Living French, book cover

Vocabulary, Grammar, Comprehension Exercises and Self-Help Questions

Book review of a traditional and comprehensive course in the French language. Aimed at beginners and those returning to study of French. It has a supporting audio CD.

Described as a “Grammar-based Course”; Living French is a comprehensive French language course. Probably best suited to supporting classroom or tutor assisted study however the accompanying CD will allow determined students studying alone to learn to speak French.

Traditional Language Teaching Approach to Learning French

Living French is traditional in its approach to learning French and has been “the learner's friend for 50 years”. It is structured as a course of 24 lessons with an introduction that sets out the basic grammar and basic rules of pronunciation. Each lesson consists of:

  • New grammatical concepts
  • Additional vocabulary
  • A reading passage links the vocabulary and grammar together
  • Comprehension questions on the reading exercise
  • Exercises using the grammar and vocabulary learned to date. Answers are provided
  • A piece to translate

There are additional supporting sections covering:

  • Correspondence and the appropriate forms of address
  • Verb tables
  • Some idioms and phrases
  • Useful word lists and
  • English-French and French-English vocabularies. These are not complete even for the content of the course so are not a substitute for a proper bilingual dictionary which all students should have.

In a classroom each lesson might form the basis of at least one or two hours of instruction with some homework. This then is not a book to be rushed if the material is to be fully assimilated. It needs to be to give the reader or student the understanding needed to support the next lesson.

Speaking and Understanding the Spoken Word

There is an audio CD to support the written course –especially important for the student studying alone. It includes:

  • A pronunciation guide at the start
  • Support for lessons with a reading passage being read out loud followed by questions (and answers). Although the passages on the CD are marked as such in the book, the track is not indicated except in a separate CD contents list at the end.

The Spoken Word – An Added-On CD

There is a sense that the CD is there because a language course should have one. The execution is somewhat half-hearted and does not take full advantage of the medium. In particular it is not straightforward to load on to an iPod or similar – surely most students preferred means of listening to the material?

As there are no album or artist details it tries to load individual tracks into iTunes. The problem is compounded by the fact that the tracks are simply titled Track 1, Track 2; as a result the book is needed to find out which track is required. It is possible to get round these problems by adding the information before import but it is clumsy and could so easily be rectified in the production of the CD.

For Beginning and Returning French Language Students

For those readers new to French this book will provide a challenge and require considerable discipline. Many students may have been taught little English grammar so they will be learning grammar and French at the same time. Living French covers a lot of ground very quickly which may be discouraging for the beginner especially if studying alone.

For those who have studied French before and are looking to reacquaint themselves with the language this book is ideal as it covers both written and spoken French. Whilst being able to speak the language is manay people's aim there is always a need to read it and, ideally, write it. Students who complete Living French will have sufficient understanding to allow them to develop their French language skills through use and immersion in French culture.

Useful Extension to Spoken Language Courses

Popular spoken language courses do not provide the detail of the grammar or support the need to read and write French. Living French will therefore be a useful addition to those using such courses especially when the student has achieved a reasonable proficiency with the spoken language.

Living French will provide determined students with sufficient ability with French in all its forms which allow them them to develop proficiency through extended use of the language with native-speakers and through the written word.

Living French, Sixth Edition (2009, ISBN: 978-0-340-99074-2 by T W Knight is published by Hodder Education at £14.99.



First appeared on Suite101

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