Cassell's Colloquial French - Is it good?

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James29
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Cassell's Colloquial French - Is it good?

Postby James29 » Sun May 14, 2017 11:02 am

One of my favorite books in Spanish for the intermediate level was Cassell's Colloquial Spanish. I'm a beginner in French and am considering getting the French version. Online, it looks like there are some differences between the books. The French one looks much shorter. Can anyone give some comments on the usefulness of the French book and, perhaps, how it compares to the Spanish one?

https://www.amazon.com/Cassells-Colloqu ... ial+French
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Re: Cassell's Colloquial French - Is it good?

Postby Speakeasy » Sun May 14, 2017 3:17 pm

Format and Contents
This pocket-sized book measures 4-1/4” x 7” and is 160 pages in length. The printing is small, but quite legible, more so than that of the average dictionary. The book is divided into three sections as follows:
(a) an alphabetical listing of common French idioms by ‘key word’ accompanied by an explanation in English. This section takes up most of the text,
(b) a brief listing of specialized vocabulary items such as banking, telling time, household items et cetera including a short list of common false friends,
(c) an English-French cross-reference index of idioms.

Idioms Included in This Collection
As it would not be possible to include all French-language idioms with the confines of 160 printed pages, the authors have had to make certain choices. Here is a an extract from the Introduction: “The scope of this book is, obviously, modest, since we have not aimed at writing a dictionary but at enabling the student with an already solid grounding in French to advance into more secret territory by helping him to read between the lines and fill in the gaps of a standard dictionary. To achieve this, we have attempted to place each of the terms on the following pages ‘in its context’ and, usually, to give examples of its use … Our choice has been essentially personal (and therefore, arbitrary), based on the ambushes that we have heard English-speaking people run into in France or, conversely, on the stumbling blocks we have known Frenchmen to find most troublesome in learning English … We do not pretend to give every meaning of each term, since that would force us straight back to the form … To this end, we have given some idioms or clichés, although this book is by no means a listing of ‘colourful phrases’. Neither is this a hand-book of slang (l’argot). ‘Les expressions argotiques’ are so many, so peculiar to various milieu and often, so fleeting. ‘Language familiar’, on the other hand, has not been overlooked …"

English-Language Explanations
The English-language explanations run from ten-to-twenty lines of text. While they are succinct, they should be quite clear for anyone who has a good command of the English language. To my mind, the authors have presented the most common meanings of the French idioms included in this selection.

My Experience with Cassell’s Colloquial French
I have been living continuously in Québec for a period of some 30-odd years. As a matter of personal and professional choice, during this entire period, I have limited my contact with the English language and have simply adopted French as my primary means of communication. Still, a couple of years ago, out of curiosity, I decided to review my knowledge of French idiomatic usage, which I had acquired ‘sur le tas’, by reading through my copy of Cassell’s Colloquial French, a book that I had purchased some three decades prior, but had never opened … I had been too busy ‘living’ the language to take the time to study it. Given my lengthy and intimate exposure to the language, it should come as no surprise that there was not even one idiomatic expression in this collection with which I was not already deeply familiar. To this extent, I endorse the authors’ choices as expressed in the section ‘Idioms Included in This Collection’, above, as being amongst the most common that one might encounter in practice.

Usefulness of Cassell’s Colloquial French … or of Similar Collections
The Tsunami Environment
In my review of Cassell’s Colloquial French a couple of years ago, I made an attempt at visualizing myself as I had been some twenty-eight years prior; that is, making rapid progress in a truly full-immersion French-language environment, but still struggling with language. I came to the conclusion that the experience of being submerged by the surrounding linguistic tsunami meant that things had been moving simply too fast for me to stop and consult such a specialized book. Thus, anyone in a similar situation would most likely acquire their own collection of idiomatic expressions ‘sur le tas’ as I had, and would have neither the time nor the inclination to consult such works.

The Wading-Pool Environment
The authors point out that this collection of French idiomatic expressions was prepared with a view to “enabling the student with an already solid grounding in French to advance into more secret territory by helping him to read between the lines and fill in the gaps of a standard dictionary” and, to this extent, this book and similar collections have the potential for being somewhat useful at, for argument’s sake, the A2 level. However, I believe that the true usefulness of such collections depends mostly on the individual’s learning strategy. In my own particular case, while I have similar collections for German, as I prefer to acquire my understanding of idiomatic usage ‘in context’, I have consulted them on only on the rarest of occasions.

Conclusion
Cassell’s Colloquial French is a great little book, filled with some of the most common French idiomatic expressions. Its usefulness, and that of other such collections, will depend on the approach that the student takes to language-learning.

EDITÉ: quelques erreurs de frappe
Last edited by Speakeasy on Tue May 16, 2017 2:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cassell's Colloquial French - Is it good?

Postby James29 » Sun May 14, 2017 10:12 pm

Speakeasy wrote:Format and Contents
This pocket-sized book measures 4-1/4” x 7” and is 160 pages in length. The printing is small, but quite legible, more so than that of the average dictionary. The book is divided into three sections as follows:
(a) an alphabetical listing of common French idioms by ‘key word’ accompanied by an explanation in English. This section takes up most of the text,
(b) a brief listing of specialized vocabulary items such as banking, telling time, household items et cetera including a short list of common false friends,
(c) an English-French cross-reference index of idioms.

