The musical sound of the French language tends to conjure certain images for English-speakers. Leisurely mornings of coffee and pastries in a café. The Bohemian life of an artist on the Left Bank of the Seine. The romance of « Je t’aime. » The understatement of « Ça va. » the inspiration of Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité: French is a beautiful—and global—language, and one of the most rewarding you can study.
Yet as with learning any new language, it can be a frustrating experience. Dozens if not hundreds of platforms promise to teach you with buzzwords like “immersion,” and suggest that passive listening for a “few minutes a day” is all it takes to learn a new language. There’s no getting around it: learning a new language is challenging, and it requires active participation. But with the right approach, it should also be a fun and incredibly rewarding endeavor.
Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures includes what most platforms omit: context. In these 30 lively, step-by-step lectures, Professor Ann Williams of the Metropolitan State University of Denver has crafted an effective and engaging course that gives you the core building blocks of the language while also giving you crucial insight into the relationship between French and French-speaking cultures. This ingenious approach is perfect for adult language learners who are serious about enjoying and using the French language.
This course is designed to provide an insider’s look at the French-speaking world, and it reveals the deep and often invisible intersection between language and culture. By touring France and countries such as Morocco, Canada, Senegal, and others, Professor Williams gives you a feel for everyday life, highlighting the vocabulary you need for success, whether you are looking to get around as a tourist or want to engage with the people and the culture on a deeper level.
Acquiring a new language takes time and patience, but you will love the process in this course. Professor Williams makes learning French a joy with these comprehensive lectures, which are filled with conversations to help you practice as well as insider tips to give you insights about the nuances of the culture. Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures presents a hands-on tour of the language that will open up an entirely new world for you.
Learn the Essentials of a Beautiful, Global Language
Beyond the romance and musicality of its status as a Romance language, French is a growing world language, the official language in 30 countries and widely spoken in many more. After learning the language, you will join 200 million people around the world who use French every day, from the day-to-day use in homes and neighborhoods to the high-stakes world of international business or United Nations diplomacy.
To get you going from minute one in this course, Professor Williams starts with the basic premise that you already know a great deal of French thanks to its close connection to English. Using what you know through cognates as a springboard, you’ll immediately dive into the unique features of French. The opening lectures take you “under the hood” of the language, showing you key concepts of grammar that will guide you through the rest of the course—and beyond.
Professor Williams then takes a practical, step-by-step tour of the language, helping you understand the underlying principles to give you a deeper appreciation for the language. The course gives you the perfect blend of grammatical theory and real-world usage. For instance, you will:
- Learn a wealth of “de-coding skills” to help you learn through context.
- Gain quick access to the basics of how to get around in a French-speaking country.
- Explore “word families” to make connections between common words to broaden your vocabulary.
- Find out how to engage with French speakers in different contexts, from business transactions to dinner party conversations.
- Unlock the secrets of French verb forms, including the present, past, imperfect, subjunctive, and future tenses.
- Grasp the cultural underpinnings and the underlying structure of the language, making it easy to absorb vocabulary and apply grammatical principles.
Because French is spoken from the very beginning of the course, you will immediately get a sense for the sounds and rhythms of the language, aided by some remarkable pronunciation tips as well as and pitfalls to avoid before you can develop any common bad habits. And while Professor Williams emphasizes conversational French, she also sprinkles in examples from menus, street signs, poems, and other texts to help you build your reading knowledge. Helpful graphics translate key words throughout, ensuring you both see and hear the language.
Bridge the Connection Between Language and Culture
Language can never be divorced from culture, and effective communication requires an understanding of a society’s mores. This course’s subtitle—”A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures”—indicates Professor Williams’ brilliant method for bringing the language to life. She examines the values and subtleties of French-speaking cultures, which will help you refine your interactions with French speakers, making them more natural and easygoing.
For example, the French tend to value courtesy. If you approach an attendant to inquire about upcoming train schedules, you’ll have better luck if you greet him or her with a polite « Bonjour » or « Excusez-moi » first. Likewise, understatement is more common in France than in the United States. Whereas Americans always seem to be doing “Great!” the French are more likely to say things are « Pas mal » (not bad).
Among other cultural practices, you will reflect on:
- Mealtime customs
- Travel hints
- The rhythms of conversation
- Technology and privacy
- The language of leisure
- Holiday customs
- And more
In addition to the cultural basics of getting around, you will also delve into the arts and heritage of the French-speaking world. Professor Williams guides you through museums and art galleries, cinemas and concert halls, to introduce you to some of the touchstones that make each culture unique. She develops the grammar lessons and vocabulary around cultural topics so that, rather than simply memorizing words, you build your knowledge around each theme, making the learning process easier and more enjoyable.
Build a Toolkit for a Lifelong Journey
This course mirrors college-level French but offers terms and cultural insights you wouldn’t ordinarily find in a basic survey of the language. In fact, Professor Williams’ conversation-based approach and the self-pacing of video lectures will likely help people who may have struggled to learn French in the past. Combined with the professor’s infectious enthusiasm, the stunning on-screen visuals and the studio props make comprehension easy and enjoyable.
One of the strengths of her approach is the way Professor Williams moves forward while circling back to re-visit key concepts. Subsequent lectures clarify the initial encounters with words and phrases, helping you learn through repetition. And because practice makes perfect, the course comes with a Language Lab, specially crafted spoken exercises to practice your lessons. A workbook, the Cahier d’exercices, provides written support for the content of each lecture.
If there’s one piece of advice Professor Williams has to offer for success, it’s that learning a language is a lifelong pursuit. She expertly guides you through 30 clear and wide-ranging lessons, giving you a remarkable introduction to one of the world’s great languages. Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures makes acquiring—and, most important, using—French easier than you ever imagined, and when you complete the course, you will be poised for the next step in your journey.
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