I have to confess...I'm a foreign language junkie. I took French from kindergarten through  9th grade, and another year in college, so you'd think that by now, I'd be fluent in it. Plus,  my mother is fluent in Spanish, so I should have had a leg up on that too, right?  Unfortunately, no. I always got A's in French in school, but to this day, I can only hold the  simplest of conversations, although my pronunciation is quite good in both languages.The simple fact of the matter is, I've forgotten most of what I learned through sheer lack of use.

I don't think you can really learn a language unless you use it every day, preferably with native speakers who can correct your mistakes. And, since my mother never felt the need to teach me Spanish and none of my friends know French, I'm stuck.

Hence, the teach-yourself tapes and CDs. I have to say, I really love them. They can go with you wherever you go, you learn by imitating native speakers with flawless accents, and they never lose patience with you. On the minus side, you won't learn conversations/words other than those on the program, and if you're making mistakes that you're unaware of, nobody is there to correct you. They aren't a substitute for classes where you can interact with a teacher and fellow students, but I still think they're better than relying on pidgin English and improvised sign language in a desperate attempt to get one's ideas across. When you go to a foreign country, most natives, I feel, would be more impressed by someone who is actually making an effort to converse with them in their own language, however faltering that effort may be, than by yet another American who automatically assumes that half the world is fluent in English.

So, on to the courses. I've built up quite a collection of them, as I'm always in search of that elusive creature...the perfect foreign language program. You know, the one that I can listen to every night while I sleep, and wake up miraculously fluent in my new language.  ;)

Of course, since I've never found anything close to that, I'd settle for a program that isn't too expensive, is fairly clear-cut, and most of all, is not mind-numbingly boring (the Mastering...[French, Spanish, etc] series from Barron's, "Developed by the Foreign Service Institute" comes to mind). I'm always on the look-out for a good self-study course, but I don't have a ton of money, and without breaking the seals on the packages in the bookstore, I can't tell in advance if I'll like a particular set. So I turned to the Web, thinking I'd surely find some sites with reviews of the programs I've seen at my local Barnes & Noble. Lo and behold, I haven't found any such sites, and believe me, I searched a lot. The closest I got were the reviews for individual programs at Amazon.com by people who had bought them, but I was hoping more for a site where you could see comparisons of several programs at a glance.

That got me to thinking...I can't be the
only person who'd like to know which is better, Barron's or Berlitz, Pimsleur or Michel Thomas? Which ones emphasize grammar more than vocabulary?  Which ones won't make me sound like I'm preparing for a diplomatic meeting when all I want is to relax in a cafe or find out what movies are showing? Most importantly, which ones won't put me to sleep?

So, since I couldn't find a site like this to help me out, I decided I would create one of my own. These are my own very subjective and personal opinions, but hopefully others out there can still benefit from them. I'll be reviewing language programs complete with texts and cassettes/CDs, as well as some foreign language study books by themselves. I have quite a little collection here, and it's going to take awhile to get all the reviews up, so check back often! And if you have any reviews of self-study foreign language programs (any language) that you'd like to share, please do so! They can be programs I've already reviewed, or ones that I haven't mentioned. The more opinions, the better, so speak your mind and e-mail me or post on my guestbook.  Ciao!

Click here to go straight to the French program reviews.
Click here to go straight to the book reviews.
Or, keep reading to find out what this site is all about....
     The Champs-Elysees
Click here to go straight to the Spanish program reviews..
              This site is best viewed with Internet Explorer. I've experienced some problems viewing it with Netscape/Firefox.
                                                                           Optimized for 800x600 screen resolution.
French Reviews
Spanish Reviews
Book Reviews
The Alhambra/Spain and the Seine & Notre Dame/France
                 The Language Center
There are tons of great resources on the Web for free graphics. Here's where I got everything I used on my site.

The background is courtesy of Web Design Studio:

The welcome and e-mail graphics are courtesy of City Web:

The menu buttons and dividers are courtesy of Bejewelled Graphics:

Sources for the pictures are noted on or under the images.

Everything else is courtesy of Geocities.

You need Java to see this applet.