Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

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

Postby issemiyaki » Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:58 am

Arnaud,

Thank you for your help. Clearly there was a lot to "unpack" in that sentence.

When you split the sentence, you clearly proved how many moving parts there were. In fact, both of the sentences contained a lot of information. In fact, when I got halfway through the original, I couldn't tell "who" was talking about "what."

Your version is, indeed, is 10x clearer for me. I had absolutely no problem.

Sure wish I could write to someone at Le Monde and ask them why that is their preferred style of writing? Maybe it says something about French culture. Arnaud, if you can add to that point, go right ahead.

The reason I have so many problems with this type of writing is that, again, when you get halfway through the sentence you don't know what's going on.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby aokoye » Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:02 am

DaveBee wrote:
aokoye wrote:
issemiyaki wrote:Arnaud - you can't possibly tell me that that sentence that posted in my earlier post is "well-edited." You mean to tell me you can't see, even a little, how that sentence could be even SLIGHTLY confusing?

So French isn't really one of my languages so I didn't read the sentence you posted. That said is the sentence confusing because it's complex or because it's just "bad" grammar? If it's just complex then that's not necessarily a matter of bad grammar rather it's an issue of it being written at a level higher than you can read. Again, that doesn't make it poorly edited as for better or worse different publications are at different reading levels.
Good writing is clear writing. If the meaning of a sentence is not clear, then it can be improved.

Clear to who? Clear to a 10 year old? Clear to a 14 year old? Clear to a native speaker? Clear to someone who lives in the region? It's not as simple as "good writing is clear writing."
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby blaurebell » Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:13 am

issemiyaki wrote:Sure wish I could write to someone at Le Monde and ask them why that is their preferred style of writing? Maybe it says something about French culture.


In fact, it says something about English culture that short sentences are preferred now. Whenever I proof-read English uni papers for German friends, I'd just split all their sentences in half, because most English speakers aren't able to parse long sentences these days. This used to be different. Currently I'm reading a Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and some sentences easily go on for half a page. This was written during a time when any reasonably educated English speaker knew Latin, Greek, French and German though, and especially German and French tend to be much more extreme with long sentences. Some of the most beautifully written books in German have sentences that can go on for a whole page or even more! Both in French and in German simple short sentences are a sign of what is considered bad writing intended for lowbrow readership.

The extreme example is Continental Philosophy - mostly French and German - where the style is so obfuscated that it's nearly impossible to figure out unless you're used to it. It's a form of elitism that excludes anyone who isn't willing to put in an awful lot of time to get used to the complicated and longwinded style of writing. In my view, it goes too far, since that kind of philosophy is difficult enough even without making it impossible to read as well. However, it's just how the academic game works in those countries, nothing to be done about it. I like to read German and French philosophers in English translation first, precisely because no translator would inflict a similar style on English readers. For works of literature I definitely always prefer the original though, since in English translation they often seem "dumbed down" to me.

Your question to Le Monde would be answered quite simply with: Elitism! Le Monde isn't supposed to be understood by everyone. And those who can understand it, can then feel better about themselves, because they can do something that the average uneducated person can't do. You're struggling so much here because this is actually a barrier that many native language speakers aren't really meant to overcome either.

To sum it up: If you ever want to seem like an "educated person" to a French speaker, being able to parse long sentences is simply the minimum requirement. Keep going and practice a lot. You'll get used to it eventually.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby issemiyaki » Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:57 pm

Blaurebell,

Thanks for such a thoughtful response. I do believe I've heard these views before. I was hoping there was some reason of aesthetic beauty behind those long-winded sentences. And if Le Monde is continuing to use this windy and confusing style of writing so that only the "elite" can read it, well, that just seems downright childish, especially in 2017.

I appreciate your example of Charles Dickens. I have read some of his works, and, yes, he does use long-winded sentences. But, if I'm not mistaken, many of his books appeared initially as installments in newspapers, which were consumed by the masses, especially given that he spoke about both high-class and low-class people. Anyway, the point is: he was so famous, and raking in so much money for the papers, I fear no one dared tell him that he might want to cut down the length of some of his sentences.

And since writing is a sensitive craft, much like singing, the criticism isn't always so well received. To tell a writer that his sentences don't make sense is like telling a opera singer she's singing out of tune. It's one of the ultimate insults. And many journalists who think they are Dickens or Thomas Mann, are simply not. And the hacks claiming their long-winded sentences are a form of "elitism," well, they give elitism a bad name.

