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Le Francais Facile! (The Easy French) Review by Heidi Shaw

Marie Filion
IllustratorBecky Donaldson
Level 1 Book and CD

Finally! A french language program, designed for the home, Christian, and phonetically based. This program is the whole meal deal - it has it all and I smile every time I pick it up. Le Francais Facile really is as easy as its name suggests (facile translates 'easy'). You will absolutely LOVE this program. Being Canadian I have been looking for a way to teach my children the French I missed out on and I have looked at many many programs. Trust me, if you are looking for a Godly, scriptural way to introduce your children to a foreign language, there is not a better one out there. Marie has so much background in this area aside from being born in Quebec and lived for a time with a family from France. She has used her degrees and her obvious love for Education to make teaching your kids as fun and as straight forward as possible. Let me outline the program for you, but to do it justice you really have to look at it yourself, the enhanced CD is amazing.

The book I reviewed was Level One - designed to be used by any ages between K and high school. Marie has built in 'streams' for different age levels and they are easy to follow. The early learners will take 3 yrs. to finish, working just 45 to 60 minutes per week while independent older students will aim for two years at a pace of 1.5 to 2 hours per week. High school students with NO prior experience can use this book and teach themselves the basics in just one year; 36 lessons, one per week. You start the early learners before they learn to read with the help of the enhanced audio CD. The lessons start out so basically and so foundationally that you will have strong building blocks to use right off the bat. Because it is a phonetic program, Marie has included phonogram cards and pronunciation guides as well. The focus on oral language comes first and rules are first discussed and then learned later. The goal is to achieve phonemic awareness, just as you do when teaching to read English. Once this awareness is instilled it is built on lesson by lesson.

The 'jewel' of the program is the enhanced audio/visual CD. Not only can it be played on a personal CD player but it contains all the worksheets, checklists and templates for the whole program, which you can print out with your computer. The cost of the program is easily recouped with the ability to use it over and over again. The weekly stories on the CD are engaging, interesting and easy to listen to. Using the technique of weaving French words in with the English, students become familiar with common words, then phrases, all the while gaining confidence in their own ability-and enjoying the ride as well!

There is so much information contained in the coil bound book, I was surprised. Surprise turned to delight as I read and realized how enjoyable Marie has written this program to be. There was no stress, even in the beginning stages when I was learning how to teach it to my children. The intro pages and the teacher info pages read easily and make sense, so I rarely had to re-read anything, and if I did, it was because I wanted to, it was SO interesting. My daughter was hooked from the first lesson.

So, nuts and bolts now: there are 36 lessons in the book. Each age group has a template given for suggested progress. There are also lesson planner pages for mom so you can track the progress as you make it. With notes telling what day each activity should be done on, and a checklist for each activity, you quickly see how this program could be done independently. The lessons are full of activities and fun reinforcements. Everything from story books to recipes to suggested field trips; and through each lesson the emphasis is on building the comfort level and vocabulary. French vocabulary is developed through cognates; words the same in English and French; also phonograms which are the basic building blocks of sound. There are interesting stories with high frequency vocabulary (words heard again and again) and the weave technique of intermixing French and English words where they will be understandable.

You will build a notebook for each child and, following the methods of Charlotte Mason, your students will build their ability to speak French as a living language-not just grammatically but internally! The instructions for building the notebook are brief, direct and clear. There are two sections for early and pre-readers, and dividers for general work and idioms only. There is no pressure at this level to memorize vocabulary. Early students will spend the first year listening and building understanding before they even need look at the phonograms. The students will use all of their senses as they learn. They will hear the phonograms on the CD, they will see the phonogram, they will speak the sound, and THEN they will write it. A lot of homeschool moms use reading programs that incorporate all these same ideas. Phonogram based programs such as Spell to Write and Read and the Writing Road to Reading and the Explode the Code Series, all use the see, hear, speak, write methodology, and it works. Marie has written Le Francais Facile along these same lines. In fact anyone using any of these programs will be comfortably at home in the pages of this program.

