Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

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vogeltje
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby vogeltje » Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:41 pm

I think that it's why for me, French and German seem elegant, but Dutch seems hilarious and anti-posh. English is between.

Ducth people write veyr short sentences, it seems like robots are writing, and English people write short and medium ones. Only French and German have full length sentences, so it feels more elegant.

The example sentence didn't seem so difficult, but I agree that longer sentences are much harder to decipher, in your own langauge and in a foreign one.

generally, I prefer the shorter (or medium) sentences, spoken and written, then I don't get muddled up so much, but they aren't elegant. If you want to write elegantly, the full lenght sentences create much better this feeling. If you prefer that everyone can understand then you would use short sentences without dependent clauses etc because in my epxereince, a dependent clause can really muddle up the message, but of course, it wouldn't be elegant or beautiful lanaguge.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby emk » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:13 pm

issemiyaki wrote:The was an example from a recent article: "Le bois Lejuc, une forêt de 220 hectares sous laquelle doit être creusé, à 500 mètres sous terre, ce cimetière atomique, est devenu le « bois à défendre », en écho à la zone à défendre de Notre-Dame-des-Landes (Loire-Atlantique)."

That's such a typical Le Monde sentence. I can read them without any real problem (except for occasionally rolling my eyes).

My recommendations are:

  1. Read more, and spend plenty of time reading things which aren't quite so challenging. This will allow you to spend less time manually deciphering things, and you'll be able to just "understand" text automatically without thinking about it. In other words, if you can effortlessly read "sous laquelle doit être creusé" at a glance, then you can devote more of your brainpower to keeping track of the obnoxious subclauses. Way too many intermediate learners focus on learning how to "decipher" things, but never get enough input to "burn in" the pathways in their brain.
  2. In the meantime, don't stress out about these sentences. Once you get enough comprehensible input elsewhere, they'll get easier.

Arnaud wrote:Le Monde is not difficult to read and is extremely well edited.

I'm not so sure about "well-edited", at least for the online edition. I've seen errors like "serait gré de" instead of "saurait gré de" (which the Académie explains here). I know that's a common error among native speakers, but a good editor should really catch it. sctroyenne used to be pretty good at finding more errors like that. I assume the print edition is better.

Arnaud wrote:When you can read Le Monde, Le Monde Diplo and Le Canard without problems, you can estimate your level as very good.

Le Canard is an excellent challenge for B2 and up, but I would only recommend attempting it if you're simultaneously reading lots of French news. It's too hard to follow all the political references if you don't even know the names of the politicians.

But if you're reasonably up-to-date on French news, it's a great exercise. There's tons of word play and lots of obscure vocabulary. I know that sctroyenne used to read it regularly for just this reason, and look up lots of stuff. You can get a 6-month paper subscription in the US for less than $50 the last time I checked.

I would not recommend bothering with Le Canard if you still have any problem following Le Monde, unless you're an obsessive news junkie and just want it for the cartoons. :-)
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby arthaey » Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:12 pm

I'm some strange intermediate-because-Spanish level of written French, and I followed that sentence pretty well. It reminds me of academic English — which is a distinct dialect from conversational language.

I agree with the others in this thread who have recommended more input of this sort, if your goal is to understand this sort of writing better.

Or it could be that you don't care for this style of writing in any language. In which case, do what you like! For comparison, I long ago gave up feeling bad for not wanting to read "the classics" in my foreign languages, since I don't care for them much in English either. :)
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby issemiyaki » Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:39 pm

EMK,

Thanks for chiming in. I wholly agree with you in that I need more "comprehensible" input.

I just spoke with my tutor and he recommended that I keep reading Le Monde, but also branch out and read:

- Le Journal de Dimanche;
- Le Parisien;
- Le Point
- Courrier International (even though a translation, the sentence structure is ideal.)

But EMK, I think what happened with the Le Monde sentence I highlighted here was that I was just so destabilized by that sentence that I couldn't think clearly.

So, tutor recommended reading as much as possible, but only looking up words if they get in the way of me understanding the MAIN IDEA. (Similar to what you've said in the past.)

Now the question is which paper should I buy a subscription.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby Cavesa » Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:06 pm

I agree that it is rather question of your level than Le Monde. My recommendation: read more but not just newspapers. Read books. Get used to complex stories and style. Then, any newspaper will be easy.

I agree it is sad to watch the language evolve towards shorther and shorter sentences and fool-proof direct style (and it is definitely not just English). I wouldn't necessarily look for elitism there. It's rather a problem Tolkien described well in a different context. He wrote a great essay about literature for children, as he had been criticised for too difficult style and vocabulary. And he answered that children needed the "too hard" texts in order to improve. So true. It is one of the problems of today's YA literature, it is getting too detached from the adult one, in my opinion, the cut between the two is being accented too much. And we are seeing the same in the world of adults these days too, not just kids. We, as a society, are getting too used to dumbed down texts, to shorter forms, to poorer vocabulary. So, I don't think Le Monde is intentionally trying to be elitist (and considering it's political orientation rather to the left, it wouldn't make sense), it is just doing a good job at not giving up on proper writing style.

