Peter Mollenburg's Course Suggestions

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Peter Mollenburg's Course Suggestions

Postby Carmody » Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:36 pm

Peter Mollenburg has consented to allowing me to post his very informative thread on French courses. It first appeared in his log. It is especially valuable to many people who like myself are just starting out on the journey. What is not mentioned below are the 26 courses that Peter has gone through on his own in order to come up with the list below. That list is on his log.

Thank you again Peter for your generous expenditure of time, experience and expertise on our behalf.

Re: PM's 99 French Courses Mission

Post by PeterMollenburg » Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:51 pm

Carmody wrote:
Since you have so much experience with so many different French courses could you do me a favor and tell me what your top 5 courses are? I imagine different courses have different strengths and weaknesses.

I am on Chapter 42 / 52 in French In Action so I don't have much experience outside of that.


Ok, here's my top 5 list, with added 6th. I went with 6 because FIA is included in the list and therefore I'd only be giving you 4 other courses in my list otherwise.

1. Assimil
2. French in Action.
3. Fluenz.
4. FSI French Basic Course
5. Hugo French in 3 Months
6. Mauger's Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises

These courses are a real mixture. Were I do strictly recommend courses to someone, I'd really need to take into account their current level, there gaps, what they enjoy, what they want out of a course and so on.

Assimil French
I personally have thoroughly enjoyed the format of the Assimil courses. When I list 'Assimil' as number 1, I am talking about the both French Assimil courses I have used so far - New French with Ease, and Using French. Some people struggle with Assimil for various reasons, but generally it's very well received here on the forum for those that do want to use a course.

French in Action
This course makes the list for it's thoroughness. You know all about that of course Carmody, but part if me does hesitate in recommending it to new learners, as i'ts a massive undertaking and could scare many a wannabee language learner away. Well done Carmody on making it this far! That's certainly evidence enough for me of a language learner in for the long haul- it takes a serious language learner to persevere through that course.

Fluenz French
I personally found excellent for drilling. It's not as dry as FSI (nor as thorough), but more up to date, and it's not just drills, so despite it being not as thorough, the other elements flesh out the course somewhat. It's the best computer based learning program I've come across for language learning thus far. I've completed levels 1 through 4 (I also have the 5th). I'd not push to recommend level one so much (perhaps even level 2). I can't recall at which level the native 'host' comes in- could be 2, could be 3. Wherever she comes in, that's where the course raises in quality, as it eliminates the producer/owner of Fluenz who I feel has a rubbish accent. Someone touted her decent list of achievements here recently (or on HTLAL?) and she is indeed impressive, but her French accent is crap imo- not good for learning from. Still the hosts only take up a smallish component of the learning in Fluenz. Again, I found it an excellent program for mimicking/shadowing in particular.

FSI French Basic Course.
Although I've only completed around a quarter of it at a guess, I can see the benefit in using it. If you can handle the very dry format and persevere, it is imo a great course to drive home your French through endless drills that bring your automaticity right to the surface.

Hugo French in 3 Months
I highly recommend this course to newbies for a few reasons. As with all Hugo in 3 Months courses, it provides a really good overview of the language in terms of a good serve of grammar, some vocabularly building, conversations and vocabularly, which all come together in the exercises where you practise what you learn. Great introductory course (at least in French- the Dutch one imo, is even better). It's concise this course. Long enough to get a taste/good feel for the language, but not overbearing. The audio quality is excellent, and you come away from a 3 month course feeling you really know something. Although like most serious language learners know, that's not the truth of the situation (that one can learn a language -throughly- in 3 months), but at least this course provides one with confidence by the time you reach the end. Great for pragmantic learners who need grammatical concepts clearly laid out to them.

Mauger's Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises
A massive undertaking, bigger, I think, than any other course here, when including all volumes. I've only done a small fraction of it, so my judgement is honestly premature. However it really does 'appear' to be a very thorough course indeed that takes the learner from beginnings to litterature lover and French civilisation graduate via the conduit of the French language. I'll pass further judgement on this course down the track.

Special mentions
There's numerous supposedly very decent courses I'm yet to make my way through, so I'm sure the above top 5 will change, or i'll extend it to a top 10- or cater it to whoever is asking the question and what they're really needing/looking for.

Neverthelles the Grammaire Progressive du Français series I am nearing the end of my first book- the 'niveau débutant', and I find it a very good reference tool containing a good number of exercises. Thus, if you want a grammar reference, which contains concise clear explanations entirely in French throughout the book on every left hand page, and practise exercises on every right hand page, then this is a good series. I'm going to go further in this series and the Vocabulaire Progressif du Français series as well, so I'd not be surprised to see this series in my top 5 soonish. CLE - Grammaire en dialogues could be another one to make it into the top 5 too, purely basing that on what i've heard on the grapevine/reviews etc. In other words, watch this spot.

I have not mentioned any audio courses.
Pimsleur is always great for pronunciation practise. Michel Thomas is good for trying out various sentence and verb structures beyond what Pimsleur can provide. Rocket French is a good follow on to both Pimsleur and MT, as the dialogues are faster and more complex imo, particularly the third level.

For you Carmody
Given you're nearing the end of your FIA quadruple triple trifecta backwards flip marathon and then some. Not having much to go on in terms of what exactly you are looking for, I'd recommend you these courses in order of importance:

1. Assimil Using French.
Perfect for your level I believe.

2. Grammaire Progressive du Français
A good grammar series to accompany the more traditional courses.

3. CLE - Grammaire en dialogues
Although it's a little silly recommending a course that I haven't done myself. I have heard great things about this series (I do own it, yet to use it, have leafed through on occasion). You could start with intermédiaire and move onto the avancé level.

4. Mauger's Cours de Langue et de Civilisation
If you want another really big course, possibly bigger than FIA, which steers you towards venturing into French litterature offerings down the track then go with this course. You will have to overlook some old language, more formal than it might need to be at times and you could make this massive course smaller by starting off on level 2 or 3.

5. Fluenz French 4 and 5
Good for drilling with more frills than FSI, but not cheap. Not as dry as FSI either. You could start with earlier levels, but honestly even by the end of 5 you won't have improved your French by leaps and bounds but you will have got a good deal of shadowing practise in with some complicated sentences. FSI will take you further.
FSI French Basic Course
If you can handle hours upon hours, upon hours of dry drills. It's still an excellent program- more thorough than Fluenz, but does use some older language.
DLI French
Haven't done this one, but apparently very similar to FSI French Basic Course. Just another option.

6. Pimsleur
OR: Michel Thomas
OR: Rocket French
If you commute or spend a lot of time travelling and still want to listen to French learning material as opposed to native content, then go with one of these, but use what is suited to your level and needs. You might be better off just listening to podcasts depending on your wants/needs.
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