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Neil Kendall Languages

The language learning challenge

A review of Linkword French

Hello everyone. It's been a while! I can assure you I'm still dedicated to my polyglot journey, despite me not writing any blog posts for a while. I'll make up for it soon anyway, as I am planning to write more often on this blog. Anyway, for the past few months I've been working hard learning French, as well as improving and maintaining the other languages in my repertoire. Anyone who has read this blog before will know that I've gone through several Linkword courses (European Spanish, Japanese and German), and I've given them glowing reviews. Since completing them, I've been steadily working through the Linkword French audio course and I'd like to write a review of it here.

A quick overview of the Linkword method

Alright, for those of you who know nothing about Linkword, or who can't be bothered to read my previous Linkword course reviews, here's a quick rundown of what Linkword is all about. Created by memory expert Dr Michael Gruneberg, it's basically a method by which you learn vocabulary, phrases and grammar by using mnemonics to help you memorise and recall everything you learn more effectively. You take a foreign word or phrase, think of an English word or phrase that it sounds like, then you visualise in your mind an image linking the meaning of the foreign word with the English word/phrase that it sounds like. You do this for at least 10 seconds so as to etch the image into your mind, before moving onto the next word, and you review the words you've learned at regular intervals so you don't forget them.

One such example is the French word for rabbit, which is 'lapin'. This sounds a bit like the English word 'lapping' (as in lapping liquid out of a container), so you could make an image in your mind of a rabbit lapping water out of a bowl. Once you understand the concept, you'll be amazed at how simple yet extremely effective it is, compared with simply trying to memorise vocabulary 'parrot fashion' without any mnemonics.

The Linkword method is not simply about memorising a ton of vocabulary and grammar in isolation, however. It is in fact a comprehensive language learning system designed to get you actually using the words and grammar points you learn, as it has extensive sentence practice where you're asked to translate sentences from English to the target language, and vice versa. This trains up your reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension skills as you work through the course. All in all, it amounts to a pretty serious amount of content.

An overview of what's included in Linkword French

Linkword courses are available in several different formats, though the content is identical in each, so it just comes down to which format you personally prefer. You can get them as an audio course (in mp3 or cd format), a software course (for desktop computers), or as an app for Android or Apple devices (the latter which can only be purchased via the iTunes store). I believe all formats are included as a bundle when you purchase.

The courses are split up into levels, and each level contains around 10 or 11 sections, each section taking between 45 minutes to an hour and half to complete, depending upon the complexity. Some languages in the Linkword range have 4 levels (Spanish, French, German, Italian, i.e. the more popular languages), whereas others have 1, 2 or 3 levels. Each section is split up into vocabulary subjects/topics, usually taught in batches of 5 or 10 words at a time, followed by tests on them, followed by a short grammar point being taught, and then you're asked to translate sentences so you can apply the grammar point and the words you've just learned within the context of actual sentences. There is also a useful glossary of all the words learned at the end of each level, for easy revision/reference.

You learn around 300 - 400 words per level, so with a 4 level course you'll reach a vocabulary of 1200 - 1400 words, which is a perfect starting point to reaching fluency when you consider that studies have shown that the core of everyday language is relatively small in most languages, ranging from 500 - 1500 words. I'll no doubt write more about this in another blog post, but it's a point worth noting here. Of course, total fluency is going to require a lot more words than this, but it's an excellent foundation from which to build upon.

In terms of the images you have to visualise, Linkword has done the hard work for you. You don't need to come up with any images of your own, but simply relax and follow the instructions in the Linkword course and see what happens.

Vocabulary topics taught in Linkword French include: animals, furniture, colours, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, items of clothing, family words, numerous everyday adjectives and a comprehensive list of verbs, question words, food and drinks, travel and leisure words, car parts, shops/places in town, parts of the body, emergency words, outdoor words, DIY words, school and education words, time expressions, sports words, computer words, musical instruments, feelings, the weather, letter writing, as well as basic phrases/pleasantries you need to survive.

