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Tell Me More French (Homeschool Edition) Review by Courtney Larson

Auralog Inc
3710 E. University Drive, Suite 1
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Tell Me More French is computer software designed to teach French. Included in the box is the computer software, a headset with microphone (the software has speech recognition technology), and a User's Manual. This program provides five levels of instruction (or more than 4 years of language study). This makes Tell Me More French a good choice for any student, from a beginner to someone who has had previous exposure to French.

There are two discs in the box. The first is titled "Start Here: Introductory Level," and the second is the main program. After I had installed both discs, I had to decide which level to start with on the main disk. Since I know almost no French, I started with level 1. For people who have exposure to French and don't wish to start at the beginning, there is an assessment that can be taken to determine your placement. So, for example, you can activate levels 3-7 if that is where you place. Once placement is determined, you use the activation code and away you go. Multiple accounts can be created so that several different family members can use the program at their own pace.

On the "Start Here: Introductory Level" disk, there are two learning paths, each with 10 lessons, for a total of 20 lessons. If you complete these paths, you will learn how to introduce yourself and give another person basic information about yourself and others and the world around you. The activities vary between teaching you to speak, hear, read, and write French. The software keeps track of your progress, including how much you have completed and the percentage you got correct.

On the main disk for Tell Me More French, there are three lesson modes. These modes contain the same activities; the difference is how personalized the lessons are. The "Free to Roam Mode" allows you to select the activities you'd like, so you are creating your own lessons. The "Guided Mode" selects a curriculum for you based on your specific objectives and how much time you have to spend with the software. The "Dynamic Mode" tailors the curriculum to your needs by evaluating your progress.

In the "Free to Roam Mode", there are six different workshops you can choose from. They are titled "Lesson Workshop," "Cultural Workshop," "Vocabulary Workshop," "Grammar Workshop," "Oral Workshop," and "Written Workshop." In the "Lesson Workshop," the activities are grouped by topic. (Level 1 topics include "ABC" and "Heures & dates.") By picking one of the topics, you will be able to access several different activities related to that topic. There are exercises to help you with your pronunciation as well as activities to teach grammar and vocabulary. The remaining five workshops are grouped by focus rather than by topic. The "Cultural Workshop" focuses on activities that teach about the cultures of French-speaking countries, the "Vocabulary Workshop" focuses on vocabulary, the "Grammar Workshop" focuses on grammar, the "Oral Workshop" develops speaking skills, and the "Written Workshop" focuses on written expression. There is a Performance Evaluation that keeps track of how much you completed in each exercise, along with a percent correct.

The "Guided Mode" groups lessons and activities together, starting with the least difficult and increasing in difficulty. The software keeps track of your progress, including levels completed and the percentage correct. The "Day Planner" allows you to enter the amount of time you can study daily, your start and end date, and also allows you to pick your priorities (listening, speaking, reading, and/or writing). The software then takes this information and creates a learning path that will best suit your goals given the time you have to spend. While in this mode, you can download the audio files onto your computer and burn them to a CD or transfer them to your MP3 player. You can also export the files to a pocket PC for on-the-go learning.

The "Dynamic Mode" allows you to select a preset objective (comprehension, expression, vocabulary, grammar, or all four) or create your own objective. When personalizing your own, you can select the levels for each skill area you would like to improve. The software then takes the information and suggests activities to help you reach your goal. In this mode, the software continually evaluates how you are doing and adjusts the activities based on the evaluation.

The activities in the various modes are the same. They include pronunciation exercises (ranging from single words to sentences), fill in the blanks, word searches and associations, and crossword puzzles, just to name a few. The pronunciation exercises use speech recognition technology. This compares your pronunciation to the correct pronunciation and is an awesome tool. It's almost as good as having a native French speaker to practice your French with. There are also multiple reference tools you can access: "Grammar Explanations" (for studying grammar), "Conjugation Tool" (for verb conjugations), "Glossary" (a dictionary), "Cultural Texts" (pictures and French text for translation), and "Maps" (maps to study).

As if the versatility of this software isn't enough, with a high-speed Internet connection you can access EuroNews, which is a 30-minute lesson that includes a video, vocabulary, and grammar exercises using a current event. There is a new lesson each week. You also have access to an online advisor (any time, any day of the week) who can answer questions you might have. There are printable lesson study guides as well.

This software is incredible. It has all of the tools you'll need to learn to speak, read, write, and understand French. The speech recognition will allow you to perfect, or at least improve, your accent. (And if you're like me, you'll need a lot of practice!) The company says that there are thousands of exercises to help you learn French. I didn't count, but I would say this is true. The lessons are very thorough; and with the three different modes, users can learn French the way that works best for them.

Tell Me More French is recommended for ages 11 and up. My 10-year-old, 5th grade son enjoys languages, so I had him try it out. He found it difficult and confusing, so I think it might be better suited for grades 7 and up. It would be perfect for a high school foreign language course. As with most software, there is a learning curve, and it does take a bit of time to discover all the tools and options, but I found it fairly easy to navigate. The price might cause sticker shock, at a little over $300 for 5 levels. But it is a bargain considering it provides enough instruction for 4 years of language. I would highly recommend Tell Me More French to any of my homeschooling friends who need a foreign language course for their teenager. It is thorough, complete, and easy to use.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2009