Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not an introductory course for beginners This course is not a particularly good way to learn to speak a foreign language like French. First of all, it's not an introductory level course. To the contrary, it's more like an intermediate or advanced level course. Secondly, it moves too fast. Professor Williams does a good job of enunciating the words, but things still move a little too fast for a beginning student. My biggest criticism involves the Language Lab that follows each lesson. The gentleman who reads the materials in the Language Lab slurs most of the words. I realize that he's probably pronouncing the words as a native of France would pronounce them, but this simply does not work well for a beginning student who is just learning the rudiments of the language, including pronunciation. Still, it's not a bad review course for someone who already has a passable knowledge of French. On the positive side, there is the matter of stage presence, which Professor Williams projects in abundance. She dresses like a professional, smiles frequently, and always gives the viewer the impression that she's having a good time. An "old school" person like myself would describe this as cheerful elegance. Cheerful elegance may not have anything to do with course content, but it certainly adds a rich luster to the presentation.
Date published: 2020-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lots of French right away! I last attempted French in HS a long time ago and it was miserable! This class is fun, gives a lot of information and show me that I CAN learn this language! I am a math and Science person and have problems with languages but I believe this class may do it! I am slowly making my way but each lesson gives :vocabulary, reading and listening practice, lots of visual aids, small steps, listening and repeating, a bit of grammar, a bit of culture, how expressions differ from English to French. And the accompanying book reinforces and gives practice. This is NOT French for Dummies or Speak French in a week but an emersion into French and the cultures of French speakers. I suspect my spoken french won't be wonderful but may be understandable (I just can't do that r!)
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from French with Prof. Ann Williams is so interesting! I've only listened to 3 lessons thus far, but I'm really enjoying learning French with Professor Ann. She has a great sense of humor, and does her best to keep us moving forward. Looking forward to learning even more. Merci beaucoup!
Date published: 2020-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Each lesson contains 3 components: a 35-minute lecture by an accomplished French speaker; A 10-minute listening and speaking lab reinforcing the lecture; and a workbook (which must be purchased separately if you are using Greatcoursesplus.com) with written exercises. Excellently prepared and delivered. I wish there were a second course.
Date published: 2020-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Rendevous with French Speaking Cultures This is an excellent course. Professor Ann William's presents everything patiently and has wonderful teaching skills. Go ahead, travel with Professor William's and explore with her a cultural treasure.
Date published: 2020-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great value I 'learnt' French at school for six years but if only I had had access to this course I would have achieved so much more. Ann Williams is entertaining, charming and is an excellent educator. The course suits someone, like me, who has some French background but who needs to do some work to get the ability to converse with French speakers. By halfway through the lectures I was just listening and fully understanding what Ann was saying even though many of the words were introduced in this course. This course is suitable for those who want to develop their use of the French language and along the way learn about the culture of the French speaking people. Spoken French is of course much harder to follow on TV or film, but for casual conversation with a French speaker it is just what is required.
Date published: 2020-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun learning I only started the course, but I know I am going to progress with my French. Prof Ann is such an inspiration, lively and exciting. With I had a teacher like that in High School.
Date published: 2020-07-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Useful Much useful information for those with a basic knowledge of French, but hard to find specific topics for review, such as the 17 verbs conjugated with avoir. I have great difficulty with spoken French when I visit the Midi, but Williams is very easy to understand. Considerable real-world examples but cultural examples are elitist- where's Asterix? Little discussion of the French cultures of Belgium, Switzerland or Quebec. Williams glorifies Africa, by implication sharia law, without comparison to the French values of égalité, liberté, sécularisme or laïcité. Recommended for beginner to intermediate.
Date published: 2020-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome course Highly recommend it. Course is very detailed and easy to understand.
Date published: 2020-07-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too involved for a basic course For a student who wants a supplement to a French class, this would be ideal. For an older adult who just wants to learn French a little better than general conversation courses, it has to much grammar and learning to read, which made it frustrating. It's unfortunate that the Great Courses doesn't offer more of a conversational French course for travelers and non-travelers alike.
Date published: 2020-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation Excellent presentation by a professor who spent time there as a child. He introduced local people he has known for many years. A delightful production that will greatly enhance your visit to France.
Date published: 2020-06-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Engaging instructor-disappointing content I bought this course a month ago to refresh my rudimentary French and have been very disappointed. The professor is engaging and knowledgeable, but the course content and organization are too specialized, focusing on the theater and arts to the exclusion of learning useful vocabulary about many everyday objects. You learn the words for screenplays, and 13th century poems, but not the simple vocabulary for trees, beaches, mountains or history except in the context of the arts. The guidebook is not well organized by chapter title and there is no index--for example if you want to review an aspect of verb conjugation you can't find it without leafing through the book page by page. In conclusion--disappointing--it could have been much better.
Date published: 2020-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting presentations while teaching I just started watching the DVD and doing the workbook this week, but I really enjoy the professor and materials. I do think would probably be hard if I didn't have some previous class and home study in French (although a long time ago in high school!). I think it's going to be very helpful in my goal to be able to converse with a friend here in the communiy.
Date published: 2020-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous French Course I received courteous and professional assistance by phone in accessing my online language course. I just started the lessons and enjoy the textbook and the lecture format. The course adds practice and culture by a fine professor. I look forward to continuing the course, and others that will follow. Thank you.