Grammar points taught in Linkword French include: definite and indefinite articles, plurals, word order, adjective endings and order, genders of nouns (more on this later...), negatives, asking questions, prepositions, different types of pronouns, comparatives, superlatives, verb tenses i.e. present tense, future tense (with 'going to' and 'will'), the conditional tense (technically a mood, not a tense, I know), the imperative/command form, the simple and perfect tense for the past tense, the pluperfect tense, and the imperfect tense, as well as modal/auxiliary verbs such as 'can', 'must/have to', 'want' etc, reflexive verbs, irregular verbs, and a whole lot more.

The audio course is presented by a native French speaker, so you can hear the correct pronunciations of words. The software and app versions all appear to have native speakers pronouncing the words too.

Some tricky aspects of French and how Linkword deals with them

French is quite a difficult language in places, and I've heard a lot of English native speakers complain about this to me. Often thay have tried to learn French but given up or only gotten so far. I'll outline below what I believe to be the most challenging aspects of learning French, and how Linkword deals with them:

Genders: Every noun in French is either masculine or feminine, and in most cases you simply have to memorise the gender as there is no way to figure it out otherwise (unlike in Spanish, for example, where most masculine words end in 'o' and most feminine words end in 'a' - this is not the case in French). Fortunately, Linkword utilises a memory technique to help you memorise the correct gender of every noun by associating 2 extra images into the Linkword images as a trigger to tell you the gender of the word (all will be revealed as to what these extra images are if you go through the course...). You are then tested on the genders, in order to further consolidate them into your mind. 

Endings of words: Some aspects of French pronunciation can be very tricky and confusing for speakers of other languages, for example a lot of the time consonants in French at the end of words are not pronounced. This can lead to total confusion. Fortunately Linkword comes to the rescue again, as the grammar explanations discuss the difference between plural forms of nouns and adjectives (despite endings not being pronounced any differently), the difference between masculine and feminine forms of adjectives, having two vowels together, and the fact that consonants at the end of words are pronounced if there is a letter 'e' after them. 

Endings of verbs for different verb tenses with same sounds but different spellings: I've noticed something 'funny' about French verb tenses - many times, although the spelling of a verb changes when you're in a different tense, the sound of it will often remain the same. This can also lead to confusion for the French learner. An example of this is: 'you eat' is 'vous mangez', whereas 'you have eaten is 'vous avez mangé'. In both cases, the 'manger' and 'mangé' are pronounced exactly the same. Of course it's understood from the spelling, plus the fact that you're using 'avez' in the latter, that these are different tenses....still it can be tricky because a learner might mis-spell the form of the verb, given that they sound the same. 

This phenomenon occurs across many other French tenses too, for example  'I was eating' is 'Je mangeais'....in this case 'mangeais' sounds exactly like (vous) 'mangez' and 'manger' (the second person and infinitive forms of 'to eat', respectively)... same sound, but different spelling. Fortunately, this point becomes clear with Linkword....though more so for the software course, because you also get to see the spelling of the words. But even with the audio course, you can just gloss over the spellings and focus on the sounds, getting the sounds patterns in your head for each tense, before moving onto the software course to look up the spellings, so it isn't a major issue in the end. I especially liked how, with the conditional tense, the grammar explanation uses the future tense endings of 'will' as a starting point, and then thus making the necessary adjustments to these sounds to form the conditional tense...using what you already know to learn more things, effectively.

No difference between the simple past and perfect forms: In English, we differentiate between the simple past and the past tense with 'have', for example between 'I spoke' and 'I have spoken', whereas in French, these two tenses are covered by one tense, using 'have'. So 'I have spoken' covers both 'I spoke' and 'I have spoken' in French. Again, Linkword explains this point so you're not left scratching your head wondering why the simple past wasn't taught.

Contractions of words: Often in French, two words together will contract in terms of spelling and sound, for the purpose of making them easy to pronounce and so that they roll off the tongue more easily, however this can  trip up a lot of learners. One such example is when the article 'le' precedes a noun beginning with a vowel, e.g. 'le animal' becomes 'l'animal', etc. Another example is 'Je' and 'aime', which becomes 'J'aime'. Again, Linkword grammar points go through contractions so you won't find them a problem at all.

