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How to learn French by reading?

How to learn French by reading?

Updated: January 6, 2024 by Mylene in Discover

Reading is a great way to improve your French grammar, vocabulary, and discover French culture. Because the book is affordable, your French learning will be less expensive than taking online courses. Before you commit to reading, I suggest you carefully read the following seven tips.

What are the benefits of reading to learn French?

Reading books is the way to learn a language fast and to acquire new vocabulary. In Tony Buzan’s book, “Speed Reading”, he details that adults have an average reading speed between 200 and 240 words per minute. In a normal conversation, a native speaker can say more than 300 words per minute. But for the speech to be well audible, audio recordings must have a rate of 150 words per minute. By reading a book in French, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture, geography, history, first names, habits, etc. of the country.

Take the time to explore the French capital with one of these great books set in Paris.

Tip 1: The context

Without knowing all the words, the meaning of the text can be understood. Do not attempt to translate all the words. When children learn to speak, they hear adults mention words they can not yet understand. Despite this, they do understand the context and try to understand what is being said. It is important in French to try to understand the context rather than simply translating each word, as this will hinder your fluency in reading. You will find reading less enjoyable.


Tip 2 : The repetition

The more we encounter a word, the more likely we will be to learn and memorize it. According to Paul Nation, it takes 12 repetitions to learn a word. In summary, the more you read, the more likely you are to learn new vocabulary.

Finally, a natural question arises: How many books should I read? It all depends on your level of French knowledge. The best answer is to spend 30 minutes a day reading French. A French person can read an average of 200 words per minute, which is 6,000 words per day. It means 2,190,000 words per year. Most novels today weigh between 60,000 and 100,000 words. Let’s consider a typical 80,000-word book. This is about 27 books a year at the most. You now have an idea of the average number of books read by a French person. Read at least 30 minutes a day and keep your reading pace.

Tip 3: The prerequisite

Even though you are very motivated, you will not be able to start reading if you do not have the necessary vocabulary. It is recommended that you have at least 1000 words before attempting to read a book.

Tip 4: The level

Are you familiar with the basic French vocabulary? Therefore, you will be able to choose your first book. Make sure you choose the appropriate book. Find a book that corresponds to your level. You will be able to find great French classics that are adapted to your level of understanding defined by the European framework of reference for languages (CEFR). I run a book club for beginners who have at least 1000 vocabulary words. Each week, students read and study a novel that has been chosen for their A1 level. The three musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is certainly very simplified, but it is a good start to learn more vocabulary. This easy French CLE book collection is very appealing to me.

Tip 5 : Literary genres

There are various literary genres, such as novel, short story, fantasy, polar, biography, tale, essay, poetry, manga, and theater. Ideally, you should start with a novel or short story. Some literary genres, such as fantasy, will be less affordable. You will find that the terms used in these texts will be very different from those you have learned so far. Science fiction novels take us to a future world with significant technological advances and a mastery of science.

Tip 6: The subject

If you cannot continue reading, it is because the subject does not interest you or because the vocabulary seems complex. I also often fail to read a book in French, so I put it aside and maybe one day I will be ready to read it.

Tip 7: Rediscovery

You can always try to read the French version of Harry Potter, even if I advised you not to read the fantastic book (and which is not the case). Reading a book you’ve already read and enjoyed in another language is a great way to discover new words and phrases.

Learn more

You can read independently and use my reading sheets to validate your reading comprehension. Join the Book Club!

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2 thoughts on “How to learn French by reading?”

  1. Chers Madame, Monsieur,

    C’est dimanche, tard dans la soirée, que je vous écris depuis les États-Unis, après avoir étudié votre très intéressant site Internet de Signets français en ligne, récemment découvert.
    Ma première impression est que cette surprise a été comme une réponse à mon appel !
    En apprenant la langue toute seule, après le cours de langue à l’Institut Français de Villefranche-sur-Mer, après quelques années, j’ai l’impression de faire quelques progrès, mais aussi de “naviguer autour”, de me sentir perdue et de manquer l’élément le plus important : la langue parlée.
    Heureusement, j’ai trouvé pas mal de livres en français qui m’intéressaient, certains que j’ai lus et que j’ai dans ma bibliothèque, et certains d’entre eux sont listés sur votre blog !
    L’insécurité que j’éprouve à l’idée de participer à votre programme est de savoir si je serai suffisamment à l’aise pour m’exprimer, car je continue à me battre (selon le livre) avec la fluidité de la lecture en raison du vocabulaire inconnu, des expressions, etc. Je n’ai appris, jusqu’à présent, que la langue littéraire. Bien que j’aie visité la France et Paris à plusieurs reprises, je n’ai pas participé à une conversation au sens strict.
    Si…je décide de vous rejoindre, le niveau débutant pourrait être trop bas pour moi, le niveau intermédiaire…pourrait… varier…
    Je me demande donc si je peux m’inscrire pour un mois, pour essayer, pour pratiquer le programme ?
    J’apprécierais vos remarques.

    Je suis vraiment heureuse de trouver un site aussi bien organisé, avec une bonne sélection de livres en français.
    Félicitations !

    Je vous remercie.
    Je vous prie d’agréer, Madame, Monsieur, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées,

    Eva J.

    Reply
    • Bonjour Eva,

      Je vous remercie tout d’abord pour votre intérêt. Vous pouvez tout à fait, et avec grand plaisir, participer un mois pour tester votre niveau.

      Pour information, les prochains livres sont :
      Aout : Jean de Florette de Marcel Pagnol
      Septembre : Anna, soror de Marguerite Yourcenar
      Octobre : Chien blanc de Romain Gary
      Novembre : Les armoires vides de Annie Ernaux
      Décembre : Dora Bruder de Patrick Modiano
      Les groupes disponibles sont :
      https://courses.frenchbookmark.com/tous-les-cours/

      Je reste à votre disposition.
      Cordialement,
      Mylène

      Reply

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