6 Tips on how to read in French like a boss


Last Updated: March 9, 2023

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Hey, you. Yes, you awesome person hovering over this page.

How do you feel about reading?

….in French?

read in french like a boss

Ha! Gotcha! I know that majority of you readers were about to say yes but froze halfway through. If you’re one of the 58.9% French learners (a totally made up percentage) who looks like this while reading French texts:

confused reader

…read up until the very end because this article has something awesome for you.

So you want to read in French like a boss, huh? Good for you.

Not only is being able to read in French an incredibly useful skill which will open massive new doors of knowledge and entertainment for you, it will also make travelling to French-speaking countries a pleasurable experience.

Just imagine the convenience of being able to read French signs, restaurant menus, and even newspapers. But even more important, reading will help you improve your French faster. We'll help you figure out how to read French to boost your French language learning.

Why Should You Read in French?

  • It will help you expand your French vocabulary
  • Reading will familiarize you with French syntax
  • The more you practise reading in French, the more you'll gain access to a wide variety of French resources to help you improve even further!

And of course---because READING IS FUN!

In an earlier article, I have discussed the importance of reading comprehension  and when you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll read more about this underrated method of learning French faster (you should subscribe to my newsletter, by the way. Click here).

But for now, we will talk about how you can become better – or even phenomenal -- at reading in French.

Useful tips on how to read in French

1. Start small

Let’s face it. Reading in a foreign language, particularly French, can be quite a daunting task. As with any other ambitious ventures in life, it is best to take small steps first.

After all, before you can dive head-first into the Olympic-size pool, you should wade through the kiddie pool first. So start with reading materials for your level and put off that thick novel for now.

More tips below.

Read with translations

When reading a French text, make sure to have a dictionary or translation app nearby. This one is a no-brainer but will help you nonetheless, and will spell the difference between getting overwhelmed with French words and slogging on further.

A word of caution though: checking your dictionary to look up a word you don’t understand can be frustrating and could suck up the enjoyment out of reading. To remedy this, try online translation tools such as web browser extensions or a built-in dictionary for your Kindle. Just keep reading until you will gradually be able to recognize French words and will need the translation apps less and less.

Here are a few web browser extensions that you could download:

  1.   Google Dictionary Chrome extension
  2.   Language Immersion for Chrome
  3.   Dictionary Tooltip for Firefox

Better yet, you can read e-books that already comes with French-English glossary throughout the text! Such as these:

Read bilingual books

Whenever you can, try to find and read bilingual or "how to read French" books. Several books have a French text on one page, and an English translation on the opposite page. These kinds of reading materials will boost your reading comprehension, but remember that French to English translations shouldn’t be taken word for word.

Read simple French stories

You’ve probably heard over and over again how beginners should read children’s stories in French. Sure they’re cute and fun, but I beg to disagree on this.

My advice: opt for simple stories instead of children’s books.

I mean, unless you’re planning to talk to a magic turtle or go adventuring with an ant fairy ninja  princess anytime soon, the narrative and words used in children’s books are often not applicable for daily use.

magic turtle

No offense, magic turtle.

But with simple "how to read French" stories that talk about everyday themes – you can actually put to use the vocabulary and dialogue into your daily conversations. You’ll get the same simplified vocabulary and grammar as children’s stories but with topics that are more relatable and applicable for daily use. Win-win, right?

2. Take notes as you read

Taking notes are a tried-and-tested method in absorbing information So when you’re reading French articles or simple stories, consider taking notes of the following:

  • Vocabulary that you want to explore further later on
  • Interesting sentence structures
  • New word conjugations
  • Fascinating thoughts you come across
  • Topics you want to learn more about
  • Difficulties you experience or any troublesome areas you encounter

Taking notes is also a good way to keep track of what you’ve learned and you can review your notes later on and marvel at how far you’ve gone.

3. Build your vocabulary

Your vocabulary is your foundation to building awesome reading skills in French. So of course, to be great at reading, you have to work on your vocabulary as well. When you have stored a sufficient amount of vocabulary, you’ll be able to recognize those words by sight and you would be able to read more efficiently and with lesser interruptions from all those dictionary look ups.

Some ways how Talk in French can help you build your vocabulary:

You can also boost your vocabulary using apps such as duolingo, memrise, SpeakEasy, and many others.

4. Read with audio

The tricky thing about French words is that, they look nothing like how they’re supposed to sound. All those scary-looking diacritical marks, silent letters, liaisons, and enchaînement can make anyone’s head spin.

But you already know this, I’m sure. So to maximize your reading exercises, do it with audio.

When you combine your visual learning skills with listening, it will enhance your French in so many levels. You will be able to see the relationship between how the words look as well as how it sounds, linking all the different elements in your mind and mixing together to form an awesome sauce inside your brain.

The result: reading comprehension skills that rock!

Make sure to check out books or stories which include an audio version (clue: I talked about it earlier!)

5. Read with images

Just like reading with audio, reading with images jogs your brain and helps promote memory association. This is why flash cards often come with images because having pictorial representations is a tried-and-tested way to recall vocabulary faster.

A couple of ways that you can make use of this method:

  • Create your own illustrations and use it to supplement your reading.
  • Download apps such as babbel or memrise

And finally…

6. Read what you enjoy

Reading in French takes time and effort, and for you spend a lot of time doing it, you should be interested in what you’re reading. Would you like to waste your time reading about the history of vegetable gardening when you have no interest in tinkering in your garden? Of course not. You’d probably be nodding off to sleep just a few paragraphs in.

If you like current events, read www.20minutes.fr or www.metro.fr.

If sports is your thing, check out https://www.lequipe.fr/.

If you like funny articles, go to https://www.demotivateur.fr.

If you’re a music fanatic, go read https://www.radioactu.com/.

There are so many things you could read that won’t make you tear your hair out in sheer boredom and misery. Don’t force yourself to be interested in reading something you don’t enjoy -- just because it’s in French. Trust me, you’ll learn faster when you’re having fun.

BUT HEY – What if I told you that there’s a book that already covers most the items mentioned above?

This will help you read in French like a boss

A book of simple yet engaging French stories with built-in translations and an audio version? Simply put, it has everything beginners and intermediate level learners need to be able to read in French like a boss.

So if you need more help with your reading skills, make sure to check out our Reading and Listening Course for Beginner to Intermediate Level. Check it out below!

About the author 

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Instagram

  • I enjoy reading French poetry on my Kindle. I can try to figure out a word by the context of the poem and if I still can’t understand the word, I can highlight it for later translation.

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