People who study French often ask me which French textbooks are the best, how long it will take to converse in French using this method, which textbook is the most adapted to the learner’s level, etc.
So, I will try to give some answers and a few tips, which I hope will be useful to you.
1/ Choosing a French textbook
Case 1: you are studying in a language school
In general, it is the school that will choose and impose a textbook. It is therefore important to be well informed about the content and the pedagogical objective of the proposed textbook. This will help you determine whether the textbook will be suitable for your needs. Do not hesitate to ask questions to the person in charge, or the teacher.
Some schools use different methods and therefore different French textbooks for the same level.
Case 2: you are studying with a private teacher
A private teacher often has a personal selection of French textbooks that he/she thinks are adapted to the learners according to their level. Here again, you should ask about the content and the reasons why the teacher recommends using these particular textbooks.
The big difference with a language school is that private tutors are more flexible in their choice of teaching materials, and some even accept that learners use a textbook they already own if they think it is suitable.
Case 3: You are self-taught
That is the most complicated situation because the choice of French textbook will depend on several factors:
- your level: absolute beginner, false beginner, intermediate, advanced.
- your strengths and weaknesses: you have difficulties in understanding grammar, but your listening comprehension is good; you need to improve your pronunciation and work on oral communication; you can memorize easily or, on the contrary, you need to practice a lot to assimilate.
- your linguistic objectives: learn the language to travel or communicate with friends; acquire a sufficient level of language for professional use; be able to write in French at an academic level.
There are almost as many cases as there are learners, and a person may even have several language objectives.
2/ Some tips
First, I will address beginners. A clear, simple French manual with some explanations in your native language will help you assimilate the essential basics more quickly. Please avoid manuals with a lot of explanations in your native language because this will take precedence over the practice of the French language. And it risks creating more confusion than understanding.
Manuals written entirely in French are only recommended if you are studying with the help of a French speaker who can explain the most difficult points simply and in your language. A foreign language is not only about words and grammatical structures, but also about a different culture and way of thinking.
Moreover, starting simply and progressively allows you to maintain a good motivation and a good learning rhythm.
As soon as you have acquired the essential notions of the French language, it will be easier to use teaching material entirely in French and to vary the learning supports (example: newspaper or magazine articles, French blogs, French podcasts, etc.).
For intermediate and advanced learners, there are some great all in French textbooks available (see selection below).
I hope you find these tips useful. I would also like to remind you that using a textbook alone will not be enough to learn a language. Audio or video materials (sometimes included with textbooks), and interactions with native French speakers are essential to mastering the French language.
Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Here is a list of useful French textbooks :
The textbooks below are newer and provide access to a variety of digital resources.