I speak four languages fluently: English, French, Italian and Romanian. In addition, I have a BA degree in French and Italian from the University of Reading, England.
My experience of learning foreign languages has taught me an effective two-step approach to learning a new language.
- Quickly skim through a grammar book to gain a superficial understanding of the language. Ideally, you will spend no more than a few hours working on this first step.
- Use a variety of materials (such as books and magazines, music, movies and websites) that match your own hobbies and interests to explore the language. Frequently, you will encounter new vocabulary. Often, you will be able to guess its meaning from the context. Occasionally, you will need to consult a dictionary or read a particular section of a grammar book. Using this approach, you are likely to “pick up” the new language as you go along. Working on this second step will be an ongoing process.
The above approach does not have to be expensive. For example, you can often find second-hand, foreign-language books in local charity shops. Many newspapers and magazines provide much of their content free-of-charge on their websites. Instead of buying French-language music CDs, you can listen to such music free-of-charge on Internet radio stations or on YouTube.com. Instead of looking for French-language movies, you may already have (or can rent) Hollywood movies on DVDs that have a menu option for French subtitles or a French audio track.
My strong belief in this approach has lead me to spend many months researching and compiling Effective Resources for Learning French. This free book provides an annotated bibliography of books, movies, music and websites that are useful for learning French. It also provides useful advice on how to find French-language resources that match your interests.
- Read online (HTML).
- PDF file formatted for: A4 paper (308KB) or US Letter paper (307KB).
- Download the LaTeX source (51KB zip file).
Most books for learning French assume they will be used as the only, or at least primary, learning material. Because of this, they tend to combine useful reference material with exercises. And, unfortunately, their exercises are usually boring because they are not specific to a learner’s interests. There are, of course, “pure” reference books, but many of them contain pedantic detail that can be intimidating for a beginner or intermediate learner.
My frustrations with most of the books for learning and teaching French has lead me to research and write my own. The working title is Understand French Effectively. This book is not yet complete; I expect to finish and release it within the next few months. It explains the French language in a straightforward way, avoiding both pedantic detail and useless exercises.
Once I finish my Understand French Effectively book, I intend to start offering French tuition. My tuition services will use the books I have written as the basis of my teaching materials.