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!
I’ll join the list of “Whoops, I’m really late here!”
Memrise is fantastic for vocabulary learning & reinforcement. For sentence structure, verb usage etc. check out Michel Thomas’s courses. They’re in CD format but amazing, after the first ten minutes you’ll just want to run out of the house & speak French to someone!