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Parlez vous éducation?
December 25, 2012 5:53 PM   Subscribe

I am in Seattle. I'd like to learn French, to the point where I could (in 6 months, say) carry on a rough conversation with someone in Québec or France. I have knowledge of a few words but would essentially be starting from scratch. With which group/center/school should I take classes, but most importantly: why? (In other words, what would make that class better than those offered through alternatives?)
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can't recommend Seattle-specific info but here is what I think works in general. In-person classes are best for beginners. It helps to establish a foundation and will give you the basics. Then you can choose how you would like to proceed. I've found that a combination of things works well for me and each approach has something going for it.

Alliance Francaise is probably the most popular and they move at a pretty good pace. Of course, many community colleges offer intro and intermediate classes but then you're tied to semester length classes. Berlitz is quite good but is expensive, especially for one-on-one classes, but I found their materials and teachers quite good. They also offer small group classes but formation is a little happenstance depending on level of interest.

To be able to carry on a rough conversation in 6 months, I would recommend classes supplemented with one-on-one lessons for good pronunciation, flash cards for learning vocabulary and lots of reading.

There are a lot of online resources. The ones that I've found most useful: Learnfrenchbypodcast.com - it's not for absolute beginners but it's really well done and it's only $1 per lesson, listening to lessons is free but it's worth it to buy them. Frenchtoday.com - her rote lessons (repetition, repetition, repetition so that you can speak and understand the most used French verbs without thinking about it) are quite good. RFI.fr - radio france international has a french language learning section and it's free. TV5.org also has a language learning section and it's also free.

The good thing about classes, whether group or one-on-one, is that they give you structure and there is more accountability. Studying on your own requires a lot of discipline and classes can keep you going.
posted by shoesietart at 7:02 PM on December 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


To answer your question, you should take no class because I do not recommend language classes for adults. Instead, I prefer to recommend autodidactic methods. They will get you much further along in six months than the classes would. For example, studying on your own for an hour a day would get you 180 study hours in six months. Classes available to you would likely not match that. Your self-directed study is also more efficient because there are no slower students to hold you back. 180 hours seems like a lot, but that would get most people to around A2 on the CEFR scale, which is pretty basic. That is probably a realistic goal if you are seeking a "rough conversation" proficiency level.

There are a number of free language learning options. I am a big fan of the FSI courses, which are free and designed to get you up to functionality pretty quickly (check out the French FAST course). I see that the Seattle public libraries also carry Mango Languages, which can be a good start but don't get into the linguistic and grammar depth that I prefer. While you are at the library, you also might borrow some Pimsleur or Michel Thomas courses, although bear in mind that they are audio-only.

On the web, there is also Live Mocha, although I am more of a fan for its community than its language learning app. If you can spend some money on a book-based program, there are Living Language, the Colloquial series, and Teach Yourself. None of my comments thus far are specific to French language programs, but are general.

If you are worried that self-study will not afford you speaking opportunity, there are a number of internet language exchange communities. For example, there is italki and Verbling, the latter of which is like a combination of language learning with ChatRoulette.

I also recommend a flash card app such as Anki to drill vocabulary. In six months, you could easily learn 2,000 words at a clip of just over 10 words per day.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:02 PM on December 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


The Quebecois accent is quite strong, so if you really want to carry a conversion with the Quebecois, I recommend listening to Radio-Canada (the French-language branch of the CBC), although generally their French is weak on the accent (but interviews with non-journalists may give you a hint of what the Quebecois really sound like).

Also, try Duolingo as an online resource for learning French.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 8:32 PM on December 25, 2012


I guess I should clarify I'm not looking for online or search engine results, but was hoping people could recommend classes they have had experience with in the Seattle area. Sorry I wasn't clearer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:35 PM on December 25, 2012


[Comment deleted. This question is asking for recommendations (with reasons) for French classes in Seattle, not general tips or other classes/programs/aids. If you don't have specific knowledge of French classes in Seattle, it's okay to pass on this question. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 12:08 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have been attending classes at the Alliance Française in Seattle for a year now. They are excellent, the teaching is thorough, with reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I highly recommend it.
posted by matildaben at 7:23 AM on December 26, 2012


Seattle Central Community College offers an intensive French course every now and again (maybe just in the summer?). I had a very good experience there, partially because they offer free French tutoring. Not sure if that's still going on, but the extra tutoring helps a lot. Unfortunately if they are still offering intensive French once a year, it's unlikely that you can make it work with your school schedule. The regular French classes are great too, but you'd have to put in a lot of extra work to move quickly.

If you're interested in a private tutor, memail me and I can recommend one. She is not at all cheap, but she is very, very good.
posted by thelastcamel at 8:15 AM on December 26, 2012


Er, work schedule. What happened to the edit window?
posted by thelastcamel at 9:27 AM on December 26, 2012


Hey, a question I can answer with confidence!

I attended classes at Alliance Francaise in Seattle for four quarters and learned a ton. I had three different instructors and they were all very nice, knowledgeable and approachable.

I would recommend the Alliance because they are very clued into the francophone world at large and can give tons of recommendations for other groups to be involved in for practice/further education. It's also awesome to be a member there - you can get full access to their library of French reading material (which can be hard to track down, sometimes). In terms of quality of instruction and access to the francophone network here in Seattle I think they're hard to beat.
posted by Tevin at 2:53 PM on December 26, 2012


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