How long

I have been studying French for about 3 months now and i was wanting to get into some authentic french reading material, like books i like in English translated into French, like Ender’s Game, etc… But i know there are some weird verb tenses involved in literary French… how could i learn these? Also, should i grab one of these books and just struggle through it? Will it really be that hard? I just have a lot of questions about this, so any help on where to get started. How long should it be before I could get into “legit” chapter books?


The cardinal rule is to do what you you enjoy doing. If you push yourself to work with authentic material, and enjoy the challenge and the sense of achievement of working your way through it, then you will really benefit.

In literary French, you will encounter the simple past. You will just get used to it. If you need some background info on it just google “French simple past” or something. Here is the first link that comes up when I google for this term.

But I would just plow through, ask the tutor if you need to , but you will be able to tell the meaning from the context. Save these forms of the verb on LingQ, review them, and soon it will be natural to you.

I would say it’s completely up to you when you start reading an actual book. I find that it helps if you’ve already read the book in your native language, as you’re not as lost as you might be otherwise. If it was me, I would give it a try, and if I found it too difficult then I’d just move on to something easier, as I did a couple of years ago when I started reading a book in Korean on China’s recent cultural and economic development.

If you can find a digital version of the book, I highly recommend reading it on LingQ, as it is nice to see words highlighted in yellow.

Another idea would be to read Camus’ L’étranger. You could start here because this novel is written in the passé composé and the imparfait. No passé simple in The Stranger :slight_smile:

P.S. I’m not suggesting that you avoid the passé simple, only that this novel might serve as a nice transition of sorts into authentic French reading material.

Here are three modern works in French, all or parts of which I have uploaded into LingQ as lessons.

  1. Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour tristesse. The novel is relatively short, only 154 pages in the edition I bought (Julliard), and there are two CD editions. The CD edition I listen to and have uploaded from (as a private lesson!) is read by French actress Jacqueline Pagnol. I believe there is another CD edition read by French actress Catherine Deneuve, but I have not heard any of Deneuve’s reading. The text is relatively inexpensive, but the CD edition is not.

My purely subjective opinion is that the novel itself is a masterpiece and that Pagnol’s reading is also a masterpiece. I have found reading the text mildly challenging and listening to the readings moderately challenging. By “moderately challenging” I mean it takes me at least 7 listening sessions to feel that I have understood 70% to 80% of what Pagnol is saying.

I am now at something like French 19,000 words learned on LingQ, if this helps you evaluate my coping with the novel.

  1. Anna Gavalda’s collection of short stories called Je voudrais que quelqu’un m’attende quelque part. The novel is rather long, 574 pages in the Editions J’ai Lu that I bought. The CD edition, by Gallimard, comes in three disks and is read by Anna Gavalda herself. NB: the CD edition leaves out a couple of the stories.

I found reading the text mildly to moderately challenging and listening to the CD very challenging. The text can be moderately challenging because Gavalda uses a lot of slang, and the readings challenged me a lot because Gavalda reads very quickly, matching I believe the pace of actual conversation. In fact, I quit after uploading only 2 or 3 of the stories, but I’m glad I did them if only for the practice.

  1. Also by Anna Gavalda, Ensemble, c’est tout. Title has been (badly, in my opinion) translated into English as Hunters and Gatherers. The CD edition comes with 2 disks. It is also by Gallimard. Gavalda does not read this. Rather it is interpreted by several French actors doing separate characters. NB: the CD covers most–but not all–of the novel, and there is never a marking or indication in the reading itself to let you know a jump has occurred.

Like Gavalda’s stories, the text is moderately challenging and the readings very challenging, for the same reasons as for the short stories. I quit after uploading 4 short lessons: too hard. But useful, and going back to the stories and this novel is now a goal for my future French learning.

Ensemble, c’est tout was/is also moderately challenging to read: again, the use of slang and the speed of the dialogs. Of course, if you use Audacity to listen, you can slow down the speed of the readings, though I don’t choose to do this.

In closing, I will say that though I found these works useful to one extent or another, I am not trying to advertise or promote them. I’m a consumer, not a seller.

I presume you imported them for your own use only as they are copyrighted.

We will soon (this week) enable the sale of copyrighted content in our Library. If you send me the name of the publisher we can approach them about selling their content at LingQ.

I have read all three books in French and I’d recommend them, too. The slang in Anna Gavalda’s stories does present quite a challenge.

P.S. I am so envious that you have the CDs!

I have two of these books in Russian. Sanne, let’s hope we can get some of this material at LingQ. Tell us of your favourite audio book publishes and we will approach them.

Steve: Yes, I imported Sagan and Gavalda lessons for my own use only, and I will email you the names of the publishers.

I have a number of audiobooks in Spanish by the German publisher

They sell quality language learning material and their texts which you read alongside the recording have high-lighted, pre-selected vocab, if I remember correctly.