Date published: 2020-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging, Lively Classes - Great Teacher! This is a great course for the novice as well as for students of French who, like me, need to get back what they learned some years ago! I especially like the focus on non-European Francophone cultures like Senegal and Morocco. Professor Williams is lively and engaging as she challenges you to immerse yourself in the language even before you fully grasp all the linguistic and grammatical complexities. Really fun to take part in. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2020-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Appealing teacher and enjoyable content I am reviewing this as someone who already has studied French. I was very grateful to have grammar rules explained to me in ways which I either did not recall or were not given so clearly. Of course, having video with the text to look at is an immense improvement on the purely oral method I was introduced to in 9th grade. I am a visual learner and I really like all the visuals and the cultural explorations added a great deal to the class as well as the personal details of Prof. Williams personal experience with the language. I go back and listen to every lesson twice, and try to just "listen" and not read the second time...or even a third time. I think it is unrealistic for true beginners to think they will not have to go back and review. That is not the fault of the course...that is because learning a foreign language as an adult is such a challenge. We need to use our intellect in a way we did not have to use is learning our native English. Repetition, repetition, repletion, and then one more time. The cultural sojourns were outstanding and so so interesting. I would hope Prof. Ann Williams would do a follow up course. I am a fan! And I love that her husband was involved in these lectures. Definitely the lectures had a warm and personal touch that often made me smile. Bravo! or should I say-- Bien Joué!
Date published: 2020-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best foreign language class ever! As I am finishing up this course, I look back at how much information was provided in a very accessible format. The professor, Ann Williams, has energy and charisma in abundance. Touching on vocabulary, grammar and culture in several French-speaking lands, each session is enjoyable and entertaining. There will be work. A lengthy text/workwork is ncluded.
Date published: 2020-05-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Wonderful professeur! I bought this course just recently, for my son. I am fairly proficient in French, but felt a refresher would be a good thing. So, we are doing it together. We are only on lesson Two, but so far we really enjoy it !
Date published: 2020-05-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Pleasant way to learn French! I am enjoying that language is embedded in culture, not just exercises. I appreciate that there is inclusion of many French speaking countries. It is effective that there are written exercise as well as spoken exercises to accompany the lecture. I like that I can go back over the material to review occasionally.
Date published: 2020-05-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from "Gardez" Your Expectations The one star is intended to get your attention. The French language comes in two parts. The spoken language is quite different from the written. This is a five star immersion course for those with strong literacy skills, but weak in fluency. I am fully literate, and devote about 70 minutes to each lecture. If you are a beginner, be prepared to dedicate approximately 4 hours each week for about one year. Use the workbook to build literacy. French grammar is very tricky. If you really want to learn the language, then you will be glad you did. Professor Williams has prepared a well ordered and interesting presentation for each topic. Bonne chance -
Date published: 2020-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! Ann Williams is an excellent teacher. She speaks French throughout the lessons but slowly and in context so that we can understand it. The activities in the book are very helpful and the language lab really ensures that we are pronouncing the words correctly. It’s the best French course I’ve ever taken.
Date published: 2020-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Moves really fast I studied French in middle school and high school which gives great book learning but not much practical speaking and listening. This course does a good job of both. If you have no background in the language it moves very fast and you’ll probably have to listen to each class several times to get it.
Date published: 2020-04-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from French:Learning First Comments These are my first impressions. Prof. Williams is enthusiastic and likable. She speaks French with little explanation of what she said. As a non speaker I get lost. I am on lesson 7. So far, I find the presentations and the guide book rather difficult to follow. There seems to be a disconnect from what she is presenting and the guidebook. A transcription may be helpful. I just finish a course on "Building your Vocabulary." It required 2 thick transcription books but it was very helpful. Perhaps this would be helpful here. The pronunciation exercises at the end of the lesson would be more helpful if they showed on the screen what is been said. They only show what group they are discussing, but not the specific section. I am going to continue for a few more lessons and decide. So far I am having difficulties. I hope it gets better.
Date published: 2020-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Helpful! I am finding this course very helpful, but as the other reviews said this course is not for someone that doesn't have some knowledge of French. I have been studying on and off for years on my own. I find that her method of teaching is helping me retain. I find that watching one lesson everyday for a week is doing the trick. I also do the workbook exercises on a separate piece of paper, and I review the Language Lab for the previous lessons everyday as well.
Date published: 2020-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastique Outside of fully immersing oneself in a totally French environment this course is the next best thing. After being drilled in verb tenses for years Professor Williams puts the fun and enjoyment back into learning French. No you won’t be speaking everyday street French by the end of the course but it will give you a jump start down the road to speaking it, understanding the basic structure and learning about cultural nuances and customs. If you stick with the written program and language labs with Christian ( a Francophone) you’ll not only expand your vocabulary but improve your accent. Now after taking this course I can join a local French club a start speaking with others at my level.
Date published: 2020-02-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and easy to follow We're preparing for a month-long visit to France and, after reading a number of books and trying various language products, found these lectures to be superior. Professor Ann Williams is fun to watch, and she includes numerous clips and photos to maintain a fast pace that's entertaining and educational. She explains the culture, which is crucial. The workbook moves quickly. We love it!
Date published: 2020-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great French Conversational Course I bought this to review one-year of college French course I had years ago. I found the tips on pronunciation very helpful. French was used in concrete situations that made retention easier. The instructor was very engaging and expressive.
Date published: 2020-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoying this, definitely a great purchase ! I bought this as a birthday present for my husband's 62nd birthday. He's loving it, and speaking French around the house, though for him it may be more of a refresher since he had taken French but not really used it for years. Although he has a smartphone, tablet and laptop his go to choice of media is the hard copy book and DVD.
Date published: 2020-02-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good practice While the professor and verbal practice are effective, it does not match up with the workbook which is frustrating and makes the lesson less effective.
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding French Course I am only on lesson 4 but already I have learned so much and feel like my comprehension has improved a great deal.
Date published: 2020-02-04
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Learning French: A Rendezvous with French-Speaking Cultures
Course Trailer
Welcome to the French-Speaking World
1: Welcome to the French-Speaking World

