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Reading in French?


I've been trying to learn French and have been trying to read books in my target language. Unfortunately, I read the sentence and then have to go back and read it very slowly so I can translate it so I understand it. It makes me feel very discouraged and unmotivated when I have to do this. I find listening to people speak French is much easier than reading it because I dont have to translate nearly as much. Is this normal? Will it eventually go away? Do I just need to power through the book instead of throwing it to the side?


March 2, 2018



I enjoy reading children's literature in my native language but not in French. If you want to learn how to read then from my perspective you should read French poetry. I prefer to read where the French text is on the left page and the English text is on the right. The following books are terrific:

Jacques Prévert - Paroles, ISBN 0872860426 Charles Baudelaire - Les Fleurs du Mal, ISBN 9780879234621

Prévert is an easy read, 20th century and it is his most famous work (post WWII). Poetry is a better choice than a novel because it throws lots of new (and very useable) nouns at you, without all the nuanced dialog that very often is written in a form of local vernacular. Poetry is condensed and makes you think. You've already learned the majority of verbs in everyday language through Duolingo. Now it is the nouns and verb tenses that you need to master (ok, that's a rather simplified statement). The majority of writing, including many newspapers articles/magazines are written in Passé Simple. Even if you have yet to expose yourself to this tense, it is easy enough and required for reading comprehension. Good luck.


Upvoted for Baudelaire. My favorite poet in any language. Also this is how I've started reading more difficult French and learning new vocabulary, with Les Fleurs du Mal.

To the OP - Poetry is an excellent choice because it is small and bite-sized chunks of language, rather than having to read a whole page or pages of text. I've also found the imagery of the poetry itself sometimes helps me retain new words because when I see the word elsewhere I remember the context where I first learned it.


It is normal. I can most articles in french but it still takes me about three times the time it would in English. Try to start with easy material, like the duolingo stories and children’s books and work your way up. I have been using Readlang to read online lately, and I find it really helpful. For me, I try nit to read too much at a time in french, but rather just read a little bit at a time, maybe a short article, and usually I read something over several times. The first time I will read a paragraph without looking anything up, just to see what I can understand through context, the second time I might look up words I need, and the third time I will read it over again without a dictionary to understand the meaning better. Obviously, this is much more time consuming, but it works for me. I am making my way through the duolingo Spanish stories now for the second time, and I am already surprised at how much more I understand than I did the first time.


Definitely keep reading, but start with some easier texts. Children's books and newspapers - particularly the more 'tabloid' type ones - are probably the best choices.



At present I am very much enjoying reading Fan Fiction in French, "Harry Potter", "Doctor Who" etc

The stories are usually not too long and they are often written by young people so the French is up to date and at times a bit slangy.

Best wishes.


I remember the first time I read Treasure Island (in English as a native speaker) it didn't make any sense to me, half the time I felt like I was just scanning gibberish. The problem was the book was outside my reading level so far that I couldn't manage it. I'd never discourage anyone from reading anything they really want to, regardless of their reading level, so don't get too down on yourself for struggling with it. All the effort your putting into it will pay off eventually.

[deactivated user]

    1.start with easier books. Many people go for classics right away, because "that is the quality stuff one should read". Nope, start with a BD (bande desinéé, a comib book), a book for older kids, or a translation of something you already know well. And progress from there. In order to improve, you will need to read dozens and dozens of books, so don't worry, you will get to the hard stuff too

    2.How advanced are you overall? If you are still at the Duolingo level, you are doing fine just like this, you are not supposed to understand books or normally speaking people now. You are a beginner and there is nothing wrong about that. Now that you have tasted learning French, get a serious coursebook and study, all your skills will improve.

    3.I recommend readlang, it is an awesome tool to read epubs and find translations really fast, one click gives you the word and saves it on your own wordlist, which you can use for anki, for example.

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