Older, independent students of any age will add vocabulary and reference sections to their notebooks. The reference section will include their lesson planners, phonogram review charts and checklists to aid in their progress. All of these charts are on the CD as well as in the book. The phonogram cards are in the back of the book and really should be laminated as they will be used daily after the beginning stage.

Remember, this is NOT a whole language program. It is phonogram based and you will see progress with each phonogram (sound) that is learned. Students can begin using the new sounds as soon as they learn them and you will be surprised how success builds on success-the kids really want to learn. Le Francais Facile is so gentle and easy in its approach that even independent learners will be past the first quarter before they get "remotely close to a foreign sounding phonogram." They learn the sounds closest to English first while still experiencing the language - pure sounds in isolation means no confusion later on. Since language is learned best by imitation, it is important to have good audio to hear the way the French should be pronounced. The CD included with this program is excellent and has awesome clarity and crispness.

As a busy mom, I love the way the main text is laid out. Everything for each lesson is in each lesson, no jumping from front to back of the book trying to follow along with an audio direction. Each lesson is right there, divided easily into the differing age streams, and it is easy for me to check on activities and worksheets and monitor progress. My ten year old son can do this alone, though he rarely gets the chance since both his sister and I want to learn as well! Oh, and the appendices are chock full of even more info-web sites and cultural references help students to 'feel' the language as they learn it.

I also highly respect how Marie challenges the teens who may want to give a new language a try. She gently reminds them that they will need wisdom, discernment and humility if they are to accomplish this goal. They will need the wisdom to realize that the course is a valuable tool, and discernment to know which activities to do quickly and which to do more in-depth to complete the requirements of their checklists and lesson schedule. As older learners they will obviously not need to do everything in the book. But since they may be starting from a beginner's level they will need building blocks.

The humility comes as the biggest challenge because the world will tell them that their surroundings (lesson content) must fit their immediate interests. This mentality actually shows a lack of socialization according to Marie, and I agree with her. To socialize is to be able to get along, interact, and relate to all ages. With this in mind, Marie encourages teens to embrace the challenge of learning thoroughly in order to aid God's Kingdom. Marie has a heart for evangelism and wants all to gain an opportunity to lead people into the Kingdom. So, don't worry that the teens start with the 'easy stuff' - the challenge for them to be humble and embrace the opportunity to learn is there, and if they accept it they will be so excited with the outcome. I know I am - I was raised in Canada and had French instruction in school but it wasn't till I tried this program that I could really feel success and excitement! There is a fast track for teens to get to the meat of what they really need and eliminate unnecessary lessons. There is an independent checklist for them and a list of minimum lessons to complete.

Right from the start, all students are challenged in attainable goals, vocabulary to memorize, and Bible verses in French to master. On completion of the level you have the option of applying for a completion certificate. To do this you will need to submit a signed statement (by Mom or Dad) that the goals have been met and Marie will issue it to them. Believe me, they will deserve it as this is an awesome program!

Another neat perk shows a bit of Marie's heart. Believing as she does in world evangelism, Marie has teamed up with the amazing folks at Wycliffe Bible translators to help them with the language instruction of their missionaries. If you send them the first level book and CD (address included in book), they will contact Marie and she will issue you a certificate for 30% off the next level. Shows where her heart is and it is a great idea since the program is non-consumable. Why not help others who are working to bring more of the unreached world into God's Kingdom?

Whew, I know I haven't done this program justice....I just can't get enough of the right words out to express my excitement. Phonics intensive, Bible based, age inclusive language training that will build your skills quickly easily and enjoyably. It really isn't too good to be true - Le Francais Facile is MORE than is was made out to be. You will not be sorry you tried this program. Thanks Marie, and all of your team who so evidently put their hearts into this work. Your love and enthusiasm show throughout and will be a blessing to many.

-- Product Review by: Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine