Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Monday, 5 September 2016

"Boy those French! They have a different word for everything." (Steve Martin)


Responding to my last post, where I mentioned my love of reading in French, Ellen (A tiny house in Normandy) suggested that I might take this a bit further for anyone keen to do the same thing. Back living in Sydney, now, and without the full breadth of the French libraries, bookstores, supermarkets and vide-greniers that I have previously had at my disposal, my own reading choices are not really choices at all. I don't discriminate and happily take whatever is rotated through our one French shelf at the local library, be it fiction or non-fiction: biography, reference book, children's story, mystery etc.

Let me preface this post by pointing out that I have been studying the French language since the age of 12 (so a while!). Initially, it was probably the academic nature of the subject that drew me in: the deciphering, code breaking and working out how to put parts together to make a whole. Perhaps, not surprisingly, I was also fascinated by Maths and Music, with similar challenges. From the very beginning, the sounds of the French language were interesting, sometimes difficult, immensely pleasing to try and reproduce, but I'm not sure that communication was what motivated me. After all, I had never left Australia and the world was not connected like it is today.

A year after reading my first "Bonjour! Ca va?" scripted text book dialogues, my sisters and I accompanied my parents to Scotland for my father's sabbatical year at Edinburgh University. Squashed four abreast in the back seat of the family car, we subsequently travelled the continent in our mid-year break, and things started to really change. I encountered languages, food and customs that were unfamiliar to me and, even though we did not visit France on that trip, when a new school year recommenced, my desire to be able to communicate in a different language had been well and truly ignited. My older sister tells me that I used to refuse to speak with her if she didn't try and speak French with me. I'm sure that she is exaggerating, but what a pain I must have been if she's right! (NDLR No need to agree!)

Naturally enough, the resources at my disposition back then were extremely limited. I didn't have podcasts, 24-hour news services, Youtube and song clips with convenient translations to refine my aural skills, French speakers were thin on the ground in suburban Adelaide and the terraced houses of Morningside, and written material was confined to the inked sheets that my French teachers printed off for us and dusty editions of Hugo, Voltaire, Flaubert, Zola, Camus... when I hit University later on.

Today, what a different world.

What has not changed, though, is that learning requires commitment, patience, hard work, practice and determination. If you think that you will just pick things up by being exposed to the language, everyday or on the odd occasion, you will probably be disappointed.

But, let's go back to reading:



  • Read everything that you can lay your hands on...bus tickets, concert programs, flyers, advertisements, invitations, bills, Facebook posts...
  • When you read these familiar documents you know roughly what should be where, but pay attention and look up anything (vocab, verb conjugation, tense) that is unfamiliar to you. Keep a notebook on you or use the Notes function on your phone to record new words that interest you or that you want to look up later.
  • Even as an adult, children's books are for you. Imagiers or Baby books with single words and pictures, hardcover books with one or two sentences and bright, simple pictures, familiar stories from your childhood (see Peter Pan and Le Club des Cinq (Famous Five) below). Read them aloud, read them often and if you have children, read them to your children.
  • When you are cooking, look up your recipes on the Internet or spoil yourself with a print edition (see Mon cours de cuisine below).
  • Subscribe to a French magazine for children. A brand new magazine is a treat to receive in the post every month or so. Select according to your level of language. Cultural affairs are much more accessible initially in this format than in a daily newspaper.
  • Just as it is for young learners, it is easier to persist with something that interests you (see below Insectes, L'Australie, Dinosaures)
  • After the heavily illustrated books, progress to children's novels and young adult fiction (see below Sheltie et le poney abandonné and Poisson d'Avril).
  • Familiar mysteries and crime stories (such as the John Le Carré novel below).
  • Best-sellers such as Harry Potter and Dan Brown's Da Vinci code
  • Historical fiction (such as Régine Deforges, an interesting French author whose erotica writing was ahead of her times, but who is equally as well known for her trilogy, which begins with La bicyclette bleue and starts in 1939 in WW2 France.)
  • For easy romances and quick reads take your time browsing and selecting from the Pocket Books  selection.
  • Try simpler classics such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince
  • Get a news feed from France Info to your phone, consult it without moderation and keep abreast of the news of the world at the same time as working on your French.
  • Consult the books and ebooks at Decitrefnac and make your choice.
  • Finally, read as often as you can and enjoy!

