Reading a French Novel

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Reading in French allows you to increase your vocabulary and get a better grasp of grammatical structures. There is a wide range of texts you can choose from : there are magazines, newspapers, blogs … and there are novels. Reading a novel in a foreign language can be challenging but as soon as you finish your book, you experience a wonderful sense of achievement and pride. I will always remember finishing La casa de los espíritus by Isabel Allende in Spanish. Not only did I enjoy the story but also I felt a real sense of accomplishment.  

It is important to choose a novel at the right level. If you choose too challenging a book, you have more chance to get frustrated and quickly give up. 

Once you have selected your book, you can find an electronic version. Reading on a e-reader or tablet will allow you to look up unknown vocabulary easily. You just need to download a French dictionary and a bilingual dictionary. Looking up words becomes faster and you are able to review them at the end of your reading session. 

You can also listen to the audiobook version of your novel while following the words. However, I would recommend reading each chapter first as the reading pace may add an extra challenge. 

Here are a few suggestions : 


Easy - Intermediate (A2-B1) 

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Jean-Louis Fournier portrays his father through the eyes of the child he used to be. His father was a generous doctor, who looked after his clients even if they could not afford his consultations. He could be light-hearted and full of humour, but he was also an alcoholic and could be bad-tempered, irresponsible and cruel when he had had too much to drink.  

This bitter sweet and moving novel is made of short chapters and successive anecdotes which are accessible to intermediate learners. 

Monsieur Linh is an elderly Vietnamese refugee who has endured a long journey by boat with his baby grand daughter and one old suitcase. He has seen his homeland destroyed by foreign soldiers, his village, fields, buildings and population burnt and killed, including his son and daughter-in-law. All that is left is the baby, Sang Diu. Monsieur Linh arrives in a city in France, and is moved to a refugee centre where he lives in a dormitory like place with other refugees. He is lonely, homesick, deeply traumatised, only living to devote his whole self to his care of the child.

This is a moving story that make us think about the fate of refugees. The vocabulary and the structures are simple.


Intermediate (B1-B2) 

Erik Orsenna makes us love words and French grammar with his poetic, fun and moving tale. It is the story of two children who are castaway and who lost their vocabulary during the storm. While discovering the island where they landed, they recover, little by little, the power of speech.

An endearing story for young and old. 

 

In Ni d'Ève, ni d'Adam, Amélie Nothomb writes about her private experience when she was living in Japan and tells us about her love story with Rinri, a young Japanese man who wanted to learn French. We discover another side of Japanese culture.

This is a charming book. the vocabulary and the style are not challenging.


Intermediate - Advanced (B2 - C1) 
 

Sorj Chalandon, a former journalist for Libération, who covered events and wars in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq …  wrote this violent and yet emotional story.
Le quatrième mur is the story of an impossible dream, a story of hope beyond hatred. Sam wants to produce a play in Lebanon with actors from the different communities at war. As he gets ill, George will help him pursue his dream by going to Lebanon and staging Antigone. 

This book will not leave you unscathed. It shows the abyssal gap between our lives and the ones of people who live in countries devastated by war. 

 


Of all the things I have mentioned above, I think that choosing the right length and level of book is the most important. However as with anything you get out what you put in! If you challenge yourself and keep going the satisfaction and sense of achievement will be worth it.

French in your pocket

 
 

There are many apps to learn French : Duolingo, Memrise, Quizlet … . However, there are also two other simple ways of making progress in French with your smartphone. 

The first one is by changing the language in settings to French! This way, you will learn a lot of new vocabulary while using your phone. 

The second one is by adding some French apps that most French people have on their phones. 

Here is a selection of free apps : 

Listen to the radio and access all the podcasts with Radio France app. You have a wide range of radios to choose from : France Inter, France Info, France Bleu and its 44 local radio stations, France Culture, France Musique, FIP and its 6 webradio stations, Mouv' and its webradio station. 

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Read the news with Le Monde (centre/left), Libération (left wing), Le Figaro (right wing). Remember that some articles can be complicated and only accessible at Level B2. However, you can get alerts and these are short and easy to understand. 

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If you enjoy reading sport news, read some articles in L'équipe. 

 

Do you enjoy going to the cinema and keeping in touch with new releases? With Allocine, you will find out about new films and watch trailers, find the biographies of actors and directors ... 

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Do you like cooking? Marmiton is THE app for you.  There are recipes for everyone and you can watch videos about seasonal products, special cooking techniques, interviews from famous chefs ... A must! We use it all the time in our house.

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Do you like pampering yourself? My Little Beauty app will give you beauty tips everyday. The articles are short and you can do fun quizzes. 

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I hope you will enjoy some of these apps. If you have a favourite app that I have not mentioned, feel free to share it in the comments below. 

 

 

L'humour en classe

Everybody knows the benefits of a good laugh, hence for my very first post, I wanted to talk about combining French language learning with humour. Humour exists in all shapes and sizes, there is something for every taste and every level.  According to the famous proverb that Rabelais used in his introduction of Gargantua, "le rire est le propre de l’homme". It is obvious that it can be a good idea for teachers to make their students laugh….pas comme une baleine (rire comme une baleine = to laugh one’s head off), but to make them laugh, as quietly as possible, and have fun so that they can relax and learn in a pleasant atmosphere.  

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We can use humour to improve reading, writing, speaking and listening. But where to start? Well….why not start with les blagues Carambar? Carambars are sweeties which children love and whose wrapping paper has jokes and answers that are easily understood.  

Photo @http://www.tutesouviens.com/carambar/

Photo @http://www.tutesouviens.com/carambar/

Nowadays, it is easy to find the jokes without the caramels on the internet which help prevent cavities.  

Jokes are good for a laugh but so are riddles : 

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and rebuses

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Of course, we can differentiate jokes, riddles and rebuses for students who say that French is too “fastoche” (slang for facile). 

Here are some different strategies: 

  1.    find a very difficult word and work out a joke / riddle around that word…. "Mwahahahah, ils ne trouveront jamais."
  2.    write a joke / riddle with difficult grammar structures, tenses and make the whole thing very mysterious. 
  3.    create a gigantic rebus! 

What about the French humorists? Well, thanks to Internet, a lot of humorist masterpieces are at hand.

 First and for all learners, there are films with or without subtitles - not dubbed please! French cinema is overflowing with good comedies. There are classics such as Les vacances de M. Hulot, Francis Veber’s hilarious films with François Pignon as the main character and Bienvenu chez les ch'tis with Dany Boon that was a real success in 2008. 

Beginners will enjoy reading Le chat de Geluck comics. The texts are short, simple and amusing. Once a B1 level is achieved, it is possible to read La cantatrice chauve, an extremely amusing play by Ionesco. Students with higher levels will be able to read comics like Gaston Lagaffe ou les Bidochon, watch online videos like Scènes de ménage ou Un gars, une fille, and some stand up comedy like “Ikea” by Gad Elmaleh. 

When vocabulary is not so much of a problem, working on more elaborated puns by listening to Raymond Devos and Pierre Desproges can be very rewarding. You need to concentrate (even when you are a native speaker) but it is worth it.

You will find below links that you may enjoy depending on your level (or the level of your pupils if you are a teacher). 

To finish this post, I would like to quote the beautiful words of Raymond Devos “Le rire est une chose sérieuse avec laquelle il ne faut pas plaisanter." 

À vos blagues, prêts, feu, partez! 

 
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