French, Books, Multimedia

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.

Once You Speak French, You Will Be Able to Use a Lot More of Assimil's Products for Other Languages
Once You Speak French, You Will Be Able to Use a Lot More of Assimil's Products for Other Languages

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Comments (5)

Rolland • Posted on Thu, March 27, 2014 - 6:13 pm EST

Salut, Ellen!

Found your blog the other day and have been devouring it (in a good way!)

i JUST got my Russian Assimil yesterday in the mail, and as curious if you ever got around to using it.  (


Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sat, April 05, 2014 - 7:21 pm EST

Rolland, I did use it and I really liked it. I haven’t stuck to it consistently yet, but I intend to do a lot more with it (and rewrite this review as soon as I do). I find it smart.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sat, April 05, 2014 - 7:23 pm EST

And thank you so much for the (good) devouring! :)

Hakeem • Posted on Mon, June 30, 2014 - 11:02 am EST

I decided I’m going to learn french because I want to use the assimil arabic version I hope I will be able to read fluently enough after 6months of studying currently I’m learning spanish and I’m at an intermediate level

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, July 08, 2014 - 8:24 pm EST

Good luck, Hakeem! :)

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