just read something or listened but that you've actually learned it.

3. You need audio, visual and written components.

Seems kind of obvious that French software would provide both spoken and visual content - it's not doing much in the way of interactivity if it isn't. However, you also want written transcripts of the spoken French that you can print out. Not only are these useful for reading when you're not at the computer but reading whilst listening massively reinforces your learning.

4. You need portability for learning French wherever you are.

French learning software now encompasses products that are supplied on CD, products for direct download to your PC and those which can be studied entirely online. In most cases you can record sections of spoken French onto a CD or MP3 so that you can use it on the go, but beware - make sure you're not paying for sound files in a format that you can't play away from the computer. To be on the safe side, always go for MP3.

5. You need support - because no French software program has all the answers.

Unfortunately the majority of French language learning software offers little or no support - and no matter how good the program is, there's going to come a time when you have questions that it just can't answer. Rocket French is the only one we know that currently provides (a) a direct email to one of the course writers and (b) a free member forum. It's not as good as having a one-on-one teacher, but it's pretty close!

One final tip. If you can, get a free sample of your French language software before you buy. Some do, some don't. It's nice to hear the voice of the person who'll be teaching you French and to read samples of their writing style, or to judge French lesson content.

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