When I say “textbooks,” do you hear dramatic, evil super-villain music play in your mind?
If you ever had to lug a new French textbook around school, then it’s probable you promised yourself you’d never use one again.
Huge, heavy and difficult to navigate, the outdated textbooks with which most of us are familiar are often unhelpful and utterly confusing. Textbooks seem to be more associated with our academic pasts, so why should we use them in our studies today?
Believe it or not, times have changed. There are tons of great textbook options out there. Languages are on the up and the book market is becoming incredibly competitive. From modern textbooks, you can source a lot of what you need to perfect your French and master the advanced level!
Why Turn to French Textbooks?
It’s important to mix things up when it comes to studying methods. After all, it’s unrealistic relying on one medium to exercise all four language skills. For example, you might keep a language journal for writing practice and watch subtitled content on FluentU for reading and listening practice.
Study strategies will also depend on the type of learner you are. But you never know what will actually work for you unless you try everything, which is why you shouldn’t shy away from textbooks.
There’s a huge variety of topics offered
Sourcing new material as an advanced learner can be a challenge. You have unique personal interests, strengths, weaknesses and learning styles. You need something that works right for you. The world of French books is now staggeringly diverse, so if you’re looking for a niche subject or anything else in particular, it’s probably already been covered in a textbook.
They take an in-depth look at grammar points
With advanced grammar, things get really serious and if you’re at that stage of learning, you’ll want a textbook that can measure up. Advanced textbooks are equipped with all of the trickiest grammar points out there and if you want to equip yourself with great explanations and examples, books are the way forward.
They contain multiple, interactive exercises
To enhance learning, advanced textbooks are filled with examples of learning points and various interactive exercises. If you want to get sucked into the learning experience, textbooks can be the best way to do so!
They reference other useful materials
Often, an individual textbook cannot cover all of the points it makes and will forward students to a list of recommended reading. Taking a look at the material the author used when writing and recommends for further information will give you a great, detailed insight into advanced French.
They’re a great way to practice spelling
French spelling is notoriously difficult, especially at an advanced level. Being exposed to advanced vocabulary and literature, however, is a great way in which to practice your spelling and master the tricky French language.
Using textbooks as an advanced French student is undeniably useful if you want to perfect your skills. What’s more, there are books out there to help you with each part of your language comprehension, so if you’re looking to reach fluency, these texts will have you covered!
In addition to the textbooks we’ll go over below, you can find other great options on VitalSource, a nifty site that lets you rent e-textbooks or buy them. Textbooks can be quite an investment, so this is a great way to shop safely and save on your arm muscles, too!
6 Advanced French Textbooks That Get Serious Results
1. “Cours d’Analyse Grammaticale”
While advanced grammatical textbooks might not exactly be at the top of everyone’s wish lists, if you’re an advanced learner, they’re essential for your comprehension. “Cours d’Analyse Grammaticale” is incredibly focused in its approach to grammar and is aimed at an advanced level student. If you’re on the lookout for the whole grammar package, this could be the book for you! Of course, there are tons of other benefits to the textbook.
All French, all the time
Lessons and content in “Cours d’Analyse Grammaticale” are written entirely in French, designed to test advanced learners to their limits. While picking up difficult learning points entirely in French may seem hard at first, these lessons are designed to have the maximum effectiveness and, after stumbling with a few, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can pick things up. Not only will you master French, but you’ll also be able to explain grammar to other learners, too!
Focus on advanced grammar
Advanced grammar is the name of the game in “Cours d’Analyse Grammaticale,” so if you’re concerned that you’ll have already covered the language points, don’t be. The book is designed to be a complete grammar guide and to lead its students into fluency, so expect lessons to look at each lesson with a lot of vigor and focus.
In-depth analysis of vocabulary
Vocabulary plays a big part in this textbook too and, rather than just offering direct translations, “Cours d’Analyse Grammaticale” takes a focused look at each vocabulary point it makes, associating it with a relevant grammatical rule. If you’re looking to master French grammar and vocabulary, this book is a wonderful place to begin!
2. “Le Bon Usage”
If you’re looking for content straight from the (native) masters themselves, “Le Bon Usage” is the book you should consider. A French grammar and vocabulary book, “Le Bon Usage” is used within French schools and is the reference guide to which hundreds of native learners are directed each year. The book describes the French language in meticulous detail, taking note particularly of the written, literary form. If you want a language workout, this is your go-to guide.
The grammar in “Le Bon Usage” is designed to serve fluent speakers of the language, so if you’re on the hunt for a complete, comprehensive guide, this is the place to look. Advanced grammar might take a little longer to master than other levels, so it might be wise to double up on your resources and check a few texts before deciding which learning style suits you.
Used by native speakers
As mentioned before, native speakers keep a copy of “Le Bon Usage” in order to refer difficult grammar points and verb conjugations. Very few native speakers master all forms of grammatical French, so don’t feel ashamed if you need to use the book for reference frequently.
Revised editions available online
As the French language morphs over time, grammar and vocabulary come and go. Unsurprisingly, then, the book is constantly being updated to match the changes happening in real life. While “Le Bon Usage” is frequently revised and republished, there are up-to-date editions always available through the website, making it incredibly easy to stay ahead of the advanced learning curve!
Index of phrases and vocabulary
“Le Bon Usage” isn’t all grammar, though. In its index, you can expect to pick up an entire arsenal of useful and relevant phrases. In the book, you can get a pretty comprehensive look into the advanced French language and, along the way, get to grips with using French in real life, too.
3. “Developing Writing Skills In French”
If writing in French is your struggle, “Developing Writing Skills In French” is the textbook to run with. A book focused specifically on the ability to write in advanced French, it takes students through a rigorous set of lessons, designed in order to help learners make the best language choices when they work.
