Your memory of your last language course is probably closely linked to the memory of those tattered textbooks. As helpful as the grammar rules and vocabulary lists were: The lessons were mostly conversations whose moderately exciting storylines didn’t inspire joy or interest in reading. Yet they’ve been the standard in classrooms for decades, no matter what language you’re learning. In French, however, there are a few textbooks that stand out from the crowd and deserve a special recommendation. It doesn’t have to be a textbook that you read when you want to improve your French. Why not venture into shorter French novels and see how even reading ordinary French literature can improve your language skills. These two textbooks and two unforgettable French novels come highly recommended.
The 2 best textbooks of the French language
If you think that all textbooks are the same, you are wrong. There are definitely some that stand out from the crowd in a positive way and are therefore highly recommended for learning French:
La conjugaison pour Tous, Louis-Nicolas und Henri Bescherelle
The Bescherelle has been a true standard reference work in France since 1913 and is instantly recognized by former and current students by its red cover alone. “La conjugaison pour Tous” (Hatier) contains helpful conjugation tables that are second to none. Plus numerous lists and mind maps, plus lists of reference verbs – giving you a total of 8,000 verbs. This book really gives you almost everything you need to know.
Le Français correct pour les Nuls, Jean-Joseph Julaud
The name is of course not meant offensively here: In “French for Dummies” from the Dummie series, which you are surely familiar with, former French teacher Jean-Joseph Julaud teaches you the most important grammar rules and a considerable vocabulary with structure and humor. The format allows you to take the book anywhere and learn French on the go. Various tests in the book allow you to monitor your performance.
2 wonderful French novels
Whether snuggled under the covers on a cold winter evening or on the deck chair during your next summer vacation, these two French novels are the perfect companions:
Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, Jules Verne
You probably know this classic under the title “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, where you can dive into a breathtaking underwater world on 256 pages. In 1867, a ship of the American Navy is ordered to search for a mysterious underwater object about which there are many reports. Sunk by the unknown object, only a French naturalist and two other passengers survive on the ship. You will be taken aboard the object and get to know both Captain Nemo and the depths of the oceans. Admittedly, you won’t understand a lot of obsolete nautical terms – maybe not even in French. Still, it’s worth it for intermediate or advanced readers to get caught up in the story. You may want to pack a dictionary and a towel for this trip.
Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This children’s classic is also a must-read for adults. The unique charm of this book will carry you through its 96 pages like on clouds. A pilot making an emergency landing in the Sahara meets the little prince in a unique encounter. Short and with many illustrations, the content may seem simple. But the depth will surprise you and perhaps change your view of the world a little. Some insights will make you smile, others will shake you. Either way, your French will improve before you know it. You don’t need to understand every word or tense. However, you should be an advanced learner for this level.
By delving into these recommended textbooks and novels, learners can not only improve their French language skills but also discover the joy of reading and exploring the rich world of French literature.