Book Review: “Living Language: French Complete Edition”

By Ma

During my visit to Canada, I purchased “Living Language: French Complete Edition” – a set of three textbooks ranging from essential, intermediate and advanced level with a notebook and a total of nine audio CDs. As an individual learner, I find the book quite user-friendly, since each chapter is easy to understand: Flipping over the pages, you can follow the instructions readily and learn the essential words and expressions at your own pace. To articulate French words accurately, you can listen to the audio files accordingly. I was indeed amused by the manageable speed of the speaker, which allows me to repeat until I can enunciate it as any native do.

Because of my high compatibility with such a convenient design, my passion for language learning has been ignited again, and thanks to such high motivation, the element of which is obligatory and inevitable for language acquisition, I have swiftly gone through the first couple of chapters until some grammar items compel me to slow down and to take more time for complete comprehension and digestion.

The textbook, however, does offer foreign learners a number of tips to overcome major hurdles in grasping the basics of the beautiful modern Romance language. For example, at the end of each chapter all grammar points, words and expressions are summarized compactly within few pages as a review, lest forgetful learners miss any important learning points. If you are an aggressive learner, you will love this book even more since it provides challengers with a plenty of additional phrases and grammatical items.

The first book covers a wide range of topics, including everyday life and food ordering at a restaurant, which implies a complete learner should be able to survive in francophonic (or French-speaking) countries, or at least confident enough to express some fundamental ideas with a native speaker.

Equally surprising is to know the soundtracks offer both dialogues in French and explanation in English, the latter of which is spoken with a decent British accent. As a foreign speaker of both French and English, I can but listen to the audio files numberless times to articulate the twin languages with a more respectable accent.

The only thing that is annoying, if I have to be picky, is the phonic transcription of every French word into their English equivalents. For example, the French word ‘comment’, which signifies ‘how’ in English is phonically transcribed as ‘koh-mah(n)’ instead of providing native English speakers with international phonetic symbols. Lazy learners, I think, might end up simply approximating the French articulation, which is entirely disadvantageous for French learners. Likewise, such a transcription may delude learners gradually into translating words from time to time into English, which impedes the success of becoming a fluent French speaker as fluency depends on whether one can immerse himself into that language.

Overall, the whole set of book is a good read except that you need to be diligent enough by shadowing with the soundtracks regularly instead of sticking to those phonic transcriptions.

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[Both images taken by Ma on 21st June, 2016, with the second image showing the whole set of books with an audio CD box]



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