Bonjour! Begin your voyage with a global look at the French language and French-speaking countries around the world. Learning a new language is an active process, and language is deeply connected to the cultures where it is spoken. In this first lecture, you will survey a few patterns and rules to jump-start your understanding of French....

46 min
Ici, on parle francais: French Is Spoken Here
2: Ici, on parle francais: French Is Spoken Here

One important facet of the French-speaking world is that manners and politeness still matter. Discover a few essential phrases that will ensure you don't commit any faux pas before you've even had a chance to open your mouth. Then survey the basics of numbers, definite and indefinite articles, the alphabet, and geography....

50 min
French around the World
3: French around the World

Continue your exploration of French manners and culture and build on the phrases from the first lecture. Then reflect on several "word families" that will help you build your vocabulary and make connections across the language. Along the way, you'll also pick up a few common verb forms, adjectives, and adverbs....

49 min
Francophone Towns and Villages
4: Francophone Towns and Villages

When traveling in French-speaking countries, the verb aller - "to go" - is one of the most useful. Get to know this verb along with important question words such as "How much?" "Why?" and "When?" This lecture also gives you a chance to listen to a great deal of spoken French to help you practice your de-coding skills....

44 min
Weather, Seasons, and Some Geography
5: Weather, Seasons, and Some Geography

Find out how to discuss the weather, as well as what the weather is like in different parts of France. Then shift your attention to times of year-seasons, months, and dates. While you learn about the weather and time, Professor Williams also introduces you to a few new verb forms to help you talk about preferences and things to do....

46 min
La Vie en France: Life in France
6: La Vie en France: Life in France

Continue your study of time by examining the days of the week, times of day, and typical French routines throughout the day. More verb forms will help you express what you want to do, what you can do, and what you have to do. And of course, you'll also gain plenty of practice speaking and listening....

