Tag Archives: Francophone

French…With Ease? My Thoughts on The Assimil Method

Here, in North America, we have Rosetta Stone. It sounds pretty awesome and all, until you see the price.

Is that a typo?

Of course, this includes one-on-one time with professional language teachers via a video program like Skype or something. Sounds awesome, but seeing as I’m just trying to warm up before hopefully pursuing French in university, it’s a little excessive.

I can’t even remember where I found out about Assimil. It’s not a household name on this side of the pond, so I was skeptical. Although, the American Amazon site had the French kit up for a total of $40 with shipping, and I was sold.

Just 8 days later and it was on my doorstep when I arrived home from a particularly horrible shift at work. Once I got all the tree sap off my hands (don’t ask, but if you’re ever in the situation, margarine works like a dream), I opened it up. You get a small, but surprisingly heavy, book with over 500 pages of lessons. There are also 4 CDs included, which just have people reading/acting out the exercises so you can work on your accent and word recognition.

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I only use the finest of bookmarks

Here is a look at a lesson:

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Trust me, it makes more sense when you're actually doing it.

I’ve only done the first six lessons, but I feel like this is perfect. It picks up almost right where high school French left off. Instead of memorizing grammar over and over and over again by just filling in the blanks, this system uses it practically. You go over common phrases and how to use them, as well as small grammar things I missed in high school. (ex. make sure you use “de” when asking someone about an object. Vous voulez de la tartine?…oh god that’s probably wrong.)
These were just things that would be crossed off in your essays in high school and you’d have no clue why, you’d just accept it because you were so sick of grammar.

My one gripe: The audio recordings are spoken at a snail’s pace. I want to listen to how a French person would converse with another French person, not how they would converse if they were speaking to an invalid. There should be a fast and slow version of each sentence spoken, but I guess that would have doubled their costs (?)
Oh well, I’ll stick to French TV with the captioning on for that part.

Perhaps I will one day achieve my goal of being able to order what I actually want when driving through rural Quebec. One day, Michelle, one day.

The book also likes to remind you regularly to not try too hard or study too much. I’m already in love. 

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Je veux appendre le français! Pourquoi?

I don’t even know if that is grammatically correct. I can translate things word-for-word, but when it comes to the settle oddities or French sentence structure, I must sound horrible. If they had a French equivalent of Engrish Funny, I’d probably be their top contributor.

“Wait, you mean “tête carrée” isn’t a compliment? Whoops.”

As many of you probably know, Canada is a bilingual country. This doesn’t mean that everyone in every city speaks French, or that we even like French. It just means that there are two sides to every cereal box, a French one and an English one. Québec is our French province. In most places outside Montreal, everyone you encounter will speak French and perhaps a little English. There are also the Acadian areas of the east coast, and various small towns in northern Ontario and Alberta that are francophone.

Toronto, however, is the opposite. People here speak every language on earth. Russian, Hindi, Italian, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin. Not so much with French. I think I’ve encountered maybe…I don’t know…10 people speaking French in Toronto? (Yes, more probably know the language but were just conversing in English.)

This is why I’m having such a problem with it. I want to become fluent. I took French throughout high school and I can conjugate verbs like no body’s business, but when it comes to conversing, I don’t know what the hell people are talking about. Every spoken word in high school French was slow and straightforward. I can’t even understand French kids’ shows, they speak too fast for me.

The amount of times I’ve driven through Québec and lost my nerve to order a sandwich in French in frustrating. I’ll stand in line and think to myself, “Bonjour! Est-ce que je peux avoir une six inch vegetable sub, s’il vous plait?” only to walk up and order in English? What if they don’t understand my accent? What if I have to switch to English when they stare at me with confusion? Ahhh!

I mean, if I’m going to get a degree in something a little abstract with no surefire job, as I had in nursing, I might as well have something going for me that most people don’t.

Hopefully next year I’ll have the guts to join a French club at university. What could be more fun than going out to a pub and getting drunk with a bunch of French-learners?

Until then, I’ll suffer through watching Dino Train on the French channels with the captioning on.

Don’t even get me started on learning Quebec French vs. France French.

Anyone who has struggled to learn a new language without the option of immersion, please share any tips you have avec moi.