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One of the single biggest challenges for all students learning French is the learning of verb conjugations. This process can take a very long time. I had a look at the course “French Verb Drills” by French Today to decide whether or not I’d recommend it to my own students. In short, the answer is YES! I love the course! Keep reading to discover why!
Before we move into the details of this review I must disclose something first. I know both Camille and her husband, Oliver, from French Today. We first came into contact on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in 2016 where we met and had breakfast together. Over the years we have worked very closely with each other. In fact, if you end up buying the the course French Verb Drills through a link on this page I’ll make a small commission from the sale.
What is French Verb Drills and what is it not?
One of the best resources for modern spoken French
French Verbs Drills is an audio course designed to help you gain confidence in French verb conjugations. What’s great about Camille’s course is that the audio is 100% made with her human voice and not computer generated, like many French verb learning tools.
What makes Camille’s course unique is that she puts an emphasis on teaching French verbs as they really sound in everyday life. Camille teaches the gliding sounds of modern spoken French. An example of this is saying “Jeun sais pas” rather than “Je ne sais pas” for “I don’t know. As far as I know Camille is the only French teacher who offers a verb course covering gliding.
Camille emphasizes strongly that the French Verb Drills course is designed to help students “build long-lasting reflexes” for French verb conjugations and that the course does not provide an explanation of the verb tenses. To learn that, she strongly suggests having a look at her flagship course À Moi Paris (official site) (read our review here).
That said, if you buy the French Verb Drills bundle, French Today includes a one-hour audio book called French Verb Fundamentals. This additional course does cover the uses and meanings of all the verb tenses covered in the broader French Verb Drills course.
French Verb Drills provides a real workout!
Camille’s course does not provide endless charts and tables of French verbs. There are many websites and books offering such content. For her course, she has selected a) a set list of verbs with common conjugation patterns which can help you conjugate most French verbs and b) obvious commonly used verbs which can be prone to students’ mistakes. For each verb, Camille provides a set series of audio drills covering all the essential tenses you’ll need to speak fluently.
Camille designed the exercises in manner that you don’t go down the lists of verbs in the traditional order (je, tu, il/elle etc.). She has you drill the verbs out of order so that you may gain mastery quicker and and in a more natural way.
The French Verb Drills course does not promise to teach you ever single verb in the French language. However, it promises to give you a solid “workout” for the most important verbs you’ll need to know. Camille’s strong suggestion is dedicating a few minutes to verb study per day and avoid burning yourself out with marathon three-hour long study sessions.
In addition, there’s a strong suggestion to practice saying all the verb forms aloud and not silently in your head. This way, you’ll gain confidence and expertise over time, much like seeing improvement in the gym over time!
French Verbs Drills – A look under the hood
What you’ll actually see for a given verb
In this section I’ll show you what you’ll actually get when you buy the course French Verb Drills. For our example, we’ll look at the the first verb covered in the course, être (to be).
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As you can see, Camille covers the present tense of être with two main exercises. Initially, she has you repeating in order then out of order. Then, in the second exercise she provides the subject and then pauses while you come up with correct form of the verb. Again, she does this out of order to help you build your confidence in a more natural way.
Then, after going through the present tense, she repeats the exercises using the same format (repeat in order, out of order and providing the subject) for the following tenses. Yes, this look mind-boggling. Camille does this for every verb in the course and the results for students have been phenomenal.
- Present: Negation and Interrogative
- Passé composé: affirmative, negation and interrogative
- Imparfait: affirmative, negation and interrogative
- Future: affirmative, negation and interrogative
- Past future: affirmative, negation and interrogative
- Plus-que-parfait affirmative, negation and interrogative
- Passé simple affirmative, negation and interrogative
- Subjunctive: Present and negation
Two important notes for Camille’s verb drills: 1) Don’t expect English translations for every line. French verbs often have multiple translation in English. For example, je parle translates to I speak, I am speaking and I do speak. The point of the entire course is to drill the verbs, not teach the meanings of the tenses. That is covered thoroughly in her other course, À Moi Paris. 2) She uses the French names of the verb tenses.
Additionally, I’d like to note that I was impressed with Camille’s inclusion of the passé simple. This is a literary past tense that almost never appears in this type of course. The fact that Camille included it in her course proves that she is very serious about helping people learn French.
Verbs covered in the course
There are a total three volumes of French Today’s Verb Drills Course. The entire course has over 28 hours of audio. Here is the list of verbs covered under each volume:
- Volume 1: être (to be), devoir (to have to, must), faire (to make, to do), mettre (to put)
- Volume 2: aller (to go), boire (to drink), vouloir (to want), s’asseoir (to sit)
- Volume 3: avoir (to have), chanter (to sing), prendre (to take), finir (to finish)
The good news is that Camille did include a reflexive verb: s’asseoir. There are some changes in the conjugation patterns for reflexive verb so it’s important that this appear in the course. It’s also great that she included aller (to go) as there are pattern changes in the past tense (passé composé).
French Verb Drills App
Many students use French Today’s app to follow the Verb Drills course. All of French Today’s courses can be taken using one single “home” app. You can download the app here.
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French Verb Drills by French Today – Final Thoughts
Learning French verb conjugations is not easy and does require a lot of time and effort. That said, I feel that French Today’s “French Verb Drills” course does provide a an excellent vehicle to make this process faster and easier. Yes, I would definitely recommend it to my students!