So you’ve decided to learn French. Or maybe you want to reclaim what you learned in high school and take it on your next trip to France. At any rate, you know that you need some French lessons and you’ve come here to figure out which software program is best.

I learned French in high school and college and now that I’m working in Shanghai, I’m moving towards proficiency with Mandarin Chinese. Choosing a language resource is a different situation for those of you who are still in school; you can sign up for a course or use your free time after class. But for those of us with full time jobs and families to take care of, textbooks and private instructors are simply not going to work.

Every language student needs a study style that works with their situation. Here are some things to consider:

  • Is this a completely new language or am I picking it back up from previous studies?
  • How similar is this language to my native tongue? (This affects the method and time required to learn vocabulary.)
  • How much time can I devote to studying on a daily basis (or 5 days a week)?
  • Do I want to study at home or while I commute?
  • How old am I? (I recommend students under 12 use Rosetta Stone because they need very little explanation and can absorb the language simply through immersion.)
  • What level of proficiency am I aiming for?  (If you just want basic communication skills for your next trip, Fluenz and Pimsleur are best for practical vocabulary. They get much more advanced, but they start with the most practical language from the beginning of Level 1.)

Things your language program should include:

  • Exercises to build vocabulary, teach grammar, and practice verb conjugations
  • Segments for reading, writing, listening, and speaking
  • Recorded conversations so that you can observe the language in context and tools to easily review smaller sections of these conversations
  • Live conversation practice (either as part of the program, like Rosetta Stone offers, or through a website like MyHappyPlanet)
  • Forums for discussing the finer points of the language
  • Motivation to keep you studying (this is closely related to my ratings of User Experience)

The best way to see what works for you is to simply try it out. All of the programs that I review here offer a guarantee and free trial of some sort. With all of the above in mind, I recommend you head on over to the comparison table, choose one or two that interest you, and read their full reviews.

Of course, if you have any questions that you don’t find answered on this site, feel free to ask me in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.

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