Reading in French: How to Become a French Bookworm

Learning French with movies, TV, and songs is great.

But if you have a little more time on your hands, why not pick up a French novel?

Why Learn French Through Reading?

It might seem daunting, but reading is one of the best ways to improve your French. It’s a great way to pick up new vocabulary, especially for your written French.

You might not understand everything 100%, but the process of looking up words and digesting sentence structures will push your French to the next level.

And if you’re already an intermediate learner, it’s a great way to teach yourself French.

Of course. reading French writing – whether it’s books, news, or something else – is going to give you tremendous insight into French culture.

And of course, the French have made tremendous contributions to world literature. There are so many amazing French texts just waiting to inspire you!


Learn a foreign language with videos

Is It Too Early to Start Reading French?

It’s never too soon in your odyssey to learn French to pick up a book or magazine. Reading will boost your capacity in all language areas by enriching your vocabulary and your understanding of grammatical structure.

Never think you are too much of a novice to start working on reading skills. There is a vast selection of materials available for all levels. From the simple, elegant poems of Victor Hugo, the funny adventures of Sempé’s Le Petit Nicolas series, one of the fantastic daily newspapers, fashion or sports or art magazines – there is something for every taste and level.

There are also many different learning tools, such as books especially designed for French students that have French on one side of the page and the same text in English on the other; or books created for learners that include extensive vocabulary aids.

Another interesting way to improve vocabulary is to check out illustrated dictionaries. These are frequently divided into sections based on themes, such as Foods, Clothes, Tools, Animals or other categories.

9 Tips on Reading in French for French Learners

Here are a few tips to help you become a lecteur or lecteuse confirmé(e) in no time:

Make sure you choose material suitable for your level. If you start out too ambitious, you may end up frustrated and be tempted to quit. Don’t be afraid to try children’s books. The Petit Nicolas books by Sempé engage the kind of humour that appeals both to children and adults and is charmingly illustrated with Sempé’s famous signature cartoons.

Speaking of cartoons, there are also lots of comics for grownups available. The French are huge Manga fans, and there are literally thousands of French language comic strip books available for adults via the Internet or in bookshops. There are also several classic works of fiction written in clear, straightforward language such as “L’Etranger” by Albert Camus.

The poems of Jacques Prévert, studied by French school children from a young age, are another excellent choice for exploring the beauty of the French language at its simplest, most playful best. For more advanced learners, the poems, plays and novels of Victor Hugo provide an overview of French history in classic, elegant language that makes him one of France’s most beloved authors.

Build your vocabulary. You don’t have to understand every single word when you read in a foreign language. Sometimes, the context of the sentence can help you to decipher the meaning of a particular word. However, reading presents an opportunity to identify, learn and retain new vocabulary and it is important to understand those words that are key to the overall content.

Another great resource for immersing yourself in French is FluentU. FluentU lets you learn French through real-world videos like commercials, music videos, news, and inspiring talks. FluentU has interactive captions that simplify the process of looking up definitions. And it’s easy to create your own vocabulary lists, and learn through quizzes which take advantage of video clips.

I’ll tell you more about learning French with FluentU later!

Choose books especially designed for French learners. There is a wealth of books available from publishers on both sides of the Atlantic that are specifically created for language learners. They provide extensive glossaries, pre-reading exercises, and comprehension checklists. Some books have the text in French on one page and in English on the other, so you can compare words and sentences, or glance over at the English language when you get stuck.

Read about subjects that interest you. Many people who choose to learn French are interested in French culture in general. It is therefore no coincidence that a huge selection of books in simplified French language is available for learners to explore French history, literature, art or philosophy. However, reading in French does not necessarily mean that you have to read about France!

If the reign of Louis XIV doesn’t float your boat, be honest with yourself and admit it. Reading something in a foreign language that doesn’t truly grip your interest is going to be hard going. Choose a text about something close to your heart. Are you are a gardening aficionado? Pick up an illustrated book on gardening. Fancy yourself a talented chef? Choose a nice cook book and start with an easy recipe.

Get recordings of texts and follow along. Find recorded versions (available for the French classics and popular texts) of your book and listen as you follow the words in the book. Listen to the CD as you drive to work, then read the same passage later.

Read out loud. Combine honing your reading skills with improving pronunciation by reading out loud. Find someone who can listen to you and give helpful feedback. You could even record yourself and play it back while reading along.

Read every day. As with acquiring any new skill or talent, learning French takes discipline. And practice. Set aside fifteen minutes every day – in the morning when you first wake up, in bed before you go to sleep at night, or, yes, during your daily commute (unless you are driving!) to read in French. Just make sure that you keep going – a little each day, and before long you’ll be a true mordure de lecture (bookworm).

Read the French newsGo online and read the news in French. There are many news websites available. The advantage of reading online is that you can copy and paste words you are struggling with into an online French-English dictionary. Choose a news story you are already familiar with. Scan the text quickly before reading and look up any words you do not know. Then go back and read the entire article.

Read books you already know. Choose a favorite story that you know inside and out and read it in French. Already knowing the storyline will allow you to sit back and enjoy the French language used.

These suggestions should allow you to jumpstart your French language reading. Bonne lecture!


And One More Thing…

Besides being another great way to build your vocabulary, FluentU can help you improve all your French skills by giving you a complete, authentic and fun learning experience.

FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks.

Since this video content is stuff that native French speakers actually watch on the regular, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real French—the way it’s spoken in modern life.

One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:

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Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions will guide you along the way, so you’ll never miss a word.

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Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:

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Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU’s learn mode to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video with vocabulary lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”

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As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience.

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.

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