Position of pronouns in different tenses: Yet another thing about French is the position of pronouns such as 'me', 'he', 'she', 'it', 'us' etc in different tenses, particularly for the past tense with 'have'. Again, this becomes a non-issue as Linkword grammar points explain and drill you on this point so you get the hang of it without a problem.

The use of verbs with 'to be' vs 'to have' in the past tense: Something else that can catch out those learning French is that verbs of motion use 'to be' in the past tense rather than 'to have'. Linkword's grammar explanations effortlessly go through this point, making it clear.

Irregular verbs: Ah, those pesky verbs that don't follow the usual patterns you've learned! As with most languages, you're almost always going to encounter some irregularities...but don't sweat, as Linkword French covers most of the ones that you need to know.

My experiences with Linkword French and how it worked for me

As I've already alluded to, I went through the audio version of the course, though I do plan on going through the software version in the near future too in order to work on the reading and writing aspect of French and also to further reinforce what I've learned.

Generally I went through one or two sections a day. It is in fact possible to go faster than this if you have the time, but for me it's very challenging juggling everything in my life with learning several languages too, so this was the pace that worked best for me. 

Having already learned Spanish, I found this in some respects helpful to learning French, as both these languages are from the same latin based/romance family, so I did sometimes notice similarities in terms of vocabulary and grammatical strucute, but on the flip side French is very different to Spanish in a lot of ways too. For starters, the grammar of French is a lot trickier, in my opinion, as is the pronunciation of words.

I found the course layout/design very logical, the Linkword images for vocabulary were very good and most of them stuck in my mind no problem (though of course, regular revision will be needed to make them stick long-term). The grammar points were all well explained in a very easy going way that made them simple to understand. Of course, nobody is going to perfectly memorise EVERY word first time out, nor grasp EVERY grammar point straight away, but the beauty is that you can go back over the material as many times as you like and the second, third, fourth times it does get easier. I like how the grammar explanations are fairly short, usually between 1 to 4 minutes long, which makes them much more easy to 'digest' than if they were longer than that.

I did find Levels 3 and 4 quite tricky in places, as these deal with more advanced grammar points and longer, trickier sentences, but I kept persevering and by the end of the course I felt like I had a very good basis in French. Of course, I will need to revise all the content I've learned and continue studying further after that, but I'm very happy with what Linkword French has taught me.

So, any downsides to Linkword French?

I can't think of any major downsides, but no one language course is going to get you to total fluency or teach you absolutely everything in a language. But Linkword never promises that anyway, which is another thing I like about their marketing techniques.

There are a few of the advanced/compound tenses that Linkword doesn't cover, but still you learn enough tenses to be able to use the language quite fluently, and you can add the further tenses in from other sources after you complete the course.

Also, the fact that the tracks on the audio course are not labelled as the what vocabulary/grammar points they cover might be a minor annoyance to some people, as they might wish to go back and find certain tracks to revise them and it could take longer to find them than necessary. I got round this by labelling the tracks as I went along (by renaming them in the folder on my computer). Fortunately, the sections are labelled in the software and app versions. 

But besides that, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with, nor any major downsides, to Linkword French.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a comprehensive, systematic and effective language course for learning French and actually works, I have to recommend Linkword.

What you'll come out with at the end of the course:

- A vocabulary of approximately 1200 - 1400 words across a broad range of topics, allowing you to communicate in most situations you'll encounter in everyday life

- A solid understanding and practice of French grammar, including most verb tenses, allowing you to create your own sentences/express what you want to say in wide variety of situations

- (If you do the software course) the ability to read and write all you learn with the course in French

- The confidence and a firm foundation with which to continue learning more advanced French

In effect, the course systematically teaches you most of the vocabulary and grammar you need, and by the end of the course you'll be at a very good level indeed, unlike many other language course where they promise you the earth but don't deliver. And Linkword courses are VERY reasonable priced too, compared with a lot of other courses on the market. So what are you waiting for? 

If you liked this review and want to find out more about the Linkword language learning method, head on over the www.linkwordlanguages.com. They have some special offers going on right now too, meaning their courses are even more value for money.

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