Frantastique: a review

I‘ve been trying out an interesting new tool for a few weeks now. As some of you know, I’m currently refreshing my French. Now, tracking back onto a language I’ve already done in the past is always easier than learning an absolutely new one, but there are still plenty of thrills left in the rediscovery of a language, and particularly one with as many layers of complexity as French.

Not very long ago I got in touch with a member of the staff at Frantastique. I’d seen their name here and there, but theirs is a rather understated operation and I never thought too much of it; however, I never say no to a chance to review a method or system I haven’t reviewed before, and so, after listening to what its own people had to say about it, I jumped at the chance to try out Frantastique, and came out pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the course I’d tried.

Allons-y!

Now, how does Frantastique work? Quite simply, you sign up with your email, like I’m sure you’ve done with many other services. After a short set up of your account, you’re quite literally done.

Then what?

The following day, you’ll get the first of seven lessons meant to measure your ability in the language. These are lessons every new user receives, and work towards tailoring the contents from lesson 8 onwards to your actual linguistic level. Your daily email from Frantastique has zero frills: it consists of a greeting, what lesson you’re doing that day, and a huge, colorful button to access that day’s contents. No excuse not to click on it!

frantastique
Frantastique, tested on a smartphone.

Regarding contents, the kind of exercises you’ll find in Frantastique are deceivingly simple. I say “deceivingly” because after having tried it out for a while, I can see there is actually an immense amount of care and thought put into each exercise and interaction you have with Frantastique’s lessons.

Once you’ve done your first few lessons, all the rest usually kick off with a quick warm up, a review of your prior lessons. After that, you go on to the meat and potatoes of the lesson, the “Histoire”, which furthers by bits the crazy history of Victor Hugo and his friends, Muriel and Marcel, agents of the AIGF (l’Agence Intergalactique de la Francofonie); I won’t elaborate on the story, but I will say that its quirkiness is one of its fortes, and should appeal to young and old alike. The Histoire is usually a short video or comic upon which all exercises are based: they are usually grammar or vocabulary exercises in which you’ll either be expected to type or choose one option out of multiple ones. Last but not least, once you’re done but before you send your answers in for reviewing, you get a little reward for finishing your exercises, in the form of “Le dessert du jour”, a little audio or video clip having to do with Francophone culture in general.

All done? Then it’s time to send in your answers. They’ll be checked automatically and a mail with corrections will be be sent back to you in less than a minute, which you can later use for studying. Et voilà, you’re done!

I love Frantastique because it seems it was designed to be one step ahead of the user in almost every aspect of the course. Here are some of Frantastique’s most likeable characteristics:

  • All the contents are 100% in French, so it’s a fully immersive system from the beginning.
  • On the same line as the above point, all audio is provided in both French and Canadian variants (and I recall having heard an audio with a Belgian accent, but if I did, I can’t find it in the notes I usually write for reviewing).
  • I timed myself and noticed that each lesson takes an average of 10 minutes to complete, in spite of which they’re chock full of great content and productive exercises.
  • Once you’re done with the seven first lessons, the system automatically sends you a graded report of your performance. It includes  your approximate level according to CEFR, the skills you have acquired and the skills you should work on acquiring from now on. On a personal note, I found this graded portfolio a lot more accurate than when I measured my French skills through Rosetta Stone.
  • All lessons are responsive and very light, so they can be easily done on the go, from a smartphone.
  • The system warns you if you’ve missed any questions, but won’t keep you from sending your answers in without answering.
  • There are multiple ways to address not knowing an answer (or inversely, knowing it too well): Frantastique actually allows you to ask the system to review (or skip) a particular topic by clicking on options such as “I knew it (beforehand)” or “I don’t know about this” .
  • The system is built so that it doesn’t “spam” the user: if you don’t take a daily lesson, the system automatically waits three days before re-sending it.

I feel the designers and creators of this course must have worked really hard to create a minimal, yet elegant system that simmers the process of learning French to its most basic elements: the result is incredibly effective. One of the things I like the most is that in and by itself, Frantastique’s system encourages one of the most important factors in learning a language: constant reviewing. It takes the administrative work out of your hands, leaving only pure learning for you to do.

That does sound pretty nice…

Doesn’t it? That’s why I’m pretty happy to be able to write the following.

I liked Frantastique so much I decided to partner up with them, which means now I’m able to offer The Polyglotist readers a free 30-day trial! All you have to do is click on the link and sign up to try it out. However, this is a limited time offer, and it will expire on April 30, so go ahead and try it while it lasts!