First proposed and thoroughly tested over a century ago, the teaching method described and implemented in this revised edition of Siepmann's Primary French Course series remains a solid approach in learning the French language. Led by the “sound maxim that only one difficulty should be offered to a pupil at a time”, the student incrementally gains confidence as he moves from chapter to chapter. Each lesson is constructed to gradually introduce syntax and grammar, followed by questions which reinforce comprehension. With the assistance of illustrations, new vocabulary may be easily grasped through the visual element. Along with the introductory material appearing in each chapter, there is additional prose, poetry, idioms, and puns, or word games (“jeux de mots”), with which the ambitious student will be sufficiently challenged and entertained. Also included is an alphabetical vocabulary, exercises for translation, English and French word lists, translation helps, and complete verb conjugations introduced by phrases which help to mentally prepare the speaker for the required tense.
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Originally from Germany, Otto Siepmann left for England in 1885. He was appointed Assistant Master at Clifton College, Bristol in September 1890 as a language instructor. He would eventually become Head of the Modern Language department for the school. Early in his career, he wrote in 1892 a textbook entitled ‘The Intuitive French Reader’. The material as presented comprises what was called the ‘intuitive method’. It consisted of introductory words and phrases that emphasized conversational practice. As such there was very little emphasis on grammar within the text. Classroom instruction must have informed a better way to teach the French language. Ten years later, in 1902, Mr. Siepmann would publish his Primary French Course, Part One. He would find that introducing grammar in the earliest stages was actually beneficial. In addition to this, pronunciation would also gain a prominent place in his pupil’s instruction. Founded in 1886 in Paris, the International Phonetic Association was gaining popularity by this time in some language departments. Siepmann, realizing the potential, integrated French phonetics into his curriculum, even advising that a phonetic text be studied for proper pronunciation of French sounds before any proper language instruction begins. Therefore, also in 1902, he published the phonetically transcribed text of the first ten lessons of his French course. This text would form the ‘First Term’ of the course which would lay the foundation of a proper pronunciation of a language which is regarded above all for its phonetic beauty. In addition to the French course, he also published Siepmann’s French Series. The Series presented classical French texts for English readers from some of France’s leading authors of the time. Ranging from elementary to advanced texts, the goal was to provide French language learners an appreciation of French literature. The books were also a supplement to classroom instruction. They contained interpretive helps, explanations of idiomatic expressions, illustrations of grammatical irregularities, and thorough glossaries. What was perhaps most helpful to the beginner though was Siepmann’s Series for Rapid Reading. These were easy-to-read short stories that helped the student gain confidence in quickly grasping grammatical constructions. The stories were short enough to complete quickly and easy enough to aid in improving comprehension.
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