Book review (ct'd):
Correct your French Blunders
Something for everyone...
Above all, the book has a clear, pragmatic approach to both basic and more
advanced material. Beginners will find valuable material in the opening sections
of many of the chapters. There is very much a sense that the book will "follow you
through your study" and allow you to dip into gradually more advanced material.
(Intermediate students will equally be able to start partway through each
Each section contains clear, boxed examples of blunders. One approach to
navigating the book is thus to flick through the blunders; when you encounter
one thinking "I don't know why that's not grammatical", that's your
signal to start reading the surrounding paragraph. For those that want to look
up a topic directly, a subject index is included.
A slight concern I have is with the book's attitude towards the language. The author
takes a somewhat prescriptive outlook. The danger of this approach, as opposed to
a descriptive, evidence-driven approach, is that it gives the student the impression
that certain utterances are not part of the language when in fact they are used by
native speakers given the right circumstances. As mentioned above, the result is
somewhat muddled criteria as to what constitutes a "blunder".
For example, the author labels the following as blunders:
- c'enfant (p. 24)
- Alain, il aime danser (p. 108)
- t'as pas fini (p. 23)
- on s'est bien amusé chez toi (p. 111)
- ne me donnez pas des mauvais conseils (p. 80)
- voilà les livres que j'avais besoin (p. 129)
- j'espère que votre voyage soit agréable (p. 234)
The first of these, I believe no native French speaker would ever contemplate
saying in their wildest dreams. So in that respect, its label of "blunder" is justified
(although I'm less sure that it's such a common mistake
among second language learners either). But the second and third examples
are paerfectly common, normal utterances, used frequently
in the colloquial speech of many educated French native speakers.
The next example is a minor issue of spelling: at least some grammars
advocate the plural adjective or participle when on has a plural reference.
But there is not concensus on this issue (e.g. Thomas quotes nous, on est parti
quand même) and in any case this really is a minor spelling point, hardly a terrible "blunder"
that would make the offender stand out from a native speaker!
The final three examples, although (to different degrees) criticised
from a prescriptive point of view and doubtless avoided by many speakers,
would still be heard from some native speakers. These examples certainly merit
an explanation to learners that they belong to a particular register. But putting their
status on a par with the first example is a misrepresentation of the language.
Sooner or later, learners will come across such sentences; they may as well be able to understand them than be
erroneously told that they don't exist!
I do stress, however, that despite this approach many learners will still find good, clear, pragmatic
advice in this book. Intermediate to advanced learners may reach a point where a valuable activity
is to discuss some of the "blunders" which are actually possible native speaker utterances--
possibly by looking for counter-examples on the Internet-- and examining what are the
specific circumstances when speakers might indeed say
nous ne voulons pas un enfant (how about if enfant
is used to mean "childish person"?), il l'a entré
(imagine playing a game of pool), je suis content que je parte
en vacances or t'as pas fini.
Despite a few concerns from a technical and descriptive point of view, this book will
serve well both beginner and intermediate learners of French. It will offer clear, pragmatic
advice for a range of learners, and will prove to be a good investment: a book with
a good "shelf life", allowing learners to dip in and out of it over the course of their
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All comments and material contained on this page are accurate to the best of the author's knowledge.