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I wish I could read a book in French

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Showing 1-25 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 25, 2010 12:29:05 PM PDT
Spork says:
but my French is not good enough.

Posted on Jun 25, 2010 7:29:23 PM PDT
Jane Doe says:
You eventually will. I have been studying French for only about two years, but I was able to read Le Petit Prince in the original French, with a dictionary at my side of course. I had already seen the movie, and I was able to get the bulk of it. After looking up many words repeatedly that I had not previously known, I was able to learn a lot of new vocabulary also. Le Petit Prince is pretty easy to read, so you should start out with that one and work your way up. If you do not get all of it the first time you read it, just reread it.

Posted on Jun 27, 2010 7:19:08 PM PDT
CaroB says:
On a simpler note, try reading young children's books that are easy to read. Such as books on T'choupi where not only are the words simple but there are visual aids to help along in the book. There is also petit ours brun and
La chenille qui fait des trous (The hungry caterpillar). good luck!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2010 9:44:22 AM PDT
Search "French reader" on Amazon for a lot of books with French readings for beginners, or search it on Google to get a lot of free downloads for that.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2010 2:43:22 PM PDT
Why don't you get a bilingual edition?

Posted on Jul 14, 2010 12:22:41 PM PDT
Alekos says:
I always figger if I can do it anyone can do it. I have read several serious books in French and so can you. Just get to it. Gett hopping. With a pencil and a dictionary, maybe.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2010 8:39:15 PM PDT
I took French classes as an adult and it helped. But intense study of French vocabulary, morphology and syntax got me much further. If you could get a copy of Reading French in the Arts and Sciences by Edward M Stack, you would be taking a big step. During a trip to Paris I bought a half dozen books in French that interested me. A memoir by Simone de Beauvoir. A history of the French aristocracy. Gide. Baudelaire. And the first book I began to read: Histoire de la Guerre d'Indochine.

It's slow going at first, but if you read aloud slowly and try to determine the meaning of words you don't know by using context, you'll make progress. If context doesn't help, look up each word and commit each to memory.

The way you get better at reading in a foreign language is constantly reading above your level. If you read children's books, the only thing you'll be able to read is children's books. Sorry---it's true. You have to stretch your vocabulary and understanding of the grammar of the foreign language you are studying. Newspapers aren't bad, but you'll have to progress from them to something more challenging, unless of course, your goal was to only read newspapers.

Finally, read every day in your target language, even if it's a half hour. I've devoted an hour a day and done alright, but my progress shot ahead when I was able to put three hours a day into it.

You'll only get out of it what you put into it, but I can't think of anything that would have been more exciting that learning how to read French and pretty much anything I wanted to read.

Posted on Jul 18, 2010 9:36:20 AM PDT
Or find an article about your favorite subject -- so, the content will be so fun that you can finish reading it! :) That's what I did to finally be able to read French essays about Medieval History...

Posted on Jul 18, 2010 11:02:54 AM PDT
A graded reader is very helpful! I got one from my teacher and passed it on to a friend. It featured abridged selections from French classics (Dumas, etc.) that was very carefully written to introduce, reintroduce, and reinforce vocabulary and grammatical constructions. I can't remember the title, but there appear to be many on Also read, read, read! Newspapers and magazines are excellent for this--short articles, easy vocabulary. Remember to read *without* a dictionary, just circle words you don't know and once you have circled it three times, get the dictionary out and look it up.

Posted on Jul 18, 2010 9:52:26 PM PDT
Hi Spork (great moniker, by the way!)! If you do a search online for the 'L-R method for language learning' you'll come across a very active language learning forum called 'How To Learn Any Language'. You'll find a description and several discussions of an intensive, immersive method of learning a language called the L-R (listening-reading) method. It should really help you, if you've got the dedication to see it through. Your spoken French will improve considerably too. Bonne chance!

Posted on Jul 19, 2010 6:31:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 9, 2010 8:36:12 PM PDT
Learning a foreign language is so different from most other "academic" activities, and it seems to me that the pedagogy has finally caught up with that.

Try watching French movies with the subtitles off, then on, then off again. Try watching French movies that let you select subtitles in French (counterintuitive, but some DVDs actually have this feature). Pick movies you want to see, not what you imagine will "help" your French. This isn't a test; it's not even homework. There is no point in watching something that doesn't fascinate you, and that you would never go to the movies to see if it were in English. I borrow my DVDs from the public library, by the way. Most major city libraries have phenomenal foreign film collections. It's a year-round film festival.

The suggestion of Le petit prince is very good. Next, try L'etranger by Camus. Some of the minimalist and existentialist plays are good, too. Be patient. Be prepared to tolerate not knowing what you're reading, and to keep reading anyway. It will come to you.

