Effective product to train French Listening Skill
I have been studying French from textbooks so far. My greatest weakness is understanding how French people speak in real life amongst themselves. While I can read reasonably well, I have difficulty understanding native French spoken at normal speeds. I also struggle to understand French movies.
SmartFrench addresses my needs quite well. It offers a CD product that emphasizes listening to native French people speaking at normal everyday speed and then meticulously explaining how the spoken words, phrases, sentences are actually pronounced and linked together. For non-natives like us, a major reason that French pronunciation and aural comprehension are so difficult is due to liaisons and unpronounced syllables/words during speech. Smartfrench addresses this very well by highlighting the places where words are glided together i.e. liaisons and also where the syllables/words are silent. The CD and the booklet that comes with the CD marks out in red all the alphabets/words that are silent during speech and underscores all the liaison links. This is radically different from my other French courses where I hear natives speaking but not told where, how and why certain alphabets or words are silent or abbreviated during speech or where the liaisons occur. The CD goes through 15 interesting dialogs with a beautiful model, a chef, a gallery owner, a singer, a diplomat and so on. Their speech accent, style and level of formality varies, which give good practice in listening to how different natives speak. The product's website offers a DEMO that gives a flavor of how the program works.
I found SmartFrench to be the most focused on teaching the student how to listen by giving valuable tips and an effective listening road-map along the way. It does not distract by trying to teach grammar & vocabulary at the same time, but single-mindedly zeroed in on helping the student to develop the critical listening techniques for understanding real life French. For beginners, this approach may be daunting, but I would still recommend to practice listening right away, at the inception of learning French. This will familiarize the ear to the sound, rhythm and intonation of real-life native speech and trains the ear from day one how to listen. The SmartFrench technique is very effective in that regard. For rank beginners, SmartFrench offers a separate 'Introduction to French' product that teaches basic grammar, conjugation, vocabulary and sentence building, to complement its unique Listening method mentioned earlier.
If you want to train your listening skills to eventually understand what the natives are saying, or watch an undubbed movie, news or documentary, SmartFrench is a great training product to add to your French language tool-kit.