Fast Learning With French Language Software

By: Dennis Cordy

Traditional French language learning has generally been of the "listen and repeat" type, either in class or by way of the old tape systems that I'm sure some of you remember (I certainly do). Although more recently we've have CDs and DVDs we're still presented with the same old methods on them. Now however, at last we have more advanced interactive French language software and in recent years French lessons you can download straight to your pc.

But are they any good or is it just technology for the sake of it?

Like everything else there's some and some. If you search for free French language software you're going to probably restrict yourself to a few MP3s you can download. No bad thing in itself as it's always good to have something to listen too. Every little helps.

You might also find a few mpeg clips that you can view online and why not? If they're free, what have you got to loose?

The problem is that sooner rather than later you run out of useful information. Not surprising really, most of these guys are trying to make a living so they'll give you a free taster in the hope that you'll buy the main French software product. Nothing wrong with that, that's good business sense, but sadly for us it means we've got to put our hand in our pocket!

So do we get good value once we've done so? Well for a start there's plenty of choice from kids ages upwards. There's also a big price range, from around dollars to several hundreds, and from what I've seen so far, you get what you pay for.

At the bottom end you're not getting much more than the free stuff. In the mid-range things get more interesting and at the top you have to say you're getting pretty comprehensive French language tuition. Most of these are going to come on CD or DVD although there are a few learn French downloads now available that you just pay for and copy straight from the server to your computer. No waiting for the mail and in at least one case a considerable saving over competing products - around $100 instead of $250 or more.

But $100 is not cheap. You can get quite a few books or basic old-fashioned CDs for that money. What makes this course so superior?

Well really we can forget about books straight away. If you're an advanced French learner then there are books for verb conjugation and grammar that will prove useful but for the beginner you need to actually hear the language, to hear a French person speaking. You just can't get that from a book.

What about audio CDs though, you might ask, you can hear people speaking on them. Well yes, but it really is just the listed-and-repeat style learning that most people soon find quite tedious.

Modern French language software downloads really involve the student. You have the audio tracks that you always have had (and which you can still copy to a CD or MP3 player) but now you also have illustrated interactive lessons and vocabulary and word games. The software is constantly challenging you and responding to your answers. As a result you feel involved and your rate of learning accelerates dramatically.

We can't really criticize the old tape systems. Back then, that's all there was. To translate them to CDs was really a bit of a cop-out. Fortunately some companies have taken advantage of the technology to provide truly immersive learn French downloads that vastly increase our ability to absorb whilst greatly reducing the time it takes us.

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