One million words read (French)

I suspect it is in part a question of fashion and social class. I find Jane Austen tedious due to the florid style of the language. She would have been from a well to do English background, writing for well to do people. With non fiction, I have the impression that Americans write more clearly, in a more direct fashion, which I assume is due to the different class structures e.g. more egalitarian. (1) Also you had and have a huge influx of immigrants which surely influences the language, with the emphasis on communication.

(1) Curiously social mobility is modest in the US, and lower than in many European countries.

That Americans write with direct clarity I find more related to how teachers are incentivized in standardized educational guidelines and how content creators to need to commercially reach as broad as audience as possible to be of greater influence than how our social stratification does and doesn’t work dans notre societé clivante.

[I hope that sentence was sufficiently convoluted.]

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@gmeyer As an avid reader of 20th Century American literature, I assure you that the distillation of prose was well under way in the 1920s, a couple generations before word processors.

I was surprised to find Hemingway easy reading in French, after I ventured beyond young adult material.

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Indeed. I think you bring up a great point. While I was referring more to the journalistic and popular levels, I wonder if literary figure and styles you’re thinking of were synergistic and contributory with the later aspects I was more focused on.

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There’s no doubt US English was and is more informal than British English. Similarly, Quebec French is more informal than European French, with the tu and toi forms routinely used even with strangers for example. In the latter case most colonists were from the poorer echelons of society.

I certainly feel that British English has become much less stiff over the last 6 decades due to the influence of America, largely for the better in my opinion. That said anyone with sufficiently little situational awareness to say burglarise in my presence will not fail to note a considerable and somewhat disconcerting degree of discombobularisation on my part.

It should be possible to have words read today in the heading like coins or whatever that is at the top.

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So far I’ve read about 8 mil words according to lingQ since Feb 14 2023, lingQed everything, never used L + R method. Though sometimes I like to listen to the audiobooks after I’ve already finished em.
One thing I liked at the start of the journey, was listening to the podcast several times + reading transcript, I did so with Hugo French podcast, and it gave me a cool sense of progression.
I applied “progressive overload” principle (continual increase of a workload) to learning French.
Reading this thread I feel somewhat conflicted about claims that after just 1 mil words read, someone can read almost everything. For me it feels like a Dunning-Kruger effect’s “Mount Stupid”

At about 5 million words I’ve come to a realisation of just how vast the language is, somewhat like a “Valley of Despair” from the graph above.
At this point I visualize my reading and listening progress like this -
I want to know your thoughts about my point of view :raised_hands:


Unfortunately, this is a sad realization. If you think about it, we barely really know our own language. Yes, we are “fluent”, but this has nothing to do with knowledge.
The problem is that, the more languages we handle, the less we really go deeper.
It’s really a choice, and a never-ending learning journey.


Maybe I’m on Mount Stupid after 1.2M words read in French.

Right now, I’m reading Frank Thilliez’s La Faille.

To contribute to this conversation, I just opened the paperback to a page which I actually annotated unknown words. My marginalia include:

  • “Brambles”
  • “Shutter”
  • “Rushed out”
  • “Clips”
  • “Whore”
  • “Handcuffs”
  • “Got carried away with”
  • “Open wound”

It’s about 5 to 10 words per page that I don’t know or can’t figure out with precision by context alone.

Perhaps what I mean by “read” is to plow ahead with good understanding and use as means to learn, essentially between the “circle of knowledge” and “boundary of ignorance” you describe.


@gmeyer I believe your point.

I’m at 1 mil words and I feel like I reached an important milestone when I picked up a French translation of a fifties American crime novel (“Hot Spot” [1953] by Charles Williams) translated into French, then was more or less reading it somewhat like I do English.

Make no mistake. I don’t read French as well as I do English and I don’t get 100% of the French. But I am getting 85-90% of it. I’ve read French intensively looking up all the words and grammar with listen/repeat/shadow for over 2000 hours to get here.

Charles Williams ain’t Proust. I don’t hold out this statistic as an astounding accomplishment. But it is something and I will pat myself (and you) on the back for it.