If you’re most comfortable learning French on your own from a book, or if it’s a higher priority for you to learn how to read and write in French than to speak it, then there are some quality learn French books that can quickly teach you the basics of written French, French grammar, and French vocabulary.
These books will teach you French pronunciation as well, of course, but the nuances of the spoken language are best picked up by listening to native French speakers yourself. And learning French from a book will not be able to teach you is audio comprehension skills, so we suggest you supplement your French studies with French audio CDs or DVDs, videos, or at least by watching some movies in French.
Best Overall Learn French Book: Berlitz Self-Teacher for French
The Berlitz Self-Teacher for French is a textbook that is still one of the most popular self-teaching books, despite having been published in 1949. It is a dense, no-nonsense approach to learning the basics of true French (not just phrasebook sayings), that will have you speaking and reading French as quickly as possible.
It’s a little dated, sometimes teaches phrases that a native French speaker would understand but would not use today. Its biggest weakness is its phonetic spellings of French words throughout the book. Beginners may find French pronunciation confusing, with all its unpronounced syllables, but unlike English, it usually operates by consistent rules, so once you have learned the pronunciation rules you will be able to pronounce all unfamiliar words going forward. Trying to use English phonetics to pronounce French words will make you more difficult to be understood by French speakers and ultimately hold back your advancement in the language if you decide to progress further than a beginner’s level.
Ultimately, however, this textbook has stood the test of time and remains one of the best self-teaching French learning manuals on the market today. It doesn’t have any fancy graphics or little anecdotes and trivia as many textbooks do today, just a consistent emphasis on getting you understanding and speaking French as quickly as humanly possible.
Best Beginner’s Grammar Book: Easy French Step-by-Step
If you’re serious about learning all aspects of the language from beginners to advanced in a methodical, academic fashion, Easy French Step-by-Step is an excellent start to help you build the foundation for more advanced French learning. All basic aspects of French grammar are discussed in depth, along with entertaining exercises for you to practice what you’ve learned. You will also learn 300 common verbs as well as how to conjugate them, creating a strong foundation for proceeding further in learning the language. This book’s weaknesses are in limited vocabulary teaching and in providing opportunities to practice reading comprehension.
However, both shortfalls are easily remedied by either purchasing a separate vocabulary and reading comprehension guide, or finding French stories or articles online and looking up and making note of every word you do not know. This book does not pretend to be a comprehensive guide to learning French, but as a manual for learning grammar, it is unbeatable.
Best French Vocabulary Book: Mastering French Vocabulary – A Thematic Approach
Vocabulary is one of the easiest, quickest things you can improve on in your knowledge of French, especially if you stick with the most commonly used words. Mastering French Vocabulary is a book designed to get you quickly understanding and using the 3000 words that French speakers use daily, as well as an additional 1950 that are set aside in the book to be learned after you have mastered the first group.
The vocabulary lists are divided into 35 different thematic groups, to make it easy for you to look up a certain word in a category, and includes phonetic pronunciations for all French words. There aren’t example sentences for every vocabulary word, which may disappoint some, but the careful selection of the most useful words to know in French, as well as its easy to use and read format, make this the best vocabulary book for beginners and intermediate speakers on the market today.