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Book review: 6000+ Essential French Words (ctd)

What about beginner students...?

As you'll have gathered by now, this book covers a whole range of vocabulary, from quite basic words to some quite detailed, specialist terms. For some students, this will make the book an excellent investment, as the book will carry them through various levels of study. And for teachers, the book will be an excellent guide for various class levels.

But the book has an organisational limitation for less advanted students. Much basic SAT-level and GCSE-level vocabulary is included in this book. But there's no indication of which this is. Basic-level words are sometimes found in their own subscetion (though without being designated as "basic"), but often are scattered in with vocabulary squarely aimed at more advanced students. Thus, right from the word go, we find grand and petit mixed in with antipathique and appliqué. Now of course, if you're serious about French and know you intend to study it to a high level, the distinction between "GCSE" and "advanced" vocabulary is pretty spurious anyway. But for a few students that just want to "learn the basics", having an idea of which of the 6,000 words they're really expected to know at a given stage could be helpful, at least from a point of view of morale...

Supplementary material

Vocabulary sections are supplemented with various exercises and Words in Use sections, which generally contain a (ficticious) passage or dialogue, including words from the previous section, with translation. A slight criticism is that this supplementary material is generally of a lower standard than the main vocabulary sections. I'm all for including example translations if they're actually good, idiomatic translations; I regret the store for je regrette le magasin (p. 13) is meaningless and misleading. Given the advanced nature of some of the vocabulary included in this book, some of the grammatical or structural points which the examples are trying to exemplify seem a little trite. And occasionally the opportunity is missed for genuinely relevant points of grammar to be raised (e.g. in one of the examples, une robe bleue unie (p. 12), conventionally this agreement would be considered an error; if this was intentional on the part of the authors, it would be good to see a footnote at least).

A CD-ROM included on the back cover contains a simple but well-presented flash card program to help learn the vocabulary covered by the book. As Windows users have come to expect, the program features an irritating installation process that asks you to accept terms and conditions and restart your computer. A web site is also provided with "additional vocabulary". I wonder in 2008 if it might have been easier and less irritating to the user just to implement the program as a flash component of a web page and be done with the CD...


All in all, 6000+ Essential French Words will be an excellent French vocabulary resource for students at various levels. Its detailed, well-organised and up-to-date vocabulary lists will really allow students to go beyond the "essential" in their mastery of French. Students who want purely "basic" vocabulary may be less daunted by a book with more stripped down vocabulary lists.

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