Try using a real French dictionary sometimes, not a French/English one. Again, don't be frustrated if you don't know what something means. I'll never forget reading the definition of "ecureuil" over and over until it suddenly dawned on me that this means "squirrel" (which as we all know has "la queue longue et en panache").

Remember, if this were regular school and you didn't understand 20-30% of what you were reading, you would be in deep trouble. But when you're learning a foreign language, not understanding much of what you're reading (or hearing) is normal. If you did understand upwards of 90%, either you would already be fluent or you would not be making progress.

Try taking a summer class in France or Quebec. See whether there is an Alliance francaise near you and contact them about courses or study abroad opportunities. See whether they have an intensive reading course with the kinds of books you like. Alliance francaise is meant to be fun, which will help you have a more relaxed attitude about your progress.

Also try to analyze what is tripping you up. Is it really just vocabulary? There are books for that; spend a half hour to an hour a day going through various vocabulary books. Pick what looks interesting, and delve into it. But is it the fact that the spelling looks strange and you aren't sure how something sounds? Then try getting a book on tape (or CD) and read along in the text while you listen. Get into the sound. And don't treat it as "homework." This is fun.

The main thing is to have a different attitude about learning a foreign language than about your other subjects, and to be very patient with yourself and very tolerant of mistakes. That's not saying enough -- better yet, don't even think of them as "mistakes." Children first learning to speak certainly don't!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2010 7:01:39 PM PDT
Megan Kline says:
I would say that the only way to do it is to try. I have taken French classes since 7th grade (I'm 25 now) and my college major was French Language. I have to say I still find some reading difficult. I was forced into reading certain novels for some of my college classes: Le Petit Prince, Huis Clos, L'Etranger,etc. I also had to read several excerpts from larger novels. Each book I had to read, I had my book, my dictionaire, a pencil and a piece of paper. If I did not understand a word, I looked it up, wrote it down, then read the sentence again. It took me a long time to read, but I learned more from that method than from most of my conversation classes.

I would say if you want to, do it. :) Also, I had a friend bring back the Harry Potter series in French for me, and that was very fun to read because I like the story. So, pick something you enjoy in English, then just get it in French. Most modern books are translated into most of the European languages and should be easy enough to come by.

I hope you take my advice :) You won't regret it.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 1, 2010 6:17:44 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 1, 2010 6:38:44 AM PDT]

Posted on Aug 29, 2010 6:28:36 PM PDT
Lectrice says:
Even if you don't get the French-language cable channel TV5monde, their website is free an open to all and full of useful resources for learning or maintaining French language skills.

Posted on Sep 17, 2010 8:53:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 17, 2010 9:12:51 PM PDT
booktapester says:
If you have a sense of the language, its sounds and its structures, then learning to read in that language should be mostly a matter of practice, practice, practice. Children's books and French children's magazines are a good place to start. French elementary textbooks can also be good vocabulary builders. I'm fortunate to live close to a French school, where they have a yearly end-of-the-year family picnic, complete with garage-sale prices on books. When I was teaching HS French I bought a ton of books and magazines for my students, from baby books to Je Bouquine, picture books to short kids' novels, and my students loved them. Even if you don't have a French school nearby, if you know what you're looking for, you can find them all day long on ebay. I've spoken French since childhood, but I still build my vocabulary every time I read even the simplest story.

There are a few key practices I would suggest you develop as you read. Some of them have been mentioned in other posts, but as I agree with them, I think they bear repeating. First, pick reading material that interests you. Children's magazines are great for that, because they have catchy pictures that draw you into short articles on a wide variety of topics. Okapi is one example. Elementary literature anthologies have nice short stories with simple themes. If you like history, Ernest Lavisse's HISTOIRE DE FRANCE Cours Elementaire is great, always available on ebay. Designed for young children, it has one-page chapters that give a wonderful overview of French history, with a glossary in the back. I used this text with my French I students every year, and they learned so much vocabulary as they read! If you are more advanced, the Je Bouqine magazines are well done, and each contains an engaging novelette of about 20 pages.

Another good practice is to keep a running vocabulary notebook as you read. As many have said in earlier posts, this is an indispensable practice, especially if you are just getting started - but as a veteran language learner, I still do this myself! At first look up every word that stumps you; later just look up the words that are key to your understanding the passage, and let the context guide you as you make educated guesses at non-essential words.

