Learn to Read French

Reading in a foreign language is arguably the easiest of the four elements of a language to learn (as compared to writing, oral comprehension and speaking), and to learn to read French is no different.

Basic Learn to Read French Tips

Here are some suggested tips to get you reading French as quickly as possible.

  • The easiest place to start is probably in one of the many beginner’s French vocabulary resources online, ranging from simple games to flashcards to basic vocabulary lists. French is a Latin-based language, but many of the words are still similar to common English words, especially modern and technology-related vocabulary, which may even be identical. If you know any Spanish or Italian, you will find even more similarities in many words.
  • After that, learning the different types of pronouns (relative, indirect, demonstrative, etc), as well as prepositions should be relatively easy, but it will help you in figuring out the context of much more advanced vocabulary words.
  • Apart from their meaning, learning to recognize the tense of French verbs will also help you understand the context of sentences: do they describe the past, or are the conditionally describing the future, or something else?
  • You may also want to learn basic French grammar and sentence structure: most French grammatical concepts are similar or identical to those in English, but you should learn the pertinent differences so you don’t read a sentence with an entirely different meaning than how it was intended.

Intermediate Learn to Read French Advice

Once you have mastered the above tips, you should know enough beginner French to begin attempting French books or French magazines or websites.

  • Write down every word you encounter that is completely unknown to you, and keep track of the words you need to learn. Periodically, look up all the English meanings, and either make flashcards for yourself, or learn the new words some other way.
  • You will probably encounter French idioms, phrases, and slang that, literally translated, doesn’t make sense. Keep track of these stock phrases on another list, as well as their generally understood meaning.

Memorizing French Vocabulary Words

No matter what technique you follow, there will be a lot of rote memorization if you want to learn how to read French efficiently and quickly.

  • If you just want to quickly be able to recognize French vocabulary words, then buying or making your own French flashcards, beginning with 100 or so cards and working your way up to the 1000-2000 most used French vocabulary words will give you basic reading proficiency relatively quickly.
  • There are also several learn French vocabulary books that give you lists of thousands of the statistically most used French words, if you don’t want to compile your own vocabulary list.

Learning to read French is relatively simple once you sit down to memorize vocabulary words and understand the basic sentence structures. For more help, print out some French vocabulary lists, check out my review of learn French books, or brush up on your French grammar.