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How many of your read French literature to broaden your French?

How many of your read French literature to broaden your French?

Jul 21st, 2005, 11:12 AM
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How many of your read French literature to broaden your French?

Over the past year I have been dipping into the tomes at the French library in Boston to pick up some additional French. At first, I was skeptical that it would broaden my knowledge base much, because I was looking up so many words! I was reading classics like Madame Bovary and several novels by Maupassant. But I've also read some children's literature, say for kids who are 10 years plus, like Le Petit Nicholas. (Great series and quite droll!) I found that some of those books were helpful and introduced me to some contemporary slang that I wouldn't pick up in the classics, of course! I am currently reading a book by Eric Holder called Les Sentiers Delicats, which is appealing and offers some common usage in adult novel. Any suggestions for good, contemporary French authors? Has reading French broadened your conversational ability, or has it more simply broadened your reading ability?
letour is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 11:27 AM
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. I really think reading helps esp with modern idiom (think how much N.A. slang has changed in the last 20 years). I read anything I can get my hands on. I did have a friend in France (the equiv of M.A. in linguistics) who wrote the equivalent of Harliquin novels. I would grab a stack of these plus mystery novels..very simple grammer and a lot of modern vocabulary. The classics are great but laguage changes. I try to see french films. My first child is bilingual (in fact he had no English except at home until 4th grade) and I used to use his Asterix commics.
travelbunny is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 11:31 AM
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Yes. I read from Romans de Voltaire and La Chanson de Roland from time to time - not on a rigorous program, but just to keep the tip honed.

If you can find what you want to read in the Microsoft Reader edition, here's a clue: while you're reading, you can touch any word with your mouse (or stylus in a PocketPC), and its English equivalent will pop up.

Obviously, it's a raw word-for-word lookup, so you don't get anything even approaching a grammatically accurate translation, but for just checking a word here and there, it's a great help.

One of my ongoing projects is getting Verne's Paris au XXième siècle into the right form.
Robespierre is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 11:38 AM
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I am usually reading one French novel -- partly to keep up my French or broaden it, I guess, but mainly because I like reading and French literature. I prefer to read certain French authors in French, rather than in translation, because the language is more meaningful and nuanced to me that way, as much of literature can be not just telling the story, but the language itself (sentence structure, the sound of phrases and words, etc.). I like Flaubert very much, as well as Zola, and Camus is another favorite; probably Gide. I like Jacques Prevert for poetry, and Apollinaire. I also read certain musical reference works, biographies, and history in French because that's the only source I have for them.

Right now I'm reading Le Testament Francais by Andrei Makine. That is contemporary -- he won the Goncourt Prize a couple years ago. He is a beautiful writer, but I wouldn't read it to learn slang, if that's what you want.

I don't read kid's literature (and never really even liked The Little Prince, even though that was the first full-length piece of literature we studied in French class).

I just read newspapers and magazines if I want current events and current usage, rather than literature. It would be a lot more current and is free on the web.
Christina is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 11:38 AM
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letour, if you'd like to read French newspapers, Le Monde and Le Figaro both have web editions (left or right, take your pick).

Astérix is wonderful in French. I bought Astérix Chez les Bretons when I was in France in May and I'm still chuckling over it.

AnselmAdorne is online now  
Jul 21st, 2005, 11:55 AM
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I have tried to read a few French books. I also read Madame Bovary. I just got tired of having to go to the dictionary. I guess I should have stuck it out until I got used to it. Thanks for reminding me that I have some others by Albert Camus and F. Boyer that I may just give them a try.

What I have tried, and seems to be working for me, is watching the evening news on France 2. I watch every evening and at first it was just a blur but by now I am quite used to it. You might want to give it a try. http://videojts.france2.fr/
Simone1 is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 12:04 PM
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I took a year of literature and composition in college, and it expanded my French a lot, but I don;t think it would be so useful to read "literature" so much any more as things of a more "news and information nature". When planning travel, I try to read both French and English versions of websites, and read newspapers and magazines a lot when I actually AM in France. And once in a blue moon, I get to serve (usually UNofficially) as an interpreter for patients/families (mostly Africans).

Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 12:20 PM
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Reading French lit is helpful even today as the French are very proud of their cultural/literary heritage and enjoy it when others are familiar with their favorite authors. As a journalist, I love Bel Ami by Maupassant--it clearly and amusingly shows that reporters from almost 150 years ago and reporters today are very similar creatures.
But it's also helpful to read contemporary essays, novels, etc. One of my favorite contemporary French books is Bonjour Paresse, which gives good insights into the argument for the slower-paced approach to life that may be considered the more traditional "continental" lifestyle.
BTilke is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 01:45 PM
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If you are able to access a French TV channel, I'd also positively recommend that.

Watching the News, or current affairs programs for which you already have an idea of what they're talking about will help your ear get used to French oral/conversational phrasing, as well as increase your vocabulary greatly.