Focus on correct writing and spelling
French spelling can trip even the most seasoned of students up and it really does take a long time to master. In “Developing Writing Skills In French,” students are taken through exercises which look into the correct methods of writing and spelling in French, aiming to enable them to be able to think independently after the book has been completed.
Looks at stylistic differences
Advanced learners will know better than most the potential pitfalls which come with using the incorrect register in French. Luckily, “Developing Writing Skills In French” is aware of this too, and comes armed with a whole section of stylistic differences which guides students on what to choose, when. The book relies on written examples and textual references, too, so students can start to have a better understanding of each rule.
Exercises accompanied by useful notes
Often, exercises can seem arbitrary and unclear, especially when completed independently from a book. “Developing Writing Skills In French” understands that many students will learn on their own and therefore accompanies all of its exercises with explanatory notes, outlining why certain rules apply and others don’t.
Designed for self-study
Whilst many advanced students might study within classes, there are many others who don’t and, as a result, “Developing Writing Skills In French” is designed for study both in and out of the classroom. Complete with in-depth textual analyses, frequent written exercises and regular examples, the book takes a really thorough look at the written French language and can be incredibly helpful to advanced learners everywhere.
4. “Ecouter Pour S’Exprimer”
A textbook focused on advanced listening, “Ecouter Pour S’Exprimer” contains exercises which aim to get students on track learning and thinking for themselves. Advanced learners in particular can benefit from the listening exercises, which are spoken close to native speed and contain many tricky vocabulary and grammar points. Overall, this text boasts many student benefits and should be a staple for all advanced learners.
Highlights advanced listening
The difference between intermediate and advanced listening exercises are huge and, in many guidebooks, advanced learners are overlooked and given tasks which are too easy for them. In “Ecouter Pour S’Exprimer,” the advanced listener is the key audience member and students can expect to find exercises in fast French, filled with complicated vocabulary points.
Reading and writing interactive exercises
Of course, the ability to listen in French doesn’t mean much without reading and writing. Advanced learners are encouraged to take the language points from the listening exercises in“Ecouter Pour S’Exprimer” and apply them to various reading and writing tasks. Altering the course of learning enables students to really get their heads around difficult vocabulary lessons and using the lessons interactively, students fully get to grips with their French.
Role play activities
If you are learning with other advanced students, “Ecouter Pour S’Exprimer” contains many group-based activities which are designed to make language points really stick. Applying each listening exercise and French lesson to an interactive role play, students are asked to really think on their feet and use what they have learned within “real life” situations. Using role play,“Ecouter Pour S’Exprimer” prepares its students for the real world and makes their comprehension more lasting.
5. “Savoir-Faire: An Advanced French Course”
“Savoir-Faire” is probably the best “combination” course out there, utilizing a variety of different learning materials and exercises in order to arm its advanced students with the best possible tools. Structured with clear, progressive lessons, it moves students through different topics with each chapter, designed for complete comprehension and the move into French fluency. If you’re on the search for a textbook that has it all, “Savoir-Faire” is a great place to start!
Balances listening, writing and reading
Each chapter focuses on every element of the French language, using the same topic point as a way between the learning styles. Moving between listening, writing and reading, students are really encouraged to think quickly in French and rapidly differentiate between the different learning styles. While studying in this way might be tricky at first, it’s a great way for advanced learners to push their brain power and really get to grips with tricky lessons.
10 chapters focused on separate topics
Each chapter of the “Savoir-Faire” textbook is focused on a different topic and in the various exercises, takes a focused look at the subject in hand. What’s more, the book comes equipped with lots of secondary material, including a teacher’s book and three 60-minute audio files. “Savoir-Faire” arms its students with all of the language tools they might need and with the supplementary material, every tricky question can be answered!
Final project to perfect learning
Presented in a progressive structure, each chapter of “Savoir-Faire” is designed to move its students towards a final project, in which everything that they’ve learned can be showcased. The final project draws together material from each chapter and comprises listening, writing, speaking and reading in advanced French. The project is incredibly in-depth and undoubtedly useful for advanced students. After the course is done, you might be surprised by just how much you have improved!
6. “Un Style Certain: Les Mots Pour L’Ecrire”
“Un Style Certain” is another very useful text for those wishing to perfect their ability to write in advanced French. Chock full of interesting literary extracts, unusual vocabulary points and exercise analyses, this is the book to reference if you want to become a master in the world of written French! Of course, it’s not all about authorship and if you’re looking for extra benefits, the textbook has countless examples.
Presented entirely in French
Written entirely in French, “Un Style Certain” doesn’t allow its students any chance to rest on their laurels. Presenting literary texts, language exercises and supplementary commentary in French, “Un Style Certain” is the ultimate textbook immersion course and treats each of its students as if they were native speakers already.
Broad mix of literary texts
While you might think you have an idea of what French literature is, “Un Style Certain” contains dozens of fascinating references, largely unknown to non-French speakers. The book is a great way into the world of French written analysis and might just teach you a thing or two about the way the French read. The mix of literary texts is also a great way to battle boredom, moving from genre to genre until everything has been covered!
Focused towards advanced writing skills
While it does look at vocabulary and grammar, “Un Style Certain” is focused specifically towards writing in French and therefore, is an incredibly comprehensive guide. It’s assumed that students already have a good understanding of the world of written French, but this book takes them to the next level, enabling them to truly perfect their abilities and write like a native.
As you can already see from this small (but brilliant) selection, whatever you’re looking to study, there’s an advanced textbook out there which has it covered!
Self-studying can be often be trying and if you’re an advanced learner—or well on your way to becoming one—you want to make sure that you have it going in the right direction.
With endless references, interactive exercises and focused language analyses, these textbooks won’t only enable you to get to grips with the French language but will also transform you into a pro in no time at all!
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.