Are you thinking of studying a foreign language in your homeschool? If so, I have a wonderful resource for you–Armfield Academic Press‘ Getting Started With French! We received a copy of this book to review via the Homeschool Review Crew.
What is Getting Started With French?
Getting Started With French, authored by William E. Linney and Brandon Simpson, is a beginning language learning textbook especially written for homeschooled students. In fact, its subtitle is “Beginning French for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age.” It’s ideal for homeschoolers or those who are learning French for the very first time for many reasons. It’s extremely affordable ($21.95 at Amazon); it is incredibly easy to use even if the user is unfamiliar with French; it’s divided into clear, simple lessons; and it has an audio component.
Getting Started With French is composed of a softcover book and accompanying free audio downloads from Getting Started With French. The book contains lessons 1 through 172; an answer key in the back for the lessons’ exercises; a pronunciation guide; a glossary; and an index. The audio downloads can be retrieved two ways; either by downloading zip files to your computer or by simply accessing each lesson’s pronunciation file via the website.
The lessons start very simply; with new French words and their correct pronunciation, and then each subsequent lesson builds on the ones before it. The audio files use a native French speaker from Paris to pronounce each word or phrase for the student. So first, the student reads the lesson in the book and learns a little about new vocabulary or pronunciation rules in French. Then, he can listen to the audio file and practice his own pronunciation. Last, he’ll (usually) do written work.
The authors also include fun Expressions Françaises (French expressions) here and there; familiar French phrases that even English speakers would know, along with the stories behind those phrases. They are fun pieces of trivia especially created for French students.
My son is preparing to resume studies of another foreign language and was concerned about learning two very different languages at once. So this time, I was the person who got to use the curriculum! I’ve always enjoyed French (whether it’s the food, the fashions, the country’s beautiful architecture, or the language itself), but it has been years and years since I studied it in high school and college. I really looked forward to picking it up again.
To begin, I selected a composition notebook to use for the written portion of each lesson. I downloaded the audio zip files from the Downloads tab of Getting Started With French (there are both pronunciation files and author commentary for each lesson; this is like having a French teacher right in your own homeschool) to our PC. However, because our PC sits in one area of our dining room I often work elsewhere with audio or video files using my Kindle Fire, just because I can be anywhere in the home (or away, if there’s wi-fi) to do it. So I simply used the audio files straight from the website almost all of the time as I studied. This worked perfectly. I followed the lessons as they are presented in the book; first, I’d read the first few paragraphs, then I’d listen to and repeat aloud the audio vocabulary, then I’d write the exercises from the book in my composition notebook.
The lessons are very simple and easy, yet profound at the same time. Who could have imagined that with only a softcover textbook and audio files, a French class focusing on grammar, pronunciation rules, vocabulary AND correct voicing of the French language could be achieved? And yet that’s exactly what Getting Started With French has done. The authors recommend that a student study one lesson per day, rather than clumping together many lessons at once. There might be the temptation to do that just because the lessons are on the shorter side. However, true learning will occur much more effectively and smoothly if students learn just a little at a time and learn it well. Then, each following lesson will build on the ones before.
Personally, I found Getting Started With French incredibly enjoyable. I loved using it! It was truly wonderful to get back into French language study, and even though I have a busy day nearly every day of my life, I was able to fit in study times with no trouble. (And because of the audio access via my Kindle, I could do it in any room of the house!) I did remember a good portion of French vocabulary and grammar rules, but what I appreciated most was the fact that the audio files modeled for me the correct pronunciation. Since my college years, I spent several years studying and speaking (well, attempting to speak) Russian and, as you can imagine, the pronunciation and even the placement inside the mouth of voicing different vowels, vowel combinations, or vowels with consonants was dramatically different. And yes, every single student benefits from hearing words spoken by native speakers. But in my case, I found that I had to retrain my palate (so to speak) from Russian pronunciation to French. Thanks to the audio files, this was easily accomplished (although honestly, it’s still a work in progress as I haven’t completed the entire course yet!).
One thing that a person can find challenging when learning a foreign language is putting grammar together with vocabulary. Why would a French speaker say or write “l’orange” instead of “la orange,” for example? What does the cédille do to the French pronunciation rule of a “C,” or “ç” in a word? All these questions, and many more, are explained little by little to students. I really appreciate the way the authors don’t separate grammar lessons from everything else (which I think makes language-learning very challenging), but place them in context by weaving them into lessons where the students are also working on pronunciation and building a vocabulary.
I would definitely recommend Getting Started With French for any student (child or adult) who’d like to begin to learn this beautiful language…and also for any homeschool parent! Even if there is no French experience or ability whatsoever in the home, authors Linney and Simpson have created lessons which are incredibly easy for both the teacher and the student to apprehend, and just as important, to truly progress with. Getting Started With French provides a fantastic foundation for further language study by its excellent pronunciation, conversation, translation, and vocabulary/grammar lessons.
Armfield Academic Press also has other fantastic introductory language learning books available; Getting Started With Spanish and Getting Started With Latin. They’re also planning to publish Getting Started With Russian soon. Although I’m really enjoying studying French again, I must admit that there are foundations that I missed when I studied Russian the first time. I was actually living in Russia and studying Russian at a university there with a native Russian speaker; and she was fantastic. However, because it was more of an immersion experience, I missed some basic yet crucial grammar and pronunciation information (like how exactly to form my mouth around “ы” or managing the dipthong “лю.”) I feel completely confident, based on using Getting Started With French, that Mr. Linney will be more than capable of unlocking the secrets of the Russian language to me….at last! (When Getting Started With Russian is published, that is!)
If you’re or your child are interested in studying French, do check out Armfield Academic Press‘ Getting Started With French. It is affordable, understandable, and so user-friendly. I truly loved it, and am looking forward to more from Armfield Academic Press!
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