Turns out I might be spending half a year in France. Not certain yet, but if I do go, it wouldn’t be for another 8 months.
I did learn French at school, but had a teacher who made it her business all day long to point out how much she couldn’t be bothered to teach anything. My French is simply awful, almost non-existent.
Can anyone recommend a really good book (or an inexpensive online course) for an absolute beginner?
Whoops, I’m awfully late to this conversation, but I teach French at a university, and for extra practice we send our students to the University of Texas-Austin’s French website because they keep their textbook online and all the resources are totally open! It might be too much of a grammar/reading/writing-based approach if you’re really most interested in conversational French or only memorizing basic phrases, but if you want a solid foundation, I recommend UT-Austin’s site. Plus, you can skip around between chapters depending on the types of conversation you’ll use the most. (I’m not affiliated with them in any way; I just benefit from their open resources a lot!)
Here’s the link: http://www.laits.utexas.edu/fi/
Florian, I would absolutely recommend an app called Memrise. I’ve used it with five languages prior to traveling there, and you can get a GREAT amount of work done. It’s a completely free resource, that includes a great desktop version that is fast and easy to use. I swear by it, much more than Duolingo because what you learn up front is actually usable. With Duolingo, I found myself learning phrases like “the cat is on the penguin” before learning “where is the restroom?” It simply didn’t make sense. There are other for-pay software suites I would consider, such as Babbel. It’s cheap. However, Memrise is 100% free and I like it as much as Babbel. Sorry for being late to the party, but I hope this helps!