Idioms Included in This Collection
As it would not be possible to include all French-language idioms with the confines of 160 printed pages, the authors have had to make certain choices. Here is a an extract from the Introduction: “The scope of this book is, obviously, modest, since we have not aimed at writing a dictionary but at enabling the student with an already solid grounding in French to advance into more secret territory by helping him to read between the lines and fill in the gaps of a standard dictionary. To achieve this, we have attempted to place each of the terms on the following pages ‘in its context’ and, usually, to give examples of its use … Our choice has been essentially personal (and therefore, arbitrary), based on the ambushes that we have heard English-speaking people run into in France or, conversely, on the stumbling blocks we have known Frenchmen to find most troublesome in learning English … We do not pretend to give every meaning of each term, since that would force us straight back to the form … To this end, we have given some idioms or clichés, although this book is by no means a listing of ‘colourful phrases’. Neither is this a hand-book of slang (l’argot). ‘Les expressions argotiques’ are so many, so peculiar to various milieu and often, so fleeting. ‘Language familiar’, on the other hand, has not been overlooked …"

English-Language Explanations
The English-language explanations run from ten-to-twenty lines of text. While they are succinct, they should be quite clear for anyone who has a good command of the English language. To my mind, the authors have presented the most common meanings of the French idioms included in this selection.

My Experience with Cassell’s Colloquial French
I have been living continuously in Québec for a period of some 30-odd years. As a matter of personal and professional choice, during this entire period, I have limited my contact with the English language and have simply adopted French as my primary means of communication. Still, a couple of years ago, out of curiosity, I decided to review my knowledge of French idiomatic usage, which I had acquired ‘sur le tas’, by reading through my copy of Cassell’s Colloquial French, a book that I had purchased some three decades prior, but had never opened … I had been too busy ‘living’ the language to take the time to study it. Given my lengthy and intimate exposure to the language, it should come as no surprise that there was not even one idiomatic expression in this collection with which I was not already deeply familiar. To this extent, I endorse the authors’ choices as expressed in the section ‘Idioms Included in This Collection’, above, as being amongst the most common that one might encounter in practice.

Usefulness of Cassell’s Colloquial French … or of Similar Collections

The Tsunami Environment
In my review of Cassell’s Colloquial French a couple of years ago, I made an attempt at visualizing myself as I had been some twenty-eight years prior; that is, making rapid progress in a truly full-immersion French-language environment, but still struggling with language. I came to the conclusion that the experience of being submerged by the surrounding linguistic tsunami meant that things had been moving simply too fast for me to stop and consult such a specialized book. Thus, anyone in a similar situation would most likely acquire their own collection of idiomatic expressions ‘sur le tas’ as I had, and would have neither the time nor the inclination to consult such works.

The Wading-Pool Environment
The authors point out that this collection of French idiomatic expressions was prepared with a view to “enabling the student with an already solid grounding in French to advance into more secret territory by helping him to read between the lines and fill in the gaps of a standard dictionary” and, to this extent, this book and similar collections have the potential for being somewhat useful at, for argument’s sake, the A2 level. However, I believe that the true usefulness of such collections depends mostly on the individual’s learning strategy. In my own particular case, while I have similar collections for German, as I prefer to acquire my understanding of idiomatic usage ‘in context’, I have consulted them on only on the rarest of occasions.

Conclusion
Cassell’s Colloquial French is a great little book, filled with some of the most common French idiomatic expressions. Its usefulness, and that of other such collections, will depend on the approach that the student takes to language-learning.

EDITÉ: quelques erreurs de frappe


Amazingly useful response! Thank you. I am going to get it!
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Seneca
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Re: Cassell's Colloquial French - Is it good?

Postby Seneca » Mon May 15, 2017 3:42 pm

Speakeasy,
Do you have experience with other Cassell books in this series? Sometimes it seems that products age better for certain languages. For example, the German or Italian course may seem much more archaic and thus not be such a useful thing. Any thoughts?
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Speakeasy
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Re: Cassell's Colloquial French - Is it good?

Postby Speakeasy » Mon May 15, 2017 8:18 pm

Seneca wrote:Speakeasy, Do you have experience with other Cassell books in this series? ...
When I embarked on my independent study of German, believing that it might be useful, I purchased a copy of Cassell's Colloquial German, which I found to be every bit as well-conceived as the French version. During the period when I was progressing through the A1 and A2 levels, I tried memorizing the idiomatic expressions therein, whether or not they appeared in the materials that formed the basis of my studies, and ... DZZZZT !!!

I found that, without sufficient reinforcement, I simply could not retain those idiomatic expressions that did not appear fairly frequently in my regular study materials, readers, et cetera. As I moved through the B1 and B2 levels, I found that, generally speaking, all manner of idiomatic expressions started showing up with a much higher frequency. I absorbed them more easily (with the aid of a dictionary or online services) "in context" and through repeated contact ... even if it meant reading a two-page article twenty times during a given week as a means of reinforcement. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that resources such as these, despite their genuine virtues, are not suited to my particular learning style. To my mind, the usefulness of such materials is likely a matter of personal preference.

EDITED: typos, wie immer!
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Re: Cassell's Colloquial French - Is it good?

Postby James29 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:21 pm

I received my copy of this book in the mail today. It does indeed remind me very much of the Spanish version. It is noticeably shorter, however. It is the same size, but has only 140 pages of entries (in addition to the index).
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