46 min
Vacations and Leisure Activities
7: Vacations and Leisure Activities

In addition to teaching you the language, this course also serves as a cultural toolkit. You may know that the French enjoy their leisure time, so here you will discover the language of vacation and leisure, including the major French holidays. You'll also get your first glimpse of the "imperative mood."...

47 min
A table: Daily Meals
8: A table: Daily Meals

You won't get far in a French-speaking country without being able to talk about food and drink, particularly given that mealtime is often sacred in the French culture. This lecture takes you through breakfast and lunch, showing you how to express hunger and thirst, how to order, and the necessary vocabulary to enjoy your meal....

43 min
Buying Groceries
9: Buying Groceries

Shift your attention from ordering food in restaurants to buying food (and other items) from the store. Find out how to count and calculate totals, and review the language and cultural considerations of making a purchase. Then tackle a few more regular and irregular verb forms to help you build your communications skills....

45 min
Where to Eat
10: Where to Eat

Going to a market or restaurant is a culinary adventure. Here, you will put together several things you've learned from previous lectures and take a virtual trip to a restaurant. Professor Williams walks you through a typical dialogue with a waiter. You'll also begin to examine different verb "moods"-the conditional, the indicative, and the imperative....

43 min
The Life of the Traveler
11: The Life of the Traveler

This first of several lectures on traveling through a French country arms you with the language around the daily routines of a tourist. Step into a Parisian hotel and have a conversation with a clerk to make sure you have somewhere to stay for the night. Continue your study of grammar with a look at pronominal and reciprocal verbs....

45 min
Public Transportation
12: Public Transportation

This second lecture takes you on a journey around France to immerse you in the language of transportation to help you get from point A to point B. Professor Williams gives you a few common verbs and expressions to help you talk about where you came from, where you're going, and how to get there....

46 min
Travel and Technology
13: Travel and Technology

While values evolve very slowly, cultures often change quickly due to new devices. Round out the unit on life as a tourist with an examination of modern technology. Reflect on the French value of privacy and investigate the way smart phones and the internet have changed the nature of privacy-and the way we travel....

44 min
Souvenirs de voyage
14: Souvenirs de voyage

In this lecture, you'll gain a few helpful tools for learning about other cultures and the objects you'll encounter. Discover the vocabulary to talk about clothing and houses, and then review the grammar you've learned thus far. In French, the verbs will always be with us, so take a few moments to survey some new verb forms as well as the subjunctive mood....

45 min
Les Vetements: How and Why to Dress
15: Les Vetements: How and Why to Dress

Revisit some of the verbs you've already encountered to help you dress with style, particularly faire (to do or make), savoir (to know), and voir (to see). Build on what you've learned about the subjunctive mood to help you make your sartorial decisions. What you learn here will help you to dress your best for your travels....

45 min
The Home and Private Spaces
16: The Home and Private Spaces

Your final cultural stop around France is the home. Tour the house to uncover the vocabulary of different rooms and their functions, as well as some regional differences in architecture. Then delve into a few "tricky translations" where you must choose the right word for the right situation....

45 min
 Je fais des progres en francais !
17: Je fais des progres en francais !

Visit the town of Lyon with Professor Williams to review what you've learned from the past few lectures and see how well prepared you are to navigate an unfamiliar city. Continue studying how get around and ask for directions. Learn a few additional nuances to the vocabulary you've acquired....

39 min
La Musique, le theatre et la danse
18: La Musique, le theatre et la danse

You can't understand a culture without understanding its arts. Here, Professor Williams transitions to a multi-lecture unit on the arts, beginning with the world of performing arts. The great news is that much of the vocabulary of music, theater, and dance involves English cognates. This lecture also introduces the past tense....

43 min
La Litterature et le cinema
19: La Litterature et le cinema

Shift your attention from the stage to the realm of literature and cinema. Learn key words to help you navigate the bookstore and talk about novels, biographies, histories, poems, and more. Continue your study of verb tenses, which are the building blocks for telling a story....

43 min
L'Art et les artistes
20: L'Art et les artistes

Delve into the visual arts: sculpture, painting, and photography. As you build your vocabulary, you will also add new tools to your storytelling repertoire. With a particular focus on the verb "to be"-être-Professor Williams introduces the imperfect tense, which will better help you describe what is going on in a given situation....

