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How to learn new words in French (1) : choosing a strategy that suits you

Dernière mise à jour : 5 mars 2020

Last week, I started to read a book in English that I bought at Foyles in London. The book is Confessions of a bookseller by Shaun Bythell. This books is entertaining and it has the right level of English for me.

What does it have to do with French vocabulary?

Well, when you read a French book and I read an English book, you and I are in a the same situation. It’s not our language. When I read this book there are words that I don’t understand. I ask myself « should I leave my bed and look up for this word in the dictionnary? ». I’ve chosen not to because I’m tired and I’m in my bed. Then, should I write this word down and look up for it the day after? No, because I know I won’t do it. It has no sense.

This is my strategy

So, unless I’m very curious about a word that I don’t understand, I’ve chosen not to look up for it in the dictionnary when I read in bed.

Why? because I’m confident! This is my strategy. The words that are part of the vocabulary you can expect to know, you meet them several times. So I’m sure that if it’s a word that I need to know, I will meet it another time when it’s easier for me to look it up in the dictionary. For example, when I read a blog post in English, it’s easy to get the translation on the Internet. It’s easy, fast, and effective.

And I bet, you will soon meet that word in a French book! or in a French podcast ;-) La boucle est bouclée.

What do you think of this strategy?

There are other strategies about vocabulary that I’m eager to share with you in coming blog posts of One Thing In A French Day :

-- where to keep that vocabulary (in a notebook, in an app)?

-- what kind of French book to read? etc.

In the meantime, do not hesitate to send me your comments about my lazy strategy or to share yours!

192 vues3 commentaires

3 Σχόλια

Padraig Finnerty
Padraig Finnerty
02 Μαρ 2020

Hi Laetitia,

I'm the opposite, I MUST look up EVERY word :) I'm just like that, it would annoy me too much if I didn't. My strategy is to use more accessible dictionaries than a paper one on a shelf :) The easiest one to use is the built-in Kindle one, just hold down your finger on a word and the definition will appear, super easy. But this is not the most extensive dictionary I find, so next I'll to to the Oxford French-English dictionary on my phone. This is very comprehensive, and also quick to lookup. If it's not in either of them, I'll go to the Larousse French dictionary on my phone (a bit more challenging with the…

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David Guy
David Guy
29 Φεβ 2020

This is exactly the strategy I use. It’s often called extensive reading (vs intensive reading). Most of the time I can figure out the meaning of words from context the same way I learned from reading in my native language. This strategy only works when you are reading at the right level. You need to know at least 90% of the words already. I think it’s the best way to learn vocabulary.

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28 Φεβ 2020

Laetitia, je ne pense pas du tout que votre méthode soit paresseuse!

J'utilise une méthode similaire. quand je vois un mot français que je ne connais pas,

Je ne vais pas tout de suite au dictionnaire

Au lieu de cela, j'essaie de discerner la signification du mot à partir du context.

Je peux donner un exemple du podcast One Thing "Mini Balade à Paris"

Dans la phrase, “En voyant arriver le métro sur le quai, nous avons hésité, il était bondé”, je n'ai pas compris le sens du mot « bondé”

Mais j'ai remarqué la phrase: « Il y avait beaucoup de monde dans la rue et le café à deux pas du métro était plein”

En comparant les phrases,…

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