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Joystiq presents

Une semaine avec My French Coach: Day Seven

Notre semaine avec Ubisoft's My French Coach est arrivée, malheureusement, à la fin. That is to say, in properly worded and conjugated English (because I'm sure the French was terrible ... or it was before commenter Rodac helpfully corrected it!), our week with the recently released French language trainer has, unfortunately, come to an end. After seven days of working with the title, it's time to not only recap today's lessons, but speak on the worth of the title as a whole.

If I were someone else, I would probably include a clip of Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" here, but instead you'll have to suffice with the shedding of one lone, tragic tear. It has been a very interesting sort of "review," and one that is well suited for a training game. I can even speak as to why, after lessons each day, that first sentence was so likely to be terrible.

Is Ubisoft's training title useful? Yes, very -- I can say that with confidence. I have found it more engaging than many other forms of language training, including CDs and classroom work. My French Coach approaches things from many angles, offers a lot of very practical vocabulary, and a variety of applications thereof. If you're looking to pick up a new language, or supplement something you already know, this is one approach. But it's really just that: one approach. Alone, will it make you fluent? No, I don't think so. But after a week with the title, I feel that after a few more weeks, I could probably manage to carry on several conversations with French speakers, so long as they agreed to speak slowly ... and keep to present tense.

And therein lies the problem. You can learn vocabulary all day long, and that's good, because it's really the building blocks of language, and you can learn to ask directions, and ask for things, as well as respond, and shop ... and all of that is very practical if you're actually traveling. But when it comes to anything more elaborate, like writing extended sequences (or even a snappy sentence) or discussing, say, the merits of anything from a particular film to a steak in depth, no one method of learning a language is going to teach you everything that you need. How do you say that something has come to an end? The answer does not seem to be hidden in the phrasebook or dictionary of My French Coach. But I can tell you the following with confidence:

J'aime beaucoup les ananas et les citrons! (I really like pineapples and lemons!)
Je vais acheter une chaise-bébé. (I am going to buy a high chair.)

Because chocolate is delicious.

And several other things, as well. I don't know if My French Coach gets into past tense at all -- though I bet it does at some point, even though I didn't find any in the phrasebook -- but at least there are two forms of present tense taught at these first two tiers of lessons. But any path to a language is often the same -- you need more than one way to get there. So, again, My French Coach is very useful ... but just as I wouldn't tell anyone to depend solely on an audiobook to teach them the entirety of a language, I would caution the same here. (Note: per the comments below, the dictionary, at least, apparently includes multiple conjugation tables, so while I may not know what the later lessons cover in terms of conjugation, the dictionary, at least, has your back. Thanks, joe717177!)

All that said, today's lessons were almost entirely vocabulary-based. Another verb was introduced -- aimer, to like -- and it was used in conjunction with a variety of foods. The first lesson I did focused on fruits, the second vegetables, and the third meat. So long as I can manage the wine list, that's enough for a full meal!

What's your favorite fruit?

Looks like potatoes are, uh, dirt apples. Tasty.

Steak, s'il vous plaît. Et vous?

It's enough to make your mouth water. I don't know if it's the fact that so many of these words are similar to their English counterparts (except for things like fraises, which means "strawberries"), or if it's just that I'm more comfortable with vocabulary now, but I sailed through all three lessons tonight. It seems a while since I've felt challenged -- even the spelling game wasn't so bad, though I often mix up which accent is which. English feels so very plain after all these heavily accented words, I must say.

With the lessons done, I dug around a bit in the other features, so I would feel a little better about wrapping up my review. I discovered the stats, which track your progress through each of the mini-games. Since Flash Card is still definitely my favorite, I checked that one out first.

Seeing it that way, I feel mostly good about myself. Looks like it tracks each game and not each day, which is fine by me. Of course, it would be nice if it also tracked which difficulty level I was playing at each time -- were those 30 scores achieved on easy or hard? -- but hey, if wishes were horses ....

I also spent a little more time in the phrasebook, looking for past or future tense, or anything complicated, and came up empty-handed, but I'm really not sure if everything in the phrasebook is open at this point, either.

I did find some useful things, though. Wouldn't it be awful to get sick while in a foreign country? Thanks to your DS, though, you could at least speak with the doctor.

While it's hard for me to answer questions about the depth of the title, for all the reasons I've listed since the beginning of the week (recap: I'm just not that far in, with 2-3 lessons a day), I will speak to the age recommendation on the box. Friends across the pond have asked about the 3+ rating, and I can only guess that it's because the game is for "everyone." Does that mean a three-year-old child could use it? I suppose if they were a very advanced reader! Otherwise, no. I would even hesitate at the age of six or seven, as one commenter suggested. It's not that the training title is terribly difficult, but it doesn't waste time going over concepts -- My French Coach assumes you have a good grasp of English grammar, so why bother explaining it? The focus here is on French only, and things move pretty quickly.

All in all, I would say that the lessons up to about thirty (I'm guessing, but I'm getting close) cover an equivalent amount of the language as I learned in the first semester of French at college, with the exception of our brief overview of past tense, which is not here (at least, not yet). If nothing else, that makes the game more than worth the price tag! Since the lessons keep on going, I would guess -- let me repeat: guess -- that drilling with this game might end up being about the same as two years of study, maybe three, depending on which program you're comparing it to, of course. Again, it probably won't teach you everything, but My French Coach seems to provide an excellent basis in the language, and with a little outside study on more complicated conjugation and concepts, I think you'd be well on your way. In the end? I can't not recommend this title ... if only because it makes studying language interesting and fun, and you want to keep going. At least, I did!

Score: 8.0

See also: The My French Coach series in its entirety

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