{Review Crew} French Essentials

We’ve been working on Spanish at our house and Curly has discovered that she really enjoys learning a new language.  The little people are also catching on to many words and phrases.  Curly has tried out her Spanish phrases with lots of people in our area.  But when she tried them out on our violin teacher, she got a response in French!  Curly was taken aback for a few seconds because she knew that she was hearing a completely different language.  Once the teacher explained that she spoke French, Curly was very interested and has decided that French would be fun to learn.  Well, I have zero experience with French and had no idea where to begin.  I needed lots of help!  Enter French Essentials to help us both begin to learn French!  Here’s my review of our experience.

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What is it?
French Essentials is an interactive French curriculum for homeschoolers.  The program is downloadable and also contains online components with videos, audio files, exercises, tests, and lessons in French culture.  The curriculum provides printable workbook pages to complement many of the lessons.  French Essentials was created to target reading, writing, listening comprehension, and speaking to give the student a well-rounded background in French. 

The program was designed by French teachers to work specifically for homeschooling families.  French Essentials does not require any previous knowledge of French and contains pronunciation helps with audio and video files for those who are not familiar with French words.  It can be used by a beginner and be done independently.  A student who has some experience with the language can begin with later lessons or modules after taking the placement test to help determine where to start. Completing all 10 modules will be the equivalent of 2 years of high school French instruction.

French Essentials is designed for students to begin in 3rd or 4th grade (or 2nd grade moving at a slower pace and possibly needing more help) and continuing to use through highschool.  There are 10 modules planned for the curriculum.  With completing 1 module per year, you will have French instruction from 3rd grade until 12th grade.  You can purchase access to one single module for $69.99.  You then have 90 days to download all lessons and exercises.  Or you can purchase a full year of access to modules 1-5 for $149.99.  The downloaded material can be used for multiple students.

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A few more details…..
We were able to have access to the first 5 modules – with access to later modules when they become available.   Because we have no experience with French we began with the first lesson of module 1.  It would take us an entire year to complete module one if we continue to work at our current (very slow) pace.

Module 1 has 20 lessons.  

Here are some of the topics contained in the first module:

  • French alphabet
  • Basic greetings
  • Asking name
  • Titles
  • Asking how someone is doing
  • Asking how old someone is
  • Numbers in French
  • Stating that you like or don’t like something
  • Asking what something is
  • Learning words for sports activities
  • Learning vocabulary words for everyday items
  • Asking where someone lives

The online content contains flashcards with audio, quizzes, a matching game for words and phrases, translation exercises, and spelling practice.

There is also a helpful downloadable checklist of all the lessons, exercises, and tests for each module to ensure that you don’t miss any part of the program. 

Sample lessons for each module are contained on the website.  

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How did we use this product?
I downloaded all of the lessons on my computer.  They are Adobe files that contains links to videos and audio files to hear the correct pronunciation and to watch videos of native speakers.

Curly and I worked through the lessons together and practiced our words and phrases.  Since French was a very new language to both of us, we worked very slowly on the lessons and only completed about one per week (after the first few lessons which are very short) so we had lots of chance for review.  We worked on French about 3 days each week.

We watched all the videos and listened to the audio files multiple times.  I printed the worksheets for her and we completed them together.  Sometimes she needed some help with these and a few of them we worked on orally.

We read through the culture lessons together and often hopped on the computer to learn more after reading through each short lesson.  Curly enjoyed sharing what she learned with her Dad, who took French in high school but doesn’t seem to remember more than two words.  He can at least find France on a map though…..

There are also online lessons that begin with Lesson 4.  I let Curly work on a lot of the online content by herself.

We worked on the tests together as Curly often needed a lot of help with French spelling (and that was not easy for me either!!).

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What did a lesson look like? 
Lesson 5
In this lesson we learned how to ask someone’s name.
We read through the phrases such as “What is your name?” and “It’s very nice to meet you.”  We tried to read the French with our best pronunciation.  It was hilarious!  We were usually pretty off on our pronunciation.  But we were always very expressive!!
Then we listened to the audio files and laughed at our very bad French accents.  Then we practice repeating the phrases with the audio file.
The next section had some helpful notes like when to use “Moi” at the beginning of a sentence.  We also read the notes about pronunciation of “ou” in French.
Next was our favorite part – videos!!!  We watched the video of various speakers giving their name in French.

The next video has a woman introducing herself to various people.  Then we practiced introducing ourselves to each other.  It was fun to “meet” Curly but after about 10 times we were tired of each other and roped Bee and Tiger into participating.
There is a third video that has a man slowing repeating all the vocabulary phrases.  We watched this video multiple times.  The first few times we just listened and the last few times we tried to speak along with him.
We then used the microphone feature to ask questions and then ended our lesson with written activities.
Later in the day Curly practiced with the online content by herself, spending time with the flashcards and the matching game.

What did we think?
I loved the length of the lessons!  They were not overly long and were broken into small enough steps that the program was not overwhelming for someone who did not have previous French experience.  Each lesson was enough to work on for 1 full week and allowed us to master the material by the end of that time.

The audio and video files are invaluable.  I can’t tell you how many times we clicked on the audio files or watched the videos.  I think I can hear French phrases in my sleep!  But I don’t know what we would have done without them.  I found them to be our very favorite part of the program.  Many of the videos contain multiple speakers all saying the same phrases so you can listen to both adults and children of various ages saying the same things.  Curly really enjoyed trying to speak along with the videos – especially when children were speaking.

The lesson text is very clear and easy to follow.  Even though I had not idea what we were doing when we began, I soon felt confident in learning French after a few lessons.  Each lesson is very clearly explained with examples and helpful details.

The culture lessons were very interesting to read together.  I found them fascinating as I know next to nothing about French culture.  Curly often shared her knowledge with everyone around the dinner table.

The online content was fun but was very challenging.  The fill in the blank style of the quizzes and the learning section where you translate an English phrase into French was intimidating.  This section was often frustrating for Curly who could usually say the phrase in French but had a very difficult time spelling the words.  We’re still working on spelling words in English so it was not easy to try to translate phrases into French with correct spelling.  I often had to step in and help her with these sections.  She enjoyed the portions that had multiple choice a little better.  This section would be great for an older student with solid spelling skills who was more comfortable typing.  For Curly, it was the most difficult portion of the program.

The program also has online flash cards.  We spent lots of time with these.  Each card has the French word or phrase written on the card.  The phrase is also spoken.  You can then flip the card to view the English translation.  These were very helpful and great practice!

Curly’s favorite part of the online content was the scatter practice.  In this portion you match the French phrase with the English one by dragging one on top of the other to create a match.  This was perfect for Curly’s age and abilities. 

I appreciated that the program is more than just learning lots of random vocabulary words.  French Essentials teaches the student to put words together to build phrases and to be able to have simple conversations.  In addition, the program focuses on correct pronunciation and grammar with all the tips for grammar and usage as well as the many audio and visual files for pronunciation practice.  The program puts you well on your way to having a conversation!

My wrap up!
We really enjoyed this program!  I was very thankful for all the audio and video files to help us with pronunciation.  The writing and listening activities were wonderful practice and the culture lessons were very interesting!  I learned so much about the French culture and learned many French words.  Curly and I looked forward to working on our French together.

We found this program to be excellent for beginners with lots of practice and helps.  Learning French with correct pronunciation and grammar was doable and fun!  


Read other reviews of this product on the Crew blog!

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