To tie these two parts together (as there is a connection): I think the universal recommendation shared on the internet and coming from teachers and such sources "just read newspapers and listen to the radio to practice" is wrong. I have already written elsewhere, why I believe the radio to be the hardest listening practice tool, which shouldn't be recommended to intermediates. The written nespapers are not that extreme, true, but I think the overall expectation, newspaper=easy reading for an intermediate, is wrong. Of course some newspapers are easy enough for an A1 learner to understand everything. But that tells us more about the newspaper and the level of journalism, than about language learning.

Newspapers can be very useful to intermediate learners, but I don't think we should automatically feel entitled to understand everything at B1. I am not pointing at the OP here, not at all. And I have felt a bit of a disappointment in this area too once or twice ("How dare you write too difficult newspapers, I've finished the whole coursebook! Entertain me" :-D ).

Many books are easier than many newspapers. There is no general rule. Just read more in general and it will improve.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby issemiyaki » Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:35 pm

Thanks, Cavesa.

I think you're on to something.

The reason I was so frustrated is because I tested into a C1-level class, IN PARIS. And to come across that article in Le Monde and not be able to understand what was going on made me feel like I was going backwards, and not forwards.

But as my tutor pointed out, I'm missing the big picture. I was NOT reading for meaning. (Big mistake!)

The big takeaway is that if I read more for meaning, I will get a better picture of the words I really need to learn, instead of being lead astray by every little word that is not all that important at the moment.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby Cavesa » Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:57 pm

issemiyaki wrote:Thanks, Cavesa.

I think you're on to something.

The reason I was so frustrated is because I tested into a C1-level class, IN PARIS. And to come across that article in Le Monde and not be able to understand what was going on made me feel like I was going backwards, and not forwards.

But as my tutor pointed out, I'm missing the big picture. I was NOT reading for meaning. (Big mistake!)

The big takeaway is that if I read more for meaning, I will get a better picture of the words I really need to learn, instead of being lead astray by every little word that is not all that important at the moment.


I understand. As usual, I think tons of extensive reading can take care of the problem. Especially books. Lots of books. Than suddenly, you'll open Le Monde and find out you understand it just fine.

There is no difference in testing into a C1-level class in Paris and somewhere else :-D The scale is officially universal. The differences in sorting-to-classes testing can be noted between various schools, but Paris has nothing to do with it.

Of course you will encounter surprisingly difficult stuff sometimes. It happens, and it is ok. It is a healthy sign of not being stuck in a too comfortable bubble. If it is any comfort, I have a DALF C2, and I normally see very little difference between reading in my native language and French. Yet, I sometimes encounter difficult stuff out of the blue too. It is not often, true. But my first Dantec was such a moment (actually a series of such moments). An awesome sci-fi with lots of philosophy and such stuff, mixing reality and invented history, the hero does and doesn't exist... yeah, I was at times feeling like a B2 again :-D
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby emk » Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:22 am

issemiyaki wrote:I just spoke with my tutor and he recommended that I keep reading Le Monde, but also branch out and read:

- Le Journal de Dimanche;
- Le Parisien;
- Le Point
- Courrier International (even though a translation, the sentence structure is ideal.)

Also strongly consider just picking up some fun, light reading—anything from action thrillers to romance novels to bandes dessinées. Whatever you're most likely to actually read. If you can do this on a Kindle with a pop-up dictionary, that's even better. Before the Super Challenge, I had much the same problems that you did with Le Monde. Then I read roughly 2.5 million to 3.5 million words, most of it fiction. (Or about 30 to 40 novels.) When I came back to Le Monde afterwards, it was no big deal.

There's some research backing up the idea that fiction reading helps vocabulary just as much other kinds of reading. For example, see this blog by a research group or this article with case studies by Krashen. Basically, I suspect that the most valuable form of reading is whatever you'll enthusiastically consume in large quantities. :-)

issemiyaki wrote:But EMK, I think what happened with the Le Monde sentence I highlighted here was that I was just so destabilized by that sentence that I couldn't think clearly.

Again, you were worrying about your deciphering skills here. :-) OK, sure, it's good to work on your deciphering skills now and then (that's what intensively reading a page or two with a dictionary occasionally is for). But for me, the real payoff came from converting "decipherable" input into "automatic" input. If you take the stuff you can already decipher, and get enough input that you can read it fluently and effortlessly, then a lot of these weirder sentences will become much easier.

