How to approach reading your first foriegn language book?

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How to approach reading your first foriegn language book?

Postby ChronoC » 2014-04-15, 7:20

One of the reasons I wanted to learn languages is I am an avid reader. I'm feeling that I'm getting really close to being able to do this in my target language of french. My question is, how do I approach it? One of my favorite fremch authors is Jules Verne, and I thought of perhaps attempting 20000 leagues as a first french book as it's one I've read in English enough to be fairly familiar with the story. I was thinking perhaps reading it again first in English and then in the french, as it's been awhile. One question I do have, is 1800s English is noticeably different from modern, is it the same with fremch as well? Will it go well if I do have enough words and grammar known be easy enough?

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Re: How to approach reading your first foriegn language book?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-04-15, 15:02

It's changing finally, but it used to be that the French they taught in high school and college courses in the States was closer to the French of Balzac than the modern Parisian vernacular. There will be differences, to be sure, but mostly in the usage of words. You shouldn't run into much difficulty.

A novel is fairly ambitious for a first go. I would recommend starting with short stories and working your way up. Verne wrote short fiction, too, if you'd like to stick with him. Otherwise Maupassant is widely available, relatively easy to read, and quite rewarding.

Whatever you read, try to keep yourself from looking up too many words you don't know. One rule of thumb I learned was "Look up every third word; if you still don't understand, look up every other word." I sometimes deliberately read books where I don't have access to dictionaries to prevent myself from going to them too often. On the other hand, sometimes you'll have one crucial word without which a whole paragraph doesn't make any sense. But you can always come back and reread the passage later.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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