After I had learned some vocab one of the first exercises I set myself was to translate a children's story from French to English, the story I chose was les trois petits cochons. Doing this helped me pick up some vocab and helps with interpretation skills for words you're unsure of. I'd recommend it to anyone learning a new language. Link below if you're interested. http://www.thefrenchexperiment.com/stories/
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I like this website, it will be very helpful. Thank you!
Wow, three months ago I found that site and I read those stories (in French). At that time I was at about 1/2 of my first French tree here, and I had to make a big effort to understand what I was reading (and had to click on the English translation a lot).
At that time, French was still rather "alien" to me, so it was hard reading French books (even children stories).
Now that you has just put the link, I have read again three of those same stories (that I first read three or four months ago) and today it was......a completely different experience.
First of all, I only have had to look up maybe 2 or 3 words in the three stories combined.
Second, and most important, I feel nothing "alien" reading French anymore. That is the most shocking feeling. Just three months later, I can read MUCH MUCH faster and without even consciously realizing that it is in French.
It is just automatic and "natural" to read French books/texts right now for me (even if I still don't understand 100% spoken French on the TV, for example).
I would say right now I feel more comfortable reading French books than Italian books (though it is quite close) and not too different than reading English or Spanish ( I am C1-C2 in Spanish and English).
But speaking is completely different. Both in French and Italian I struggle a lot when trying to speak complex things with varied content with the speed that I would like (though it gets better after some minutes of trying).
All in all, reading is an excellent way to improve further, but speaking is the very last hurdle.
I agree, reading is a great way to start 'using' the language when you don't live in a native speaking country. One mistake I made was to always translate everything I was reading into English, so my internal monologue was always in English. I now only translate words and phrases I don't recognise, can't remember or are quite complex and I'm now beginning to read French without going through English, which is a bit of a breakthrough and quite exciting!