Also, that sentence is a bit awkward, IMO. It has two levels of center embedding, which is actually fairly high:

The linguist Fred Karlsson provided empirical evidence in 2007 that the maximal degree of multiple center-embedding of clauses is exactly 3 in written language. He provided thirteen genuine examples of this type from various Indo-European languages (Danish, English, German, Latin, Swedish). No real examples of degree 4 have been recorded.

If I'm going to read complicated sentences in French, I'd honestly prefer Tocqueville, who wrote in a beautiful 19th century style. Here's a passage where he speaks of the French Revolution. I've marked two sentences in bold:

Il faut une science politique nouvelle à un monde tout nouveau.

Mais c'est à quoi nous ne songeons guère: placés au milieu d'un fleuve rapide, nous fixons obstinément les yeux vers quelques débris qu'on aperçoit encore sur le rivage, tandis que le courant nous entraîne et nous pousse à reculons vers des abîmes.

Il n'y a pas de peuples de l'Europe chez lesquels la grande révolution sociale que je viens de décrire ait fait de plus rapides progrès que parmi nous; mais elle y a toujours marché au hasard.

Jamais les chefs de l'État n'ont pensé à rien préparer d'avance pour elle; elle s'est faite malgré eux ou à leur insu. Les classes les plus puissantes, les plus intelligentes et les plus morales de la nation n'ont point cherché à s'emparer d'elle, afin de la diriger. La démocratie a donc été abandonnée à ses instincts sauvages; elle a grandi comme ces enfants, privés des soins paternels, qui s'élèvent d'eux-mêmes dans les rues de nos villes, et qui ne connaissent de la société que ses vices et ses misères. On semblait encore ignorer son existence, quand elle s'est emparée à l'improviste du pouvoir. Chacun alors s'est soumis avec servilité à ses moindres désirs; on l'a adorée comme l'image de la force; quand ensuite elle se fut affaiblie par ses propres excès, les législateurs conçurent le projet imprudent de la détruire au lieu de chercher à l'instruire et à la corriger, et sans vouloir lui apprendre à gouverner, ils ne songèrent qu'à la repousser du gouvernement.

Il en est résulté que la révolution démocratique s'est opérée dans le matériel de la société, sans qu'il se fît, dans les lois, les idées, les habitudes et les mœurs, le changement qui eût été nécessaire pour rendre cette révolution utile. Ainsi nous avons la démocratie, moins ce qui doit atténuer ses vices et faire ressortir ses avantages naturels; et voyant déjà les maux qu'elle entraîne, nous ignorons encore les biens qu'elle peut donner.

The first sentence in bold is about as complex as your example from Le Monde. The center embedding is slightly less complex, but there's a nice subjunctive negative construction that you'd only see in the registre soutenu in modern French. The second bold-faced sentence is long but elegant: the clauses are not embedded here, but instead chained together, proceeding rhythmically from one to the next.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby tommus » Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:50 am

I am about B2 in reading French and I generally understood your sentence. Had I had the background that was offered about the issue, and could read that sentence in context, it would have been quite clear. But I admit, I don't often read Le Monde.

I don't think it could be that difficult because Google Translate got the gist of it:

"The Bois Lejuc, a 220-hectare forest under which this atomic cemetery is to be dug, 500 meters underground, has become the "wood to be defended ", echoing the area to be defended in Notre-Dame-des-Landes (Loire Atlantique)."
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby issemiyaki » Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:22 am

EMK,

I've always said my ability to read well in Spanish was thanks to the hours and hours I spent reading novels. They gave me a workout I did not get with non-fiction books, per say.

Currently, I'm hyper focused on news because I'll be taking a class where we'll have to read the press and explain, in detail, what's going on. So, I'm not sure novels would be the best use of my time right now, Then again, I could be wrong.

Also, searching for French books has always been weird for me. It's easy for me to walk into an American bookstore and be intrigued by some biography on Hillary Clinton or some tell-all book by a White House staffer. In a French bookstore, however, I'm like a fish out of water. I've only recently starting to develop a clearer idea of the political players on the French scene.

When you say Bill Clinton is publishing a memoir, provided you haven't been living under a rock, most people well be able to bring an enormous amount of cultural background knowledge to the reading experience, making it meaningful and interesting. But if you ask me to read about about Manuel Valls, that requires a level of cultural knowledge I don't have, which maybe is why I should read the book.

So, I'm open to biographies or 1st-person political memoirs in French. I think that could be rather interesting.

I also have some novels by Houellebecq, Jean-Michel Guenassia (Le Club des Incorrigibles Optimistes), and La Vie Devant Soi by Romain Gary). (I tend to love literary fiction. The prose is generally more interesting. I find the prose in detective novels rather wooden.)
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