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Review of SmartFrench: Learn French from Real French People [CD-ROM]
SmartFrench products are well known for their emphasis on phrase-based learning-this means that you'll be practicing sentences rather than simply memorizing vocabulary. The benefits of this are clear to us-back in our first year studying French we would all have happily traded knowing the names of the animals at the zoo for knowing how to ask someone out on a date. The SmartFrench approach is similar to that being adopted by forward-thinking French professors around the world, and sure it has its critics, but let's face it-you're not prepping for the Sorbonne.
If we were to offer one criticism, it would be that for a multimedia program, SmartFrench: Learn French from Real French People is a tad light on the multimedia. We've seen other programs invest a little more into the production values-but then again, you're not looking to pay for special effects. The upside to the low-ball use of tech is that this program can run on older machines that some of its media-heavy competitors can't-it even runs on Windows 95! In fairness, the programmers have made good use of features such as text color-coding-it's effective and it won't eat up tons of system resources. And best of all, it's easy on the pocketbook.
SmartFrench: Learn French from Real French People is an excellent resource tool that is designed to be a nice supplement to other SmartFrench courses. It's best to think of it as the CD that comes with your textbook in a more traditional class. If you have some background in French or are a particularly intuitive learner you might try to go it alone (the accompanying text offers some help), but most students will get more out of the program with a little extra grammar reference. As a CD-ROM showing real French conversations, however, users can't ask for much more.