My last tip would be to just keep reading, reading, reading. Vocabulary will come, and it will stick. After having my foundations in French, I decided to tackle Spanish, and have implemented all the strategies I mentioned above, and a few more. I started reading the Bible in Spanish with my dictionary and vocabulary notebook at my side. I then started reading simple devotional material in Spanish, knowing that I would be familiar with the themes, and that it would be easy to guess at new words. I listened to tapes and watched DVDs (French in Action series is great for doing this in French!). I read side-by-side folk tales from Mexico and other Latin cultures. You could probably find the same thing with French African folk tales. I just kept reading, reading, reading. My final challenge to myself was to read Despereaux from cover to cover without opening a dictionary, making myself figure out words by context. That was a stretching experience!

You can do this! If you have the passion and put in the time, you can progress from simple children's material to classic French literature. Keep it enjoyable, don't let it ever become a chore, and you will grow past anything you can even imagine!

Bon Courage!

Posted on Sep 24, 2010 10:59:25 AM PDT
A. R. Fasih says:
I'm compiling dual/multi-language texts from Project Gutenberg and Wikisource to read side-by-side, starting with Benjamin Franklin's autobiography and Darwin's 'Origin of Species' (figuring that I should start with books that were originally English, though the works of Victor Hugo and de Tocqueville beckon). But they're not nearly done. On Wikisource, you can set up side-by-side translations but each book has to have a similar pagination and layout for the automatic paragraph-alignment to work. These won't help the impatient, but hopefully in a couple of years these efforts will yield fruit.

Posted on Aug 25, 2011 9:54:14 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 13, 2011 5:05:21 AM PDT]

Posted on Aug 28, 2011 5:27:20 AM PDT
SF says:
Estrange Reality: Aches (French Edition)
Estrange Reality: Aches (Volume 1) (French Edition)
Estrange Reality: Aches (French Edition)

Why not try this ?
Maybe you want to wait for the comics version? :)

I love it!

Posted on Sep 13, 2011 5:07:20 AM PDT
AK Denyl says:
If you're looking to learn French, for example:
These Animals... Don't Want to Wash! (Bilingual English-French) (The Book of The Animals)
These Animals... Don't Want to Eat! (Bilingual English-French) (The Book of The Animals)
These Animals... Don't Want to Sleep! (Bilingual English-French) (The Book of The Animals)
These Animals... Don't Want to Go to School! (Bilingual English-French) (The Book of The Animals)
Visit the official website to know more about the series and the different languages available:
Happy Little Luka - My Best Friend, Shiro (Bilingual English-French) (Happy Little Luka (Bilingual English-French))
Happy Little Luka - I Love Singing! (Bilingual English-French) (Happy Little Luka (Bilingual English-French))
Visit the official website to know more about the series and the different languages available:
Mely & Bela - Episode 1. Can't judge a monster by his hat! (Bilingual English-French) (Mely & Bela in the Kingdom of the Blue Strawberries)
Visit the official website to know more about the series and the different languages available:

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2011 11:59:38 AM PDT
Why not begin with short stories ? If you already have some basis, you just read, understand whatever you can and go on until you catch more, and more, the way the kids learn a language (that's what I did to learn english : just read until everything settled by itself).
If you like mysteries, my own collection "Chutes Mortelles" could interest you.
And later on, when you'll be fluent (or more at ease), you could try "Teddy est revenu" and "L'ombre de Claudia" two thrillers.
I am a french published writer, by main publishers (Belfond, Flammarion, Fleuve Noir, the french book-club "France Loisirs"...), and mainly interested now in suspens and thrillers. You can learn more about my books on my site :
I wish you a good reading.
Gilbert Gallerne

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2012 2:33:29 AM PDT
Try this one to exercise:
Le dragon et la princesse (French Edition)
It's very easy to read

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 7, 2012 7:47:42 AM PDT
EDM says:
I just read "La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh" in my french class. It is super easy reading and you can figure out most of the unknown words because it's written in such a simple fashion that you get the gist. Hence, not too frustrating and you can put the dictionary down and just read. I loved the book. Bonne chance!

Posted on Apr 7, 2012 7:28:54 PM PDT
Try my books. They are all in french. ... and easy to read here :

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2012 4:34:41 AM PDT
You could try this one which is written for Intermediate-Mid level readers about a boy's experiences in Haiti...Le Tremblement de Terre (for learners of French) (Novels for learning foreign languages) (French Edition). Hope this helps :)

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2012 5:32:22 PM PDT
Logos says:
As everyone has said, start at your level and work your way up. I'll add this - read everything you can find. A Kindle will help you find tons of literature that fits your interests. If you are really dedicated and give it a few hours a day you can work your way up to high school level within a year or two.
You should also get a workbook to develop your writing skills. This will strengthen your vocabulary and grammar through active use.
After about two years your comprehension should be at a level that a well chosen book will be so enjoyable you won't really think of it as a learning experience.
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Initial post:  Jun 25, 2010
Latest post:  Aug 6, 2012

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