Amsco Deuxième Livre

As I revisit some old posts from years ago, the one below from 2009, I see that my thinking about basic aspects of our work hasn’t changed much. I interpret that as a good thing:

I think that, in curriculum design, grammar should be taught only after the lower levels of study (levels one and two) of constant and uninterrupted comprehensible input. Whether we like this idea or not, the curricula of the future will be designed in this way. The old two dimensional manipulation of grammar rules and fill in the blank worksheets is over. Stick a fork in it.

Accordingly, I have found a great use for the Amsco Deuxième Livre (R214W – not the other one), which is by far the best grammar book in French that I have ever seen. I think that there is one in Spanish too. Note that it’s name has nothing to do with second year study as the book companies have branded it. It is comprehensive and includes, in my opinion, grammar points addressing ALL French grammar a student would need to know up to and including the AP level.  (I used that Amsco book  for 24 years from level I to AP before I learned about comprehensible input).

My idea is that we teach our students correct grammar simply by speaking the language correctly in our classrooms for the first two years, thus circumventing the need to deconstruct grammar into a laborious, written form when we are trying to turn the students on, not off, to language study.

Once the students know the language, and have heard it and read it for a few years, the writing can then follow easily at the right time (at the upper levels of study) and the Amsco Deuxième Livre can then find its true usefulness with students. Instead of becoming an instrument of tortuous verb conjugational dark hellish angst for kids, it finds its true elegance in its use at the upper levels, as a reference book for the motivated student, the ones who truly want to know more about the language that they understand so well.

So, for the first two years at least, I see the ideal high school curriculum as being filled with a lot of fun input – reading and listening – with limited writing and then only in the form of free writes without paying much attention to grammatical accuracy. The student would emerge from such a program with much more than they are emerging with now, in terms of both knowledge and confidence, not to mention overall satisfaction with the educational product provided by the school.

Eli Blume, the author of the Deuxième Livre, was a genius in grammar analysis in terms of what to present in what order and in what way, and the book reflects it. It’s just what we need to align the introduction of grammar into our narrative approach – but only after those first few years of pure CI + P, and, then, only for kids who want it, who are drawn to it. Grammar study, as with speaking, should never be forced.



15 thoughts on “Amsco Deuxième Livre”

  1. We officially start our grammar units in Level 4. I use video clips, the Amsco book and online practice. While a few kids dislike the “tedium” of the exercises, most of them eat it up. They love applying the rules to the language that they have acquired and many more of them find grammar interesting than I ever thought possible before TPRS.

  2. Ben,
    could you tell me the exact title and ISBN number of the Amsco book you are talking about? I would like to have a look on it. Is it still available or out of print?

  3. ISBN of new Amsco book is ISBN 1-56765-306-5. I am not sure if the old one is available, but the publisher is Amsco School Publications. I use a book called Breaking the French Barrier in level 4. You can check it out at -there may be some sample pages. My upper level kids love the exercices.

  4. I found a Spanish version on amazon too. Published in 1969! But it appears to be in print.
    ISBN-10: 0877205051
    ISBN-13: 978-0877205050
    I don’t know the difference between the two isbns.

  5. It’s not out of print. You just have to specify R214W or you will get a vastly inferior book. You don’t want the new one, entitled French Two Years. I am so excited to hear that you are all going to wait and introduce grammar in level 3, only when the kids have heard tons of reading and listening CI. Very cool. That was easy!

    Thanks Lydon for the link. We’ll do more songs on Friday. Don’t forget the Thematic Units test tomorrow (through orange).

    (Grammar and testing, that’s what it’s all about!)

  6. A question for you…I love grammar. So do 4% of my kids. The AP kids probably need it, but I have only one lunch period (30 minutes) a week set aside with them for grammar. The Russian AP test has no direct grammar, other than marking the correct variant of several.

    Three of my classes go from level 2 up. After level 1, they are completely mixed. Do you all think that not doing grammar formally is going to mess my kids up? I do pop-ups, and every so often I do the “how would you say…he/they/verb here…or he would like … ” sorts of mini quizzes, but I have not used a book with grammar explanations in it for a year and a half now. There’s a lot more incorrect grammar coming out, but then they write and speak a whole lot more than they ever did before. There’s more correct grammar too, for the same reason.

  7. There’s more correct grammar too, for the same reason.

    Michele, that’s a powerful statement. Too often people emphasize the negative aspect of allowing incorrect grammar but fail to see that there is so much more correct grammar as well – and all because the students are producing more. Duh! When students are so concerned about making a mistake that they refuse to produce anything, then not much incorrect grammar will come out, but neither will very much correct grammar. Well said, indeed!

  8. I’m using Bryce’s “Repasito” for the first ten minutes of class and put grammar there, in the form of changing POV, finding errors and such things. I am a little distressed at my Spanish 2’s lack of correctness. This is as high as our language program goes (small HS–200 kids), so I don’t want to send them to college without a better level of correctness. Pop-ups seem to work for the motivated learners, but I think the repasito is helping more understand. I’m hoping this year’s Spanish 1’s will be better with this next year than this year’s 2’s because of that purposeful practice.

