I wrote last year about a series of ‘French reader’ storybooks I found at the Kindle store. I had downloaded several of them as freebies and found them decent, but over-priced. I would rather pay $10 for a full-length book than $4 each for a whole bunch of mini ones!
So I was delighted to find that my favourite paper-only ‘French reader’ book has finally hit the Kindle store—and in my travels, I picked up another beginning reader which has its plusses too! Here are my reviews of these two reader books. I welcome any recommendations on where to go next!
1) French Reader for Beginners by Eugene Gotye
This book has about thirty little chapters, each of which tells a brief, simple story.
Each begins with a brief glossary of words which are featured, then has the story text in French first, then repeated in English. I preferred to use the Kindle’s baked-in Google Translate function as I read to check on any sentences I was unsure of, but I did skim through the English afterward to jog my memory. If I was reading outside wifi range, where I could not use the translate feature, I probably would flip ‘pages’ back and forth to check the English, so I appreciated having the option.
I found most of the stories were at the right level for me and I did not need to use the translate feature very often. The first handful of chapters were in fact too basic, and I almost gave up—they were just row after row of choppy little sentences, numbered sequentially—‘This is a room with many windows. This is a room with few windows. Andre has a bicycle’ and that sort of thing. A few chapters in, it switched to a paragraph format with more cohesive narratives. For example, in one story, a woman has breakfast at home with her children and then goes to buy a movie.
The chapters were all of a manageable length, where I could finish it in one sitting without unduly tiring myself out, as I tend to when I try and read ‘real’ literature in French. I liked the structure and format of this book a lot.
My one complaint is that I have found a number of translation errors. Since this same book is available in a German version, and in an English version for French speakers, I am guessing they used the same core English text and then translated it. They did not always do so correctly. I am not a native French speaker myself, but I guess I am more fluent as a reader than I thought I was, because there have been a few phrases that did not ring true to me, and when I checked them online, I found that I was right and the book was wrong. For example, in one sentence, they said ‘la queue’ (the lineup) instead of ‘une queue’ (a lineup). In another, they should have used the verb ‘to go’ and they used the word ‘to leave’ (which has special usage scenarios) instead.
So I am torn on whether to recommend this one. I do love the format, and it really has gotten me reading French—every day—as I hoped it would. But the errors do make me nervous. I feel like I can give this one a qualified recommendation. It might be good training wheels, but you should not confuse it with riding a bike.
2) Easy French Reader by R. de Roussy de Sales
I love this book so much! I own it in paper, and have used it both personally and with my tutoring students. I first started looking for other readers when I could not find this one in Kindle form. And now it has arrived, and is a bargain at just under 8 bucks.
There are three sections. The first tells a series of short, linked stories about two students who go to school together in France. The second one has longer and more complex chapters which each tell a story about the history of France. The last section graduates readers into excerpts from real French works of literature.
This book has been attractively formatted for the Kindle. The glossary, which appears in the paper text as marginal notes, appears here as little insertions in between each paragraph. Each story is also followed by comprehension questions to jog your memory. There is no answer key, so you’ll have to go back and read the story again if you don’t know the answer!
I’m very happy with the careful job they did formatting this book for Kindle reading, and my only regret is that this is a one-series book: the other ‘Easy Reader Series’ books promised in the sub-title are Spanish and Italian readers which follow the same format.
I think that after I read these books, I may be ready to tackle some ‘real’ books in French, and I am fortunate to live in a public library system with a wide selection of contemporary French titles. So I’ll find a kids or YA series to start with and see how I do. I am happy that in the meanwhile, these books are getting me used to reading in French, because at my language level, that is the only way to grow my skills and fluency at this point. Reading more about grammar won’t help me. I have to read books!