Revised April 6, 2013
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Some people whose opinion I respect really like Assimil, a French company offering multimedia programs with different language bases. For example, there are English-based programs designed for English speakers learning other languages, and French-based programs designed for French speakers learning other languages, and so on.
One challenge with Assimil is that it really does not seem to optimize its marketing for English speakers, especially not U.S.-based English speakers. I find its website extremely confusing to navigate. Wikipedia’s Assimil entry presents Assimil product information in a much clearer way than the company’s own website does, though I can’t vouch for accuracy.
If you would like to learn French, I would certainly feel comfortable suggesting Assimil as an option, despite my own lack of personal experience with it. In case you’re wondering the reason for my lack of personal experience, well, they didn’t respond to my request for review copies (I think I have made two separate ones), plus I haven’t been able to find it easily in New York City. I believe their products used to be available at the now-closed Librairie de France, but the remaining big foreign-language bookstores I know about here do not sell Assimil products.
In addition, I am not highly motivated to investigate further, because I don’t happen to like the layout of the one Assimil book I have on my shelf. It is cramped-looking, with small font and lots of notes heaped up at the bottom of its pages.
However, language expert Alexander Arguelles likes Assimil, or at least he liked it five years ago, when he posted a video review on this topic on YouTube. At the time, he indicated a preference for past Assimil editions over present ones.
One thing to keep in mind is that while Assimil has various offerings for English speakers (listed on the above-mentioned Wikipedia page), people who can already speak French will have programs available to them in many more languages. Also, for some languages that are offered for an English as well as a French base, you will be able to study through to a more advanced level if you can study in French.
Not surprisingly, the majority of Arguelles’s extensive Assimil collection appears to be French-based, so learn French, too, and you will have greater language-learning freedom!
Despite my affinity for touching things before I buy them, it seems clear to me that online ordering is the way to go for Assimil. I recently realized, for example, how much Assimil is available on the Schoenhof’s website. This Cambridge-based foreign-language bookstore is owned by MEP, an importer and wholesaler of foreign-language books that also happens to be the official U.S. distributor for Assimil, so Schoenhof’s offers tons of Assimil with multiple language bases. You can study Portuguese in Spanish, Russian in French, Arabic in English, and so on!
I actually love the idea of studying a foreign language in French, so I may return to my Assimil-pestering efforts at some future date.