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The Big Blue Book of French VerbsTitle: The Big Blue Book of French Verbs
Authors: David Stillman and Ronni Gordon
Copyright: © 2003
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
ISBN: 0-658-01488-9

Relevance: The Big Blue Book of French Verbs is aimed at people who need to understand the French language and think like a native speaker. The book is ideal for reporters and correspondents who must formulate thoughts and express ideas rather than just ask directions to "the main train station" or ask for a non-smoking hotel room at a five star hotel.

Review: One of the key problems that learners of new languages face is how to form sentences fluidly with their own thoughts. Sure it's easy to memorize key phrases such as, "My name is…" or "How do I get to the airport…", but when it comes to actually conversing with someone in a different language -- actually having a dialogue -- most new language texts aren't up to the challenge. The reason? Language books usually can't teach people to think in the new language. Rather, they merely teach readers to memorize (and repeat) key phrases. How to react to the answers, of course, is a different matter.

The Big Blue Book of French Verbs is ideal for new French learners who want to converse with others and express their own thoughts. The book contains 555 fully conjugated verbs along with a cross reference list of almost 2200 others. Each of the 555 features verbs is conjugated in just about every tense one would need when expressing a thought. This means: the present; imperfect; passé simple; future; conditional; present subjunctive; imperfect subjunctive; passé compose; plus perfect; past anterior; future anterior; past conditional; past subjunctive; and plus perfect subjunctive.

Since few English speakers readily understand the specific usage of each verb tense they use, the book carefully explains each form and when it is most appropriate. Although not every verb tense is illustrated in a sentence, many are -- and new French speakers will learn to appreciate the differences between one tense and another.

To understand, for example, the subjunctive tense, it is necessary to understand the role of clauses when forming sentences. As the book explains, turning a sentence into a subordinate clause allows the sentence to function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb within a larger sentence.

One of the more interesting features of The Big Blue Book of French Verbs lies in its great examples. Here, one can understand more fully what the beauty and relevancy of the French verb is in a given sentence. As well, the book's exemplary idiomatic usage underscores that French is a living language, often full of insightful abstractions. For example, the verb "alléger" means to lighten, to soothe or to relieve. However, when used in a business sense, it can also mean to lighten one's burden. Thus we have the perfectly legitimate sentence in French, "Alléger les impôts" meaning to reduce taxes (that is, lighten the load of taxation).

Another great feature of The Big Blue Book of French Verbs is its list of 50 "top verbs" (that is, ones that are most important in the language) along with lots of everyday usage examples. A verb form index is also included for highly irregular verbs -- ones that don't follow one of the few "regular" sets of "er", "ir" and "re" conjugation endings.

Although there is a small section at the end of the book containing verb tests and drills, it could well be expanded to include additional verb examples. After all, after spoiling the reader with such an extensive list of verbs, their meanings and idiomatic usage, the reader might well expect a more extensive drill and test section. Plus, we guess many readers would appreciate the option of audio CDs to accompany this fantastic text, thus illustrating proper pronunciation. These small criticisms aside, we think the Big Blue Book of French Verbs is perfect for all new learners to the language and highly recommended for just about anyone.

Any reporter, correspondent or photojournalist working in a French speaking community will appreciate The Big Blue Book of French Verbs. The book gives solid, usable example throughout and illustrates each verb with many useful examples. Although too big to use as a carry-along phrase book, it is ideal for serious beginners and intermediates to the language.

End of Review

In the same series of interest to reporters:

The Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs by Franke;

The Big Yellow Book of German Verbs by Listen, Di Donato and Franklin;

The Big Red Book of Spanish Verbs by Gordon and Stillman;

The Big Green Book of Italian Verbs by Maes-Cristie and Franklin .

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