Monday, November 11, 2013

{Crew Review} ~ French Essentials

Want to learn French? I think it is such a beautiful language, and so when French Essentials came up for review, I decided to try it out.


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What It Is:

This online French program is meant for students from around 2nd grade through high school, with a concentration on grades 3-8. Combining modules though, can give high school credits for foreign language. You can see here the approximate grade levels and at what pace they should complete the modules. Currently there are 4 modules that have been produced so far, with Module 5 being completed by the end of 2013. Combining audio files, interactive online exercises, and pdf lessons, this program is a complete foreign language curriculum.

Each module has between 15 and 25 lessons. Some of these are obviously more involved; mastery is the goal so your child will spend time in each lesson until he completely understands what is being introduced. Each lesson includes a downloadable .zip file, online exercises, audio/visual segments, printable worksheets, and a final quiz.

This program focuses on learning the language four ways:
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening Comprehension
  • Speaking
In the .zip files, your child will read the French words in the lessons. The online sections include flashcards that both show the word and audibly say the word. Writing is done on the printable worksheets, plus the online portions have places where the student writes in or spells the vocabulary words. Part of the .zip files is audio/visual short videos of  French-people saying the vocabulary words. This listening part of the lessons were very helpful, especially since a wide range of people are speaking the words. Men, women, and children are all saying the same words multiple times to help with pronunciation. Many of the videos say "Ecoulez et repetez" , which means in French, "Listen and repeat." The students are to repeat the words after the French speaker which helped their pronunciation and speaking




What You Get:

You will receive full access to their online program for a year, which includes all files, videos, and lessons. You can purchase each individual module for $69.95, or full access to all modules for $149.95. If your student has had French in the past they can take an online placement test to see which module they should begin with. To download the lessons you do need to have the latest versions of Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player, and QuickTime 7


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A bonus to this language program is the notes on culture. Throughout the lessons there are cultural notes to look at online which also offer other ways to study about France, its people, and how the the French have influenced the world.




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How We Used This:

At first I decided to do this with all four of the kids. The first four lessons are all from the .zip file, and go over the alphabet, pronunciation, and French accent marks. (You should have heard us all, trying to say the French alphabet with French accents. My friend who was over visiting thought it was a hoot.) Beginning in lesson 5, the student will first read the lesson from the .zip file, and then go online to complete the activities provided there. These include audio flashcards, a spelling exercise, a matching game, a racing spelling game, and the lesson test.

After we began lesson 5 I realized that the younger ones would need to go at a slower pace and so, for the purpose of this review, I focused on the older two. Both Mr. Lego (age 16) and Bookworm (14) progressed at around a lesson every three days. I would sit with them as they read the lesson, but then assign a certain amount of time to do the online exercises each day. They were only allowed to move onto the next lesson when they received 100% on the lesson test.



What We Thought:

Bookworm liked the pace of lessons and seemed to be able to master the 'soft' french sounds pretty well. Mr. Lego struggled a bit; I think for him, having had some Spanish instruction made it harder to switch to French pronunciation. One of the things that made it a teeny bit harder was that their work done online (games and tests) is not saved. It wasn't too much of a problem; I just had them mark on their daily schedule what they had completed each day.

I really liked the approach of this program; I do not have any French background at all, so being able to hear the way it was pronounced was so helpful. I also feel that watching the French speakers say the words was important and helped my kids to learn the vocabulary. It was hard for my kids to spell out the the vocabulary; Comment tu t'appelles?  (What is your name?) sounds nothing like it is spelled. But once they were able to spell it out correctly they had definitely mastered the word. I really appreciated the written worksheets; when learning in a subject is done solely online it can be lacking. There was one to two worksheet pages for each lesson; I do wish that there were more of them for those students that needed extra help. (Like my younger ones.)

I really liked this program. It was harder for us since no one in our family has any background in French, but you didn't need any previous exposure to French to use this. In fact, that is one of the selling points of French Essentials; it is meant to be used by those without any experience in French. Want to check it out first? You can register for free and get access to selected lessons, exercises, and tests.

Other members of The Crew, with students of all ages, reviewed this language program. Check out what they thought by clicking below.
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