Reading book while drinking coffee on balcony

3 tips for improving your ability to read French

During our French private lessons, we constantly focus on learning to speak as a native and most of our classes are spent in conversation.

But reading French is fundamental to make improvements in your speaking capabilities. One of the highest benefits, of course, is that reading can substantially (and rapidly) widen your vocabulary. It can help you to acquire grammar and syntax easily. Furthermore, depending on what you read, it can help foster your understanding of French culture, politics, and humor – All of which will certainly help you adjust to your life in France.

Whether you might want to read fluidly in French, try these 3 tips before settling down with your next novel or newspaper.

     1.  Choose what you read carefully.  

When deciding on what to read, the key is to choose a topic that interests you and that is at an appropriate level.

You might be thinking: “Well, duh!” but it is far from unusual for students to read some subjects or media that they see as a must-read rather than what truly interests them. Therefore that path just leads to glazed eyes, a wandering mind, and the unfair assessment that reading French is so hard and sooo boring…

So, do not bother stoically plodding through Le Monde, if you think you’d enjoy reading Elle or Top Santé more preferably. Think outside the box 🙂 More than novels, magazines and newspapers, there are countless blogs in French on a wide range of topics from travel to cooking or finance that may teach some interesting things.

Besides reading a classic from Balzac, you might figure out that you aren’t just up to that level yet, look at classic French children’s books like Le Petit Prince or Le Petit Nicolas series. If you like comics, you would have some fun with the Asterix the Gaulois or in the Adventures of the Tintin.

Bottom line: It does not matter much what you read as long you enjoy it.


       2.  Ditch the dictionary (initially).

French students tend to read with a book in one hand and a dictionary in the other hand but interrupting your reading flow to look up unfamiliar words will break up your broader understanding of the language.

Reading in French is similar to watching a French film or listening to a French song. Let the language flow through your mind, allowing it to effortlessly call up some images and whatever understanding you can grasp.

Your brain will fill in many of the blanks by interpreting a word’s meaning through its context.

(Note: Be sure that you are reading at an appropriate level or slightly above your level – Meanwhile if you are doubting every sentence, you would be better off finding something easier.)

Finally, we’re not saying you should never use a dictionary. While reading, underline new words in order for you to remember to look them up later. And when you do look at them, try researching them in a French dictionary, which will keep you thinking in French. But keep a good French-English dictionary on hand for times you’re truly stuck or exhausted.


      3.    Read aloud

Reading aloud (lire à haute voix) is a great way to improve your French on multiple levels. You can strengthen your pronunciation and your accent, as well as boost your ability to speak fluidly all in one fell swoop. In the meantime, reading aloud forces you to pay attention to the words that you might skip over during silent reading.

When reading aloud, do so slowly and consciously and read each page, passage or paragraph twice. 

During the first reading, let the words and understanding flow without any effort. During the second reading, pay attention to the way your tongue and mouth move. Repeat this exercise for 10-15 minutes each day and you will be pleased to see the results!

Do you enjoy reading in French? What are your favorite books, magazines and blogs ?


a comic: une bande dessinée

a novel: un roman

a newspaper: un journal

a dictionary: un dictionnaire

a library: une bibliothèque

a bookshop: une librairie

a book: un livre 

a chapter: un chapitre