Hi Everyone! I have decided to start a section of this blog dedicated to my experience in learning French!
Today I want to touch on the topic of reading French books.
I have read 3 since I started learning French 6 months ago and my experience reading them has changed dramatically since I picked up the first book Le Petit Prince (highly recommended).
Reading is a great way to see all that grammar you have been learning, being put to good use. It is also a great way to build up your vocabulary.
Here is my 2 cents on reading on French.
Begin with books for children. I am taking intense private tutoring and therefore have decided to challenge myself and choose short novels rather than baby picture books. Your level of French and the pace you decide to learn at will really determine this. Since I have a FBF and a French tutor, I can get away with reading the short, children’s novels and still understand them. I am also dedicating hours upon hours a week for studying French. After I completed Le Petit Prince, I thought I was ready to start a “big girl” novel and tackle L’Alchemiste. I had just finished reading it in English and thought it would be a breeze. I thought wrong. After struggling for a week or two on the first chapter alone, I knew I had to revert back to the children’s novels. I was not giving up on a great challenge but rather becoming humbled by the actual difficulty in learning this new language. It’s not easy.
I have learned a lot since Le Petit Prince, mainly how to get the most out of reading these books. When I began, I would quickly read out the sentences and ignore the grammar I didn’t know. I would write down the words I didn’t know, but would never write down the words I assumed I knew nor would I write them down more than once if I knew I had written it just before. Another thing I used to do was try to translate and read word for word. I don’t know how to explain this in any other words but YOU CAN’T. There is no possible way to translate French to English word for word and have the exact same sentence. French and English are different languages and have evolved in incredibly different ways.
Here is what I do now. This technique is incredibly helpful.
- Read through 2 pages and write down every single word I do not know. Even if I have to repeat it I will write it down again. Repetition is a good thing in learning a new language.
- Before moving on to the next 2 pages, I translate these words. Sit by a computer and use wordreference.com. If you use a dictionary, all that flipping will frustrate you. If the word is a conjugate of an infinitive verb (example: marches comes from marcher), I write down the infinitive, than the translation.
- Then highlight the words that are common and could be useful to you.
The list and translations plus the highlighted words that I have put in bold because I do not have a highlighter (I am not adding accents, sorry if this bothers you):
- degringole (degringoler)-to race down
- repart (repartir)-to leave again
- mugissent (mugir)-to roar
I really think that words 4, 5, and 7 will be words that I use regularly.
- After the translating. I go back and read the 2 pages with the translated words in hand.
- If I do not understand something grammatical in a sentence, I write it down to ask my French teacher later. (For example: what the heck does “Tu n’as qu’a essayer” mean?)
- I continue this every 2 pages.
- At the end of the chapter, I write a list of all those highlighted words and review them.
TIP: When you read, instead of trying to translate literally just try to grasp the overall meaning behind the sentences.
This, I say, is a great and entertaining way to learn French! It feels so awesome to understand and enjoy a story written in a totally different language!