The correct translation given by Duo - "He reads, whereas I talk." doesn't make sense. Whereas could be replaced with "but" so it would be "He reads, but I talk" which I don't think was the intent. Alors que can also be translated as "while" or "when" (I think) which makes much more sense - "He is reading when (or while) I am talking."
@djbrubacher and rmscg777. This is for the purists really but While=During The Time that another action is taking place. Whilst=Whereas/Although. However as regards Alors Que, this can be translated to both While and Whereas. (BTW, But=Mais)
"Alors que" means "whereas" although it is sometimes translated as "while" this is only correct in cases where "while" implies "whereas"
If what is intended is simply that two things occur at the same time then "alors que" can not be used - it should be "pendant que". Crucially "alors que" is used when there is oppostion between the things occuring and where that opposition is important for the meaning of the sentence.
So for example in the sentence "he reads while I read" we could not use "alors que" because obviously there is no opposition - instead we would use "pendant que".
Also if there are two different things happening but the speaker simply wants to say they happen at the same time then again it is "pendant que". So when the French sentence uses "alors que" it has a particular meaning that can be missed by translating it as "while" because in English "while" is ambiguous.
So I would suggest that this distinction is not just for the purists.
THANK YOU - that is so clear. I have been using "while" to translate "alors que" but not understanding the meaning as you state it above. It is not a distinction for purists now that I understand it.
Well, While used to be distinct from Whist as suggested above. So maybe they "slid" together for the convenience of the modern mind?
Another perfectly acceptable explanation can be, "He is reading, even though I'm speaking". This clearly shows opposition in a more easily understandable construction for English speakers. It can't always translate this way, but in this instance it works (as of 16/12/2014).
Ok, so in french, you will have to look at the comma for the true translation of the word alors que? Because "he reads, whereas I talk" could be rewritten "he reads while I talk" which requires no comma. I know its not a big deal but I like to be thorough in my studies
How come 'he reads whereas I speak' isn't accepted? Why does it insist on 'talk' for parle. I don't see a difference
The word que is one of the most used words in french, spanish, portuguese etc. It has many meanings, but it is a little bit hard to explain
does "alors que" always have to be together to mean something. If not what does "alors" mean in English.