 

                


Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments box below.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Book Obsessed guest post


A very short blog today to share the link to Book Obsessed and thank Cécile for accepting me to guest blog on her site.

Cecile works as an English-French translator but also manages this lovely site featuring author guest posts and book reviews. Do take a look.


Monday, 20 April 2015

The village library

A ten-square metre room in the many-roomed, three-story building standing prominently on the main road through the village opens its shutters for four and a half hours per week. At the same time a large metal sign reading BIBLIOTHEQUE is placed outside on the window ledge to advertise the fact that therein lies the village library and that it is open for business.

In my busy pre-France life I had no time for reading – other that is, than work related articles and documents. I didn’t allow myself to read for pleasure. I used to tell myself that I had too many other important things to do and convinced myself that I was somehow letting myself, and my high standards down if I gave in and read something just for the sake of enjoying reading it.

When we moved to France this idea that had accompanied me for the previous 25 years was so engrained that, despite the fact that I now did have free time I still couldn’t ‘waste’ it on such a frivolous pursuit.

What prompted me first to seek out the local village library was the children, and admittedly it was more to get them French DVDs. They were doing fewer activities than they used to do in Australia but I had justified the passive DVD watching idea to myself on the premise that it would help them with their French language learning. So I looked around for a video store but they just didn’t seem to exist. The closest that I came across was an ATM-like ‘hole in the wall’ at the village supermarket that had literally just a handful of very outdated adult-oriented movies for loan. I then remembered that in Australia the libraries often had a collection of videos and DVDs for loan and presumed that the same would apply in France. Wrong!

I had been living in France for a month by then – I should have known that this would be another difference between the two countries. The first library that I tried, which was near our first house, looked promising from the outside. It was modern and quite large with two wings of books. By then I had become more used to the idea that public buildings could easily be mistaken for residential premises and hesitated only slightly as I pushed open the door to face two sweetly smiling ladies seated behind a long desk quietly controlling who was going in and out and with what in their bags. I explained that I was new to the area and they assured me that as long as I could prove my address with a ‘justificatif’ and then pay my money that I could start borrowing books straight away. Pay my money – weren’t libraries free in France like they were in Australia? I felt that I couldn’t back out and so did what was required. I moved auspiciously to the books section first and then stealthily attempted to hone in on my real target, the DVDs – but where were they?  and what a disappointment when I finally located the single half-empty shelf holding more out-dated adult-oriented movies. To save face with the eagle-eyed librarians I resorted to borrowing books for the children pretending that that had been my principal objective all along.

Just because I was there and because it jumped out at me as a familiar name I also borrowed a book – for me. It was a Tim Winton book in French. I haven’t looked back. I am once again hooked on reading.

We have changed villages and therefore libraries and this time I was a bit more prepared for the interaction that would take place when I first went for a visit– but not the size of the library or their methods. Don’t get me wrong – it is one of my fortnightly pleasures to go down to the library and have a short whispered exchange with one of the many older ladies who man the room. The borrowing system involves exchanging yellowing hand-written cards for book. There are no due dates – and the books seem to date from the period they were written about – a long time ago. There is a table for new releases and a box  - one - for children’s books but mostly I concentrate on the ‘B’s. By default the first author that I picked up had the surname Bourdin (genre: easy romance). I methodically returned to her shelf, read all of her books and only realised that I had come to the end of her offerings when the style of my newest loan was so vastly different (more difficult and somewhat educative) than what I had become accustomed to. I re-read the cover and realized that I was reading a Bourdon. I have since progressed to Bordes – and am loving reading once again.



Yesterday I had to return an overdue book as in principle you keep a book for two weeks. I presented my apologies and was told reassuringly not to worry as it was an old one – the word is ‘ancien’. I guess that it will always be ok then – as they are nearly all old.