There are a myriad of different ways to go about learning a language, but if you have the time and patience, teaching yourself can be one of the most rewarding. It can be difficult to choose the right learning materials to suit your learning style though. That's why we have done the hard research and presented you with a selection of what we think are some of the best teach yourself courses out there. This guide should give you some idea of the types of things we were looking at when reviewing these products and the things we think are important to take into consideration before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Before you leap into purchasing the most popular brand's teach yourself French course take a step back and think about exactly what you want to get out of the course. Is it just a few phrases to get you by in cafes on your next holiday or do you really want to understand the language and culture of France? The answer to this question will dictate the broad category of course you will most likely want to consider.
Speaking in very broad terms there are two types of course when it comes to teaching yourself French. The first type, such as Rosetta Stone, concentrates on getting you speaking right away and trying to help you learn by completely immersing you in the language. The second is more like going back to your school days and learning everything from the ground up. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but your final decision will likely be based on the type of learning you feel most comfortable with and what you want to get out of the course.
Most of the teach yourself French courses we looked at provide a variety of different learning materials as part of the course. If you are the type of person that gets bored easily then this is probably a good option to go for as there will be plenty of activities to keep you interested. It's important to make sure all the different parts tie together into one cohesive whole though. The main types of learning materials are as follows.
Computer based learning whereby you get a CD or DVD that can be run on your computer and usually provides a wide range of interactive lessons and exercises for you to work through. These are great if you have plenty of time to sit at home and work through the lessons as the variety helps to keep things fresh. Sometimes though, purely computer based courses can skip over a lot of the detail in order to keep things interesting and exciting. If you are serious about learning properly, look for a course that provides a book too or at least covers a decent amount of grammar.
Audio lessons often come as part of a multimedia course or as a supplement to a course book. Many still come on CD rather than as mp3 downloads, but can still easily be stuck on to an iPod for learning as you travel. This kind of course will probably suit you down to the ground if you want to learn on your daily commute as you can easily carry your mp3 player and a book wherever you go.
Books, of course, still exist in this modern world of computers, iPods and mobile phones, and are often the best way to really get to grips with a language! If you never particularly enjoyed classes at school then perhaps a multimedia course is best to hold your interest, but if you were the type to spend hours on end in the library then it's possible you will learn best from having a book to refer to. We would consider a decent book absolutely essential if you really want a deep understanding of the French language.
Cost is always a factor in anything you buy, but when it comes to teach yourself French courses it's easy to misunderstand what you are paying for. When looking at the cost of the course take into account how many levels there are and what each one costs – often they aren't all priced the same. Additionally make sure you understand how much content you are getting for the price as, while something may look like a bargain, if it only contains a few French phrases it's not going to get you very far. You might also want to think about purchasing a whole course up front rather than level by level as you can often get quite a big discount doing it this way. However, make sure you really need that much course material and can realistically see yourself working through it!
The Bottom Line
If you are reading this you have hopefully already taken one of the biggest steps towards learning a new language and have decided that you are going to dedicate the time and energy it requires. As we have tried to show, the final decision on which teach yourself French course to go for is really down to what you want to learn and how you want to learn it. Quiet, studious types will probably learn best from a book or two on the subject, but extroverts with a short attention span might do better with an all singing all dancing multimedia course.
In the end, a mix of the two might be most appropriate and if you choose carefully you can buy a couple of different products without breaking the bank. The quality of courses does vary quite significantly though so if you find something you like the look of make sure to check our reviews to see if it's really all it's made out to be. Whether you're just learning a few phrases for holiday or starting out on an in-depth study of the French language, good luck and let us know how you get on with the courses we have reviewed!