Complete Idiot’s Guide To Learning French, by Gail Stein
So, in my continuing attempt to bone up a little bit on foreign languages, at least so I would be able to understand primary source documents in French, I read this amusing and enjoyable book. This book will not make one remotely fluent in French, but it will make one more familiar with the language and give one a lot of vocabulary to work on–that alone makes it valuable. The humorous commentary and cartoons make it even more fun. Even if you have no interest in learning French, you could laugh a lot about French and its uses simply from a glimpse at the art and commentary sprinkled throughout.
This book is a sizable one (about 400 pages) and is divided into five parts and 26 chapters (as well as two appendices with a short set of verbs charts and a short dictionary). Each of the chapters/parts is thematically organized: Part One examines “The Bare Basics” of French (the top 10 reasons one should study French, a guide on pronunciation, a chapter on French cognates, a chapter on idioms, basic grammar, the gender-specific nature of French, basic conjugation). Part Two examines travel terms (a chapter on greetings and salutations, one on introductions and personal description, one on navigating the airport, one on telling time and finding means of transportation, and one on hotel terms). Part Three deals with recreational activities (a chapter on weather, one on sightseeing, one on shopping, one on home-cooked meals, one on eating out, and one on fun and games). Part Four deals with problems (a chapter on “personal services,” one on medical terms, one on drugstore items, one on telephone etiquette, and one on the mail). Finally, Part Five (the shortest of the parts) has chapters on business terms, buying and renting property (!), and money terms. I suspect a lot of people will want to look at part five first, rather than last.
Like most of the Complete Idiot’s Guides, this book combines sound information with an irreverent sense of humor, making it a worthwhile book in all sorts of ways. Those who wish for a good laugh and some French lessons will find much to enjoy here. I look forward to tackling the guide to Italian soon. Those who read this book will find a mixture of good information and humor, which probably leads to greater retention and enjoyment for the casual and serious reader.