Saturday, September 25, 2010

French for reading book REVIEW

French for Reading

Karl C. Sandberg, Eddison C. Tatham

By Maria B (Seattle, WA)
This review is from: French for Reading (Paperback)
Regarding using this book to help with speaking: This book has nothing about pronunciation, so if you care about speaking I recommend learning general spelling and pronunciation rules beforehand, so you have an idea of how to read this stuff aloud properly in case you find yourself inadvertently doing so. I had had some French in school, but I also listened to all three levels of Pimsleur French, which I found helpful for pronunciation practice. I would also recommend Pronounce It Perfectly in French for good spelling/pronunciation instruction.

But that's a different matter from how great this book is. I found it particularly wonderful because of the little guarantee on the back--that it covers all aspects of French grammar as required for overseas French schools. I got the feeling that after I had mastered this book, I wouldn't have to worry about running across some huge and surprising gap in my body of French knowledge. So far, that has held true.

This book is pretty hardcore, and I found it hard to be motivated to study it without having some concrete goal--mine was a trip to France. I had always eschewed reading, claiming I only cared about speaking--but I have realized that as an adult, it's much easier to pick up grammar quickly by reading, and since reading is easier than speaking/understanding, it gives you an early basis for general confidence in the language.

So, with a goal in mind, I painstakingly went through this book in (I think it was) about two months, making sure I knew all covered vocabulary and grammar before moving on, and then reviewing earlier chapters as suggested in the book. I also used it in conjunction with Mastering French Vocabulary: A Thematic Approach, another book which I have greatly appreciated. I made (electronic) flashcards with vocabulary from both books, which I found to be exceedingly helpful. (I used the program SuperMemo with a PDA--I highly recommend it.) I think I probably spent about 10-12 hours per week on it.

After you're done with this book, you can check out other grammar books to review and clarify points that you need extra help with. The book is organized in an order that I guess was best for learning, but there is no good summary of verb endings, for example, so I especially liked the Schaum's Easy Outline for this type of thing.

I'm not a graduate student and I don't need to pass any exams, so I can't vouch for the book's capabilities in that area, but I can say it gave me confidence in reading, and in conjunction with the vocabulary book I was using, gave me confidence in understanding the spoken word, which is a first step toward confidence in speaking. There are lots of other things to do to improve one's speaking skills, but I think a big component is confidence, and this book was really helpful. Not to mention it's nice to be able to read things in French and not feel like it's "foreign" and that there are more things in each sentence that I don't know than that I do.

One final thing I can say about this book is that it is definitely not a waste of time! If you already know the material covered in a certain chapter, you can move through it quickly, and it's probably a good review, but if you don't already know it, you'll learn essential information. I highly recommend this for anyone with a low level of French who wants to make a concerted effort to greatly improve in a condensed period of time--which is how I was--and I'm sure it's useful for others, too.

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