  9. Michele if I were one of those kids who did not have the TPRS approach in level one, and then came to you in level two, the most important thing for me is that you teach me plenty of grammar. I need to catch up to the kids who were lucky enough to have you in level one, those who DID get lots of grammar.

    Let’s be clear about our terms here, though. When I say grammar I mean properly spoken language and in large quantities. Please don’t confuse that with the totally ineffective (minus the 4%) style of two dimensional book-based fill in the blank kind of grammar. That is an old term from a bygone era.

    We need to finally make sure, in our profession, once and for all, that we no longer refer to grammar as we used to in the last century. The old definition meant that the student could provide correct subject verb agreement, show written adherence to rules, etc. Now, everybody take a deep breath, the term can simply convey what it really is – correct speech.

    The deeper mind, the part that learns the language for real, can INTERNALIZE WHAT IT HEARS WITHOUT RATIONAL ANALYSIS and therefore AUTHENTICALLY ACQUIRE and AT SOME POINT REPRODUCE grammar (i.e. correctly spoken language) without wasting all that time filling in blanks like they used to. How silly was that!

    Anyone doubting that clearly wasn’t up in Maine to hear and see Anne Matava’s hogs in action in October. That officially sealed the deal in just about everyone’s mind that came up there, anyway. It was truly astounding to see (remember this, Skip?), after the hour of German TPRS demo’d by Anne, one of the (level 4) Hogs respond to the question from the audience, “Did you do verb conjugations?”, with the innocent answer, “What’s a verb conugation [sic]?”.

    The student and her classmates had, to our admittedly untrained-in-German ears, just been conjugating verbs with their teacher for an hour, along with all sorts, an ocean, of other words in the form of comprehensible input, but had never even heard the term. I had to talk Anne out of feeling guilty about not teaching them verb conjugations. Her kids were near fluent and she was wondering if she did something wrong!

    This is all the influence of Susan Gross. We are starting to finally give ourselves permission to not conjugate verbs. Bess wrote as a comment to another blog here how frustrated she is today about this. She sees what ACTFL says about proficiency, then she sees what her colleagues are still doing with the old style grammar (given that it is now 2009 and the ACTFL proficiency guidelines date to 1983), and it is really pushing her buttons. She says with pinpoint accuracy that you can’t have it both ways (they did for 26 years). I can only say to Bess and all the other young ones who are going to be the ones to push this boulder over the tipping point in the next few years, hang in there. They can’t hold out much longer. They’re being outed every day. Parents and administrators and kids are starting to catch on in large numbers. Their world of worksheet grammar is melting, melting,….

    So, there is the “used to” grammar (books and worksheets) and then there is the “now” grammar (comprehensible input). Those still doing the “used to” grammar will soon retire, and the semantics will no longer be an issue. Everybody will finally know what grammar is.

  10. Rita I don’t do the repasito anymore because it didn’t fit my personality. I think that the best use of that time to start class, if I may suggest, if you don’t go directly into some CI activity, would be to read.

    I saw some powerful stuff in my class today – Silent Sustained Reading. I saw kids who have “grammar issues” (see above) read beautifully. Just my opinion, but the best way to teach them grammar is to have them read.

    I certainly did not wish to convey above in the original blog about the Amsco book that I advocate the teaching of ANY discrete grammar, ever. It is not necessary. I suggested the Amsco book for those who are drawn to it only – those are the words I used above – and then only after those first two years.

    We either accept what Krashen says on this or not. And we might as well, since he is right without any shadow of a doubt, even if it is going to take the current generation of so called language teachers another twenty or more years or so to figure it out and either change or get the hell out of Dodge City. Hopefully they just leave because they are so hopelessly bored in their own classes.

  11. Ben, today I checked in with a level four kid, who hasn’t been one of the worried ones about grammar. She doesn’t come to my weekly AP grammar lunch sessions. She did go to Russia last summer for two weeks.

    I had her do a POV/tense change in an extended story, and she nailed the verbs, moving from perfective to imperfective, and she got all the pronoun changes. She even got a negation rule that I had not ever noticed before that uses “not” for things you didn’t have in the past and “no” for things you don’t have in the present. I’m sure it’s in a grammar book somewhere. When she was done, and I was applauding her, she said, “You just proved it works, right?”

  12. Yeah, and now that story needs to be imprinted on the foreheads of the teachers who spend time teaching grammar the old way. In this student we see proof that we acquire languages in a non-cognitive way, through tons of comprehensible input in the form of reading and listening. It makes me think again of the Hogs, one of whom told one of the teachers at the workshop that, had she been made to learn that way early on, SHE NEVER WOULD HAVE CONTINUED ON WITH GERMAN, even with Matava, who like Susan Gross, was a “superstar teacher” before hearing about TPRS.

  13. Oh how I loved the AMSCO Deuxieme Livre. I have been kicking myself for not keeping a copy of it for myself. Fabulous grammar book. I remember using it back in 1974 with the best class I ever taught! And before that, when it was first published, I got the whole series.

    I would love to see it again!

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