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Tell Me More: French Complete Course Review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright

3710 E. University Dr., Suite 1
Phoenix, AZ 85034

What if you and your kids could learn a foreign language as easily as you learned English? Wouldn't it be nice to become conversant in a language without all those monotonous drills and endless conjugations? I took two years of high school German, then switched to French for two years in high school and one year in college. The switch to French somehow created a giant vacuum that eliminated all German from my brain. Then one semester of Spanish in college caused a quick end to all my French. Thus, after five and a half years of foreign language, I couldn't get past a few basic sentences in any of the three languages! Many people have a similar experience because the language study never becomes practical and is soon dropped once the course is over. It is frustrating to spend years of boring study only to be unable to remember enough of it to be useful!

That's why I enjoyed reviewing the Tell Me More French course ($195 for the complete course with 10 different languages available). The premise behind this wonderful computer course is that we learn our native language by being immersed in the culture and language from before we are even born. No one sits down with a 2-year-old and conjugates verbs; children learn from hearing the language in context and the occasional correction from Mom and Dad. The Tell Me More courses use the same principle of learning a language through immersion with no drills or endless repetition. From the first lesson the student is presented with beautiful pictures and French dialogue and a few simple words, with more added slowly as the student builds vocabulary and confidence. The Complete Course includes three levels and would be equivalent to at least two years of high school French.

The program includes three modes so that you can use the one that best suits your child's individual learning style. The Free-to-Roam Mode lets you explore activities based on interest, while the Guided Mode lets you set detailed learning goals and have the program design the instruction. My favorite was the Dynamic Mode, which continually evaluates your progress and determines which activities to present next. Extensive graphs keep you updated on your progress across all the different content areas. The course contains 3,600 exercises and 35 different types of activities, which keeps the learning interesting and fresh. Activities cover everything from reading and writing to listening and grammar. One of the most exciting features is the speech recognition built into the program that actually has you speak (using the included microphone) the phrases or sentences and then evaluates your pronunciation. It even identifies which parts of the sentence still need work. There are some excellent help features available throughout the program, such as a glossary, grammar explanations, and conjugation tool.

It is only fair to say that this program is definitely not for everyone. If you and your kids have absolutely no background in studying foreign language, it can be pretty frustrating for a while to use an immersion method. My 11-year-old son, who hasn't studied a foreign language, needed some guidance in understanding what it means to conjugate a verb and had trouble using the help features to figure out the exercises. However, a quick review of some of the basics of studying languages was all he needed. (The basics could be gained by reviewing some easy materials in the language you want to study.) I think the program could be used well by students in the sixth grade and up, although it seems to be written primarily for high school age and beyond. While not religious, the program didn't seem to include anything objectionable for impressionable young minds. Because the program allows for different learning styles and educational goals,from a basic understanding of some simple French all the way to a good level of mastery of the language,it would be very effective for a variety of learners and homeschooling methods. High school students could work on this program independently even if Mom or Dad don't speak the language, although it might be more fun and more beneficial to learn it together!

My husband, my son, and I all tried the program, and we all thought it was excellent in nearly every aspect. We were frustrated that it did not have a French-English dictionary available (we used one that we found online), although it does have a good glossary. The program was very intuitive to use and very interesting, with plenty of graphics, games, videos, and so on. We loved not having to do drills to learn the language! My son was the most frustrated, because he had not studied a foreign language before, but he enjoyed the program from the first session. My husband studied Spanish in college and found the immersion a little frustrating at first, but he quickly started recognizing words and phrases. I was amazed at how quickly some of this beautiful language started coming back to me through using the program! So if your child is easily frustrated, you might need to use other materials to get him started on the language. Then use Tell Me More to master it. But if your child likes a good puzzle and wants to learn in a very natural way, this might be just the ticket! And if the whole family joins in the learning, you will all be well on your way to speaking another language before you know it!

-Product review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2006