If you have ever tried learning a new language, then you’ll agree that it is difficult, and requires a lot of patience. French and Spanish are among the two less difficult languages to learn for English speaking people because they are both based on Latin and have similar words.
There are really only three ways to learn a new language. Get into a course, immerse yourself in a native language speaking area, or get a program you can do at home.
The first tends to be a good choice if you are in school at the moment and have the extra time and money to spend on a tutor. Immersing yourself in the culture is a huge risk and you might not learn anything.
So the logical choice for most is picking up a program or online course. We found the best one online to be Rocket French by Marie-Claire Riviere.
What is Rocket French?
Rocket French is a French learning course. Unlike many other French learning products, it can be downloaded over the Internet. It took me about 30 minutes to download it with a broadband connection.
The Rocket French site has a provision for dial-up Internet but I believe this would take longer to download. (There is also a provision to buy the course as a hardcopy but it is considerably more expensive than the downloaded version)
What level is Rocket French?
The courses cater for people new to learning French. It aims to take beginners, through to a conversational level of the French language.
By conversational, I’d say be able to ask questions and have a good understanding of the answer. You could also have fairly simple conversations expressing your thoughts and feelings.
To really be a confident speaker you would have to get more vocabulary under your belt and speak to people without fear or embarrassment.
How does it teach French?
The course comprises 45 lessons.
- The first 25 lessons deal with the basics of the French language
- The next 10 lessons are intermediate level and build on the technical aspects of the language.
- The last 10 lessons are practical and feature real-life conversations. The student can put the previous 35 lessons into practice in these lessons.
Each lesson can take between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the skill level of the student and the knowledge of the topic being covered.
Alongside each grammar, the lesson is a cultural lesson. this can be in English or English/French. It introduces the French way of life, iconic French landmarks and things that are typically French.
How is a lesson taught?
The topics of the lesson are introduced along with any new French words. The student will read through the introduction. Any French words can be clicked on and the audio for the word will be heard.
The audio takes the following format: first, the English equivalent is spoken, then the French. Then there is a pause and the French have spoken again. This gives the student a chance to speak French and practice what he/she is learning.
More examples will be given on the topic and examples of how it is used. A variety of written and multiple-choice type exercises end the lesson.
The Random button can be pushed at any time and a French sentence or word from the current lesson will be spoken. This can allow the student to practice conversation and comprehension for this particular lesson.
Any other teaching methods used?
There are three games that are used to teach :
- Megavocab – vocabulary recognition, match one of 6 pictures to a word picked at random by the software
- Megaverbs – verb conjugation, conjugate a verb in the correct person and tense. There are 20 questions within each game and the software can select any verbs it has in the system.
- MegaAudio – comprehension, listen to the audio of a word or sentence and guess which of the 4 pictures represent the audio.
These games are useful to consolidate the knowledge learned in the lessons or as a warm-up exercise before the lessons begin.
Flashcards are provided :
- 310 beginner flashcards
- 216 advanced flashcards
What is good about the course?
The course builds from beginner to advanced. It will give the student a complete grasp of the French Language at the end of the course.
The verb conjugation games is useful, as learning the forms of the verbs is potentially very tedious and boring. The game can alleviate this boredom.
The random button is good for adding a bit of spontaneity to the lesson. This is useful if you have done the lesson more than once and need to freshen it up a little.
What is bad about the course?
The pictures in the Megavocab are a bit misleading at times which makes guessing the correct words difficult.
You can only improve your pronunciation by listening and repeating the audio, no feedback is given by the software as to how your accent sounds.
If you are still unsure about Rocket French then you can sign up for the free 6-day course. This will give you a taste of the full course and how it is taught.
Once you have bought the course, you will be sent the Rocket French newsletter every fortnight. The newsletter has a new lesson in each issue.
I think the content and scope of the Rocket French course represents good value. Although it will take some work for a new student to learn French, Rocket French can certainly make this effort easier.