45 min
Le Patrimoine: Museums
21: Le Patrimoine: Museums

In addition to the arts, cultural heritage is important in French-speaking cultures. Your first stop is the museum, and your survey helps you put together much of what you learned in the previous unit. Review the major verb tenses-present, past, composé, and imperfect-and learn how to distinguish the different types of past tense....

47 min
Le Patrimoine: Customs
22: Le Patrimoine: Customs

Consider the relationship between customs and heritage, and uncover the language for French myths and traditions. Then hone the necessary skills to help you follow a story in French. Find out how to make your descriptions livelier with adjectives and adverbs, including words of "degree"-très, trop, peu, and the like....

44 min
Le Patrimoine: Places to Visit
23: Le Patrimoine: Places to Visit

Travel through history and around French-speaking countries to explore several cultural heritage sites. You'll unpack how heritage refers both to the legacy of the past that we benefit from today, as well as what we will pass onto the future. On your tour, you will learn a series of new comparative adjectives....

44 min
Le Tourisme et les regions
24: Le Tourisme et les regions

Because of the connection between language and culture, there are many commonalities among French-speaking countries. But regional differences also abound. From food to everyday activities, explore what makes different countries and regions in France unique. From the Alps to Bordeaux, witness the diverse and exciting variety of the French-speaking world....

42 min
Les Fetes et les festivals
25: Les Fetes et les festivals

One of the joys of travel is seeing the cultural connections and distinctions from one place to the next. In this lecture, use the language of celebrations to gain insight into the culture. Festivities include parties, commemorations, and...rodeos! You'll also revisit the conditional "would" tense as well as a few verbs with irregular stems....

45 min
Underlying Cultural Values
26: Underlying Cultural Values

While culture often changes, values tend to remain constant, with roots in major historical events such as the French Revolution. Reflect on important values in French-speaking countries, particularly hospitality. Your foray takes you through the language of government, politics, fraternity, and liberty....

43 min
Aventures: Conversation
27: Aventures: Conversation

The difference between mere tourist travel and adventure is that adventure is about immersion, which requires you to engage on a deeper level. This unit gives you that deep engagement, beginning here with the art of conversation. Discover the rhythms of French conversation and some of the cultural rules to set you up for success....

38 min
Aventures: Telling a Story
28: Aventures: Telling a Story

Continue your adventure by rounding out your skills to tell and follow a story. A new verb tense-the pluperfect-will help you tell personal stories, show the link between past and present events, and forge a connection with another person. Practice listening, reading and telling stories....

43 min
Aventures: Reading Cultures
29: Aventures: Reading Cultures

You've already encountered the subjunctive tense Now take it to the next level to help you "read" a culture. Refine your ability to observe and analyze the world around you thanks to cultural artifacts. How do people dress? What do they eat? How do they greet each other? This crucial skillset will help you navigate almost any new place....

38 min
Your Future with French
30: Your Future with French

You've come a long way in these 30 in-depth lectures. Learning a new language is a lifelong adventure, but before she leaves you, Professor Williams has one more lesson in verbs to impart. Walk through the ins and outs of the future tense and look to tomorrow. Then wrap up what you've learned so you can continue your adventures in learning French....

42 min
Ann Williams

I suspect that as you discover more about French-speaking cultures in this course, you will find all kinds of reasons to learn this beautiful language.


Université Lyon 2


Metropolitan State University of Denver

About Ann Williams

Ann Williams is a Professor of French at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she teaches courses in language, literature, and culture. She earned her Ph.D. from Northwestern University and earned a Diplôme d’études approfondies from the Université Lyon 2. In May 2016, the French Ministère de l’Éducation nationale named her Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes académiques, an order of distinguished academics. She received the 2013 U.S. Professor of the Year Award for baccalaureate colleges from the Council for Advancement of Support and Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Professor Williams has coauthored four college-level French textbooks. She regularly presents conference papers and writes on contemporary France and the teaching of French. Professor Williams has been involved professionally with the Educational Testing Service, including work as a test developer. Throughout her career, she has received several awards from her university and from foreign-language professional organizations. Since 1990, Professor Williams has been an actor with L’Alliance & Co., a French-language theater company in Denver. Professor Williams is an energetic supporter of foreign-language learning and international studies, often using her own trajectory to show students how they can benefit from the experience provided through contact with languages and cultures that are different from their own. In her teaching and research, she focuses on life skills gained through language study: intercultural communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and flexibility.

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