It hasn't been lost on us that if we are planning to live in France, it might be very useful to actually speak la langue française. A tally of our cumulative experience amounts to some books on tape (moi) some high school french (ma femme), some first grade french lessons (ma fille), and some french fries (mon fils).
With only cing mois before we depart on our adventure it is time to appuyer sur le champignon and learn the language of our soon-to-be home.
While we are searching high and low for the perfect professeur français, some of our friendly neighbors from French-Quebec recommended an on-line learning website called Duolingo. They offer free learning software which can be used via their website, or from an iPhone or iPad companion App (chosen by Apple as their App of the Year). Your progress is saved in your account and you can pick up where you leave off from any device with the App.
The lessons are fun, just challenging enough to be interesting, yet easy enough to keep a beginner like me from getting discouraged. They require both written and spoken interaction, and I find that the act of having to write what I hear really helps to make the lesson stick in my brain.
You are required to progress through the lessons in order, and have to pass each short lesson before moving forward. A game-like reward system awards tokens as you pass lessons, and there is a social aspect that lets you track your progress against friends en ligne, and share tips on learning french on public forums.
A study by university professors "estimated that 34 hours on Duolingo may yield reading and writing ability of a US first-year beginners' course college semester, which takes in the order of 130+ hours." The same study showed that the popular Rosetta Stone course takes almost twice as long to attain the same level of proficiency (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duolingo).
And all this is absolutely free, with no hidden up-charges (they make their money by crowd-sourcing the translation of documents, which Duolingo is paid for by the companies whose documents are translated).
So if you are looking to learn a language, give Duolingo a try and let me know what you think!
la langue française = the french language
moi = me
ma femme = my wife (f)
ma fille = my daughter (f)
mon fils = my son (m)
cing mois = 5 months
appuyer sur le champignon = step on the gas
professeur français = french professor
en ligne = on-line
bon courage = have courage (literally "good courage")