Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Ongoing language-learning challenges, and team challenge logs (but not individual logs)
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby rdearman » Sun Apr 21, 2024 1:14 pm

ThebigAmateur wrote:Guys, is there a list of French beginner-friendly books on the forum? I have not read anything in French (except for Le Petit Nicolas) and would like to start with contemporary novels.
There are tons of French novels that I would love to read, but I want to begin with the easiest material. I can't stand not knowing too many words in a book.

There was a thread about this awhile ago, but no official resources.

https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... hp?t=12917

You could also ask in the French Study Group. https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =26&t=1575
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby daegga » Sun Apr 21, 2024 1:55 pm

I used this list for the last Super challenge: https://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-listin ... -in-French
It seems mostly accurate, except that the short stories (Lullaby, Le Bal) are too hard ... I think they were classified by their length rather than their readability. Stay with proper novels.
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby emk » Sun Apr 21, 2024 2:09 pm

ThebigAmateur wrote:Guys, is there a list of French beginner-friendly books on the forum? I have not read anything in French (except for Le Petit Nicolas) and would like to start with contemporary novels.
There are tons of French novels that I would love to read, but I want to begin with the easiest material. I can't stand not knowing too many words in a book.

This is a great question!

I don't really have a good list of true beginner books, because my first French book was an interesting non-fiction book. I just sort of plowed my way through, relying on lots of guesswork. Sadly, I can't find my copy right now.

You may be able to find some links to beginner books and graded readers in the monster French resource thread. Lots of good stuff there.

Many schools start with L'Étranger, mostly because it