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Question: does it do any good to try to read French if you do not know what the words mean? In other words, should one try to learn how to pronounce the words unless you know their meaning?
Yes, it does, if you are good with logic, have an open mind and patience. I leaned English basically from playing video games, then reading books and then watching tv shows... Now I'm learning French and skipped directilly to reading books, starting from Le Petit Prince, then the Percy Jackson series (already finished) and now La Stratégie Ender. It's being awesome, I'm learning... slowly but well. If you want to learn fast use books as a complementations, but if you have patience, time and passion to learn by yourself "felling" the language then it's a great way to learn/practice.
And always have a easy access dictionary around.... I usually readin in my smartphone which has an dictionary installed. And I used to read on the pc... not so cool, I know, but this is my way, find one that works for you :)
Sometimes it can be intimidating to realize how much you do not know! But I am enjoying learning French. I think it is a beautiful language, and I like to study.
It depends on how much French you know already, and what level you're trying to start reading at. With only 1 semester of French101 taken at a university I tried reading children's books intended for french children between 9-12 years old. It was too difficult and I felt like I was spending more time being confused than actually learning. There are lot of verb conjugations, and with the irregular verbs (être, avoir, savoir) it's hard to see the patterns without learning them first.
With that being said I don't want to discourage you from reading books, but rather pick material that matches your level, but is still challenging. A good book that has short stories, and is designed to start easy and get progressively harder is this book:
I purchased it from amazon and found it to be helpful. It also has notes on the side that define less common words. This saves time from having to look up words in a dicationary. If you have 5-6 months of french learning this is a good book to start with.
I completely forgot the fact that your mother language is English... in your case things may be more complicated especially because of conjugations. Thing is, French is a Latin language like Portuguese and shares a lot of English characteristics as well so it was easier to me as a Portuguese and English speaker.
French is relativelly close to Portuguese, it's hard to pickup at a book so early as I did but not so much as it was with German, for example. And for you I don't know how it would work... sorry for this distraction from my part, I'm like that sometimes :)
No problem, Francisco, or pas de problème.
Thank goodness for google translate......
Some people find this website interesting and useful:
It's a detective story, for all levels of French learners. Let me know if you like it! :)
I think I need to start writing French. That will help me remember. Thank you for the website, Helene.
I am going to start a special journal for writing French. That is the missing link. I know one can journal here, but I am going to use a pen and paper and then have it reviewed by a native French speaker. I think that will enlarge my vocabulary....
Yes, writing French worked very well with me in terms of remembering how to spell words and vocabulary. It also helped with verb conjugations as well, because there are so many irregular verbs it's hard without writing them all the time. Once you do it becomes second nature. It will be very frusterating. I speak mostly with my girlfriend (she's french) using the je/tu/on/ils/elles, so I miss the vous and nous forms. With irregular verbs I can't remember nous and vous forms, because I rarely use them!