We also know that the "elite" tend to be lazy and aloof. Many of them probably just don't want to admit it's too much work to make themselves CLEARLY understood. That's the hilarious paradox here! Punctuation is not easy. Learning how to properly use commas, semi-colons, colons, etc., is something many people struggle with. And then, who's to say one style of punctuation is better than another's. I digress.

I can excuse long sentences in literature because it is an artistic expression, and we never want to interrupt that conduit because that expression could lead to wonderful sorts of awakenings for us as humans. But when it comes to newspapers, which have the sole purpose of informing the public, I find the long sentences tough to swallow in 2017.

But it is good to hear that with practice I'll overcome this barrier.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby smallwhite » Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:18 pm

issemiyaki wrote:"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)."

I call them run-on sentences.

But there's only one verb.

And English sentences look just like that, too, except for word order, and in English there wouldn't even be so many commas there to help you delineate phrases.

English word order and punctuation (how English word order and punctuation looks like to me anyway):
"Le bois Lejuc, une forêt de 220 hectares sous laquelle doit être creusé ce cimetière atomique à 500 mètres sous terre, est devenu le « bois à défendre » en écho à la zone à défendre de Notre-Dame-des-Landes (Loire-Atlantique)."

which makes you wonder whether a cimetière à 500m is a set thing.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby Tillumadoguenirurm » Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:20 pm

There is nothing elitist about Le Monde, or using long sentences for that matter. Le Monde has a huge audience and is perfectly readable, you only need more reading practice.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby issemiyaki » Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:26 pm

Tillumadoguenirurm,

Fingers crossed, I'll keep you posted.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby blaurebell » Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:41 pm

issemiyaki wrote:But when it comes to newspapers, which have the sole purpose of informing the public, I find the long sentences tough to swallow in 2017.


With practice you won't only break through the barrier, you'll even start to appreciate the beauty of that kind of language.

I'm afraid what you say about newspapers in 2017 is why I actually can't bear journalistic writing these days, it's merely "pragmatic" writing now and one might as well read technical manuals instead. I guess journalism has lost a lot due to the necessity of serving the news as fast as possible. Most of the time it's not only badly written, but also badly researched. No wonder that "journalist" has become somewhat of an insult in many countries, because they are often abused as mere "writing machines" to get some sort of agenda across, usually in line with some political goals attached to the owners of the newspapers in question. I have read a lot of writings in the Frankfurter Zeitung from the 1920s and that was still aesthetically impressive writing. Even reading the personal letters of intellectuals of that period regularly makes me feel like a well-trained monkey in comparison. At least some aesthetic standards prevail with these more highbrow papers - Le Monde, Frankfurter Zeitung - but even that has already gone downhill a lot.

As for elitism - it is probably more complicated than how I described it. There isn't much actual awareness of the phenomenon and people who write in that way probably would prefer to state aesthetic reasons instead of political ones. I'd venture to guess that the "elite" doesn't always do their obfuscation intentionally or with malice. It's just how they end up writing after having gone through the French / German education system. It's just the accepted standard for publications like these and the institutions (newspapers, universities, etc.) keep this style in place, not necessarily the writers themselves. The writers simply have to adjust to the standards put to them by the institutions. And the institutions embody the elitism that is part of the political status quo in these countries.

So, it's all at once good and bad - elitism vs aesthetic sensibilities vs making information available for everyone. Personally I'd prefer 1920s newspapers to 2017 smart phone journalism any day, even though it's a little more challenging to read in a foreign language.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby reineke » Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:54 pm

Didn't we cover this here?

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=5389

I dislike this idea that a newspaper is only supposed to inform me about daily events in short sentences.

As newspapers recede on the literary horizon, crônicas are a dying art form:

https://cronicasdobrasil.wordpress.com/about/
Last edited by reineke on Mon Feb 20, 2017 2:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reading Le Monde - HELP!!!!

Postby issemiyaki » Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:00 pm

Blaurebell,

Thanks again for such a thoughtful response. This is why this community is great. I came here with a frustration, and you really walked me through it. Your persuasive argument is, indeed, persuading me.

When you speak about journalistic writing being merely "pragmatic," you are clearly on to something.

I often read El País. But I'm a fluent reader of the Spanish press, so I can appreciate the nuances. But I do often find myself looking for more meaningful writing. For that, I tend to turn to El Pais The Magazine where they have long-form articles on any number of issues.

So, I can understand where some people have a hunger for more than "just the facts, ma'am." I hear where you're coming from.

I will take to Le Monde today with new eyes.
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