Why is it important to develop your French reading skills?
Reading is essential for everyone. It is the very basis for learning anything (en especially a language) and is a skill you use constantly in your daily life. Reading also helps develop your memory and concentration. But when it comes to reading in another language than yours, it also has other good points.
To expand your vocabulary
Because reading trains your memory, it also expands your vocabulary. When you read, you recognize some words (because you’ve seen them already or because they’re similar to a word from either your native tongue or a language you already know) but you also learn new ones. When you come across a new word, you often have to deduce the meaning with all the clues you have around (context, other words in the sentence etc) or look for its meaning in a dictionary. This also helps you memorize new vocabulary a lot.
To learn important grammatical structures
Just like vocabulary, reading also helps you spot grammatical structures. There are a lot of sentences and other grammatical mechanics you can come across when you read. The more you see them, the more you can recognize them and eventually use them yourself. Learning grammar is a lot of repetition, and if you see a particular structure used over and over in a book you are more likely to re-use it yourself and thus learn it.
To improve your pronunciation
Reading is also good to help you improve your French pronunciation. So, first learn the pronunciation of all the letters of the alphabet, including vowel pronunciation. Moreover, even though it does seem like it, reading does improve the way you can speak French. When you read, you read in your head first and you can already try to read with an intonation. In your head, you can try to pronounce words slowly, without the stress of being heard by someone else. Plus, a good pronunciation exercise is to read out loud. Read slowly and out loud respecting punctuation and French accents to train your intonation. It is even better if you can record yourself while doing so, or repeat after a native if you can find the audiobook version of the book you’re reading.
What are the best methods to learn how to read properly in French.
Reading slowly is the first thing you should do when reading a book in French. It will help you truly understand each word and the meaning of the story. Reading slowly will also help you spot grammar structures easily.
Look for words you don’t know yet
When you read, you may come across words you don’t know yet. Focus on them first. Try to deduce the meaning of the word first, with the help of what’s around: words you already know in the sentence, the context and even the clues that can give you the nature of the word (is it a verb ? an adjective ? etc.). Only then you can go to a dictionary to check if you’re right or not. This will help build up your vocabulary as well as being a nice training for your brain.
Read again and again
The more you read, the easier it will be for you to read. The more you read, the better your brain will be at recognizing words, patterns etc. Some words and grammatical structures are very common in French so seeing them over and over will help you a lot in memorizing them.
Listen to audio books and read at the same time
One of the best methods to improve your intonation as well as your hearing and reading skills is to find the same book both as an audio book and written version (ebook or paper book). When you do this, your brain will associate what you read with what you hear, and develop both skills at the same time. It will also of course give you the proper intonation for every word and every sentence you will hear so you can get the right pronunciation but also have the right pronunciation for words you don’t know yet.
The best books and audio books for beginners
Le petit Nicolas, Goscinny
This children’s book tells the story of a young boy, le petit Nicolas. He is very curious and very attentive to the life around him, and we follow his adventures as a young boy in the 1950s. It is very funny and a very easy read.
Mon père est femme de ménage, Azzedine
This book tells the story of Polo (Paul), a thirteen year old who lives in a dysfunctional family. Polo is very close to his father (who is a janitor) and his job embarasses him a little. This is a very easy to read book with simple vocabulary and a simple plot, perfect for beginners.
Le petit Prince, Saint-Exupéry
This children’s book is an easy read. It is an awesome story about a little prince who travels through space, from a different planet to another planet and meets a lot of creatures along the way. The language is simple yet very poetic and there are illustrations to help you get the meaning of each story.
The best books and audio books for intermediate learners
Les fables de La Fontaine, La Fontaine
This very famous series of collected fables is taught a lot to kids in France. There are 239 fables in total so you can’t read them all at a beginner or intermediate level, but some of them are easier and shorter than others. All of the fables depict different stories and are very well written and easy to understand.
Voyage au pays des arbres, Le Clézio
This book depicts the story of a bored young boy who wants to go into a forest to meet its trees. He quickly understands them and ends up befriending each one of the trees and hears about their unique stories. This very well written and poetic book has a lot of specific vocabulary (regarding trees especially) and is meant for intermediate levels.
L’écume des jours, Vian
This book tells about two different love stories: Colin who wants to marry Chloé and Colin’s friend Chick who is in love with Alise. But some bad news strikes the four friends; Chloe has a water lily growing in her lungs and Chick is obsessed by his idol: a philosopher Jean-Sol Partre. This is a very well written book with easy vocabulary but there are some plays on words that are yet easy to understand.
The best books and audio books for advanced levels
This classic French book by Albert Camus is a must read for any advanced learner. The book tells the story of Meursault, a character living in Alger, French Algeria. In the first part of the book, Meursault receives a telegram saying that his mother has died. In the second part of the book, Meursault is arrested and questioned.
L’étranger is an absolute must read for any French learner.
La Horde du Contrevent, Damasio
If you like science-fiction (especially science-fantasy), La Horde du Contrevent is a perfect pick for advanced learners.
It tells the story of twenty-three young people who, together, make the Horde du Contrevent: a group of people trained since their childhood to travel the world in order to fight the wind. The book is narrated by each member of la Horde. There also are a lot of philosophical and literary references that can be hard to get for complete beginners. An awesome book for wise readers.
20,000 Lieues sous les mers, Verne
This one is another great French classic. It depicts the story of three shipwrecked people, rescued by the Capitaine Nemo, mysterious inventor who explores the bottom of the seas aboard its very technologically advanced submarine: le Nautilus.
The book is an awesome read but can be a bit too long and too heavy of a read for beginners. Another must read for any advanced leveled learner.
Improve your French speaking skills thanks to Global General
Now that you know all there is to know about reading in French and having the perfect intonation while doing so, it is time to tell you about how you can improve many other skills: Global General. Global General (which includes several languages such as French, English, Italian, Spanish and German) is an online training platform that will help you improve your French skills.
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Learning on Global General is a guarantee to a stress-free learning of French and will help you stay motivated and focused through your learning journey.
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