Great Tools for Beginning French Students

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A selection of resources for beginning students, including a dictionary, a few grammar selections, a video, an extensive tape/CD program, and some non-fiction to distract and reinspire students when fatigue or irritation sets in. Don't let the "fun factor" of some of these products fool you - they are all useful tools for French students and teachers.

Ultimate French

Includes eight hours of lessons and a 400-page textbook, and is equivalent to two full years of college-level study.

Four of the tapes are to be used with the book while the other four can be listened to while you're driving, cooking, etc. Includes a pronunciation chart and jumps right into simple conversations in French, each followed by the English translation; pronunciation, grammar, and cultural explanations; and some written exercises. The topics covered include greetings, descriptions, the home, the pharmacy, the market, interviewing, and much more.

Collins Pocket French Dictionary

Nice basic bilingual dictionary. Beginners and travelers can get by with it, but if they use it regularly, they'll soon realize this dictionary's limitations - it's only big enough for essentials. If you plan to keep studying French, you might want to invest in a larger dictionary - see my other recommendations.

English Grammar for Students of French

If you don't know the difference between pronouns and prepositions - in French or English - this is the book for you.

It explains French grammar points alongside their English counterparts, using simple language and examples to compare and contrast the grammar in these two languages. It's like a mini-grammar class for French students.

Essential French Grammar

This little book de-emphasizes grammar in order to concentrate on communication, offering just enough grammar to help you work on speaking and understanding French, without getting bogged down in the details.

501 French Verbs

This is a very popular French verb book, and it's fine for beginners. However, some of the supplementary material in 501 French Verbs, notably the explanations of various verb tenses, is unclear or incorrect. If you're only planning to use the conjugations, then you should be fine, but I strongly recommend against using this book to learn grammar.

Les Portes Tordues, by Dr. Kathie Dior

Les Portes Tordues: The Scariest Way in the World to Learn French is a unique book aimed at upper beginning and intermediate students. It's a bilingual story, grammar review, and audio book rolled into one, so you can work on your reading, grammar, and listening skills all at the same time.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris

About a third of the 28 vignettes that make up this book have to do with speaking French and/or being in France, but all of the stories are very funny, and the French / France ones are well-worth the price of the book. All beginning French students will be able to relate to the author's French-learning woes, and the anecdote about trying to memorize genders by giving nouns proper names is a riot.

A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle

A light-hearted autobiography, travel/restaurant guide, and cultural study of the south of France.

Mr. Mayle describes a year of adventures amid the French, including daily struggles with the strong Provençal accent. Whether you're interested in learning more about French, "the Hexagon," or cuisine française, A Year in Provence will get you started on your cultural discovery of the south of France.

À l'écoute de la langue française
Self-study French CD-ROM.