16th June 2000 at 01:00
OXFORD FRENCH CARTOON STRIP VOCABULARY BUILDER. Edited by Marie-Helene Correard, Illustrations by Claire Bretecher. Oxford University Press. pound;6.99

While many people long to "speak French like real French people do", the fact is that foreigners who try to use slang usually end up sounding ridiculous and not being understood. The aim of a book offering "short cuts to sounding really French" is therefore questionable.

The cartoons undoubtedly have a certain charm, but it is difficult to know for whom the Oxford French Cartoon Strip Vocabulary Builder is intended. The small print says intermediate level and beyond, yet advanced grammatical terms crop up throughout ("the imperative mood is used o give orders") and I do not come across many intermediates who can handle syntax such as "(Les questions)...si un autre moi-meme se les posait je me sentirais moins seule".

A table of 50 verbs given in six tenses includes maudire and conclure. At the same time items such as trois, parler and cafe are glossed as they would be for beginners. The vocabulary lists contain useful everyday words but bear scant relation to the cartoons.

The small size of the print (and large areas of white paper) make reading rather laborious. Adults with a good grounding in French grammar may appreciate the humour of the cartoons, but it is not easy to see a place for this book in the schools' market.

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