The childrens books (and TV programmes) are a great idea, and also a great tool for expanding one's French.
Mathieu is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 01:55 PM
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I read a LOT of French, but not usually literature. Although I was stuffed with French literature in high school and college, I now prefer nonfiction in any language, so that's what I usually read in French. I read Le Sudouest online every few days to catchup with what's going on in the Dordogne when I'm note there, I occasionally read other French newspapers, and I read loads of French magazine articles (one thing I always bring back with me are stacks of magazines - usually cooking, home restoration, travel, etc.).And I watch France2 almost every night. And I rent a LOT of French movies.

I think France2 is probably best for keeping up with current expressions and just generally for maintaining my conversation level. Reading in French helps my French writing more than my French speaking, I'd say.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 21st, 2005, 02:03 PM
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I don't read French literature, as my days can get very busy and nights I'm tired so trying to concentrate on French lit is too much for my head.

I, do, however, try to keep up my French with magazines, newspapers. Also, our youngest daughter is in her third year of French in high school so I get to help with that. Although, I tend to get anal about correcting the teacher's French and get upset when I find mistakes in the material/textbooks they use. It does keep me on my toes, though.

My DH and I finally decided to go to France for our 20th anniv. (Thanks to all who helped us make the decision!). So, now I'm really excited about using it again in France. I read the travel related websites in French first and then go to English if needed. I may even pick up a novel or two before we go, but something contemporary to get current on some of the slang.
Jul 21st, 2005, 02:53 PM
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Bonsoir à tous, et aggie bienvenue en France (à Nice?) n'oublie pas la crème solaire!
Asterix j'adore! en français et en anglais...
et pour un peu de lecture :
et des histoires pour les enfants :
ici on peut même écouter l'histoire!
amusez-vous bien! ;-)
cocofromdijon is online now  
Jul 21st, 2005, 03:13 PM
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The mysteries by Georges Simonon are fine for learning idioms.

I read Mme. Bovary in college and resolved never, ever to read it again.
Underhill is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 03:44 PM
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coco - mais oui! Nous allons voyager a Paris et le Cote d'Azur en octobre. Il y a plus de 25 ans que j'etais en France!

It's also been many years since I've spoken a lot of French or even written a lot. Please feel free to correct me - I'd appreciate it! (and where do I find the accents? I always hate when I see missing accents....)

I am very excited about seeing France again (I've never been to le Cote d'Azur) and showing it to my DH who has never been.

PS: Thanks for the websites.
Jul 21st, 2005, 04:15 PM
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Hi, aggie:

better to say "Il est vingt-cinq ans depuis que je suis en France." Odd using the present tense, I know, but that's French for you.

Anyway, bonne route!
StCirq is online now  
Jul 21st, 2005, 04:46 PM
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So many helpful suggestions. Thank you! I will check in on the Microsoft Reader as well as coco's various websites. Underhill, I really did get an audible chuckle from your dry comment swearing off Madame Bovary for life. I had to read it in school in English so many years ago, and I will admit that it took me virtually a year to plow through it much more recently in French. What helped was that I put it down for about six months and read a succession of novels by Maupassant (BTilke, French friends tell me that Maupassant is enjoying a revival currently in France) and that reading really put me in a groove for getting through Madame Bovary with relative ease. Interestingly, I've read that Maupassant thought of Flaubert as something of an avuncular influence--they knew each other somewhat--and some of the premises of their stories ring a bit familiar at times.

I do try to watch French TV, but it seems to go by so quickly, and only a few of the reports carry subtitles. I have tried to watch a few French films as of late. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is currently holding its annual French Film festival so I saw Les Fautes d'orthographe and Crustaces et Coquillages last week and last night I saw Apres Vous, which is playing in our local theatre. Apres Vous is very funny and I would recommend it as a sweet, romantic comedy based upon a pretty kooky premise.

Thanks again for the ideas and feedback. I really appreciate hearing about other contemporary authors whom I might read.

letour is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 05:31 PM
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Letour, I saw the "Last Mitterand"and "36 Quai des Orfevres."
cigalechanta is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 07:39 PM
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Thanks for setting me straight, St. Cirq! I knew what I wrote didn't sound right but I couldn't come up with anything else.

Merci beaucoup!
Jul 21st, 2005, 08:03 PM
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Hmmmm...I certainly can READ French a bit. But faced with some rapid-fire conversational French from the mouth of a native-speaker, my reading abilities usually prove, well, "inutile".
KidsToLondon is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 12:32 AM
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Bonjour StCirq,

It is rather naughty of you to mislead Aggiemon. Her original phrase was quite right. She wrote

"Nous allons voyager a Paris et le Cote d'Azur en octobre. Il y a plus de 25 ans que j'etais en France!"

it should have been "voyager à Paris et sur la Côte d'Azur". The second phrase is correct and would be understood as "it's been 24 years since I was last in France".

Your "Il est vingt-cinq ans depuis que je suis en France." will be understood by most French people as "I've already spent 25 years in France".

Sorry to nitpick, but since you all seem to want to improve your French (and feel free to point any mistake I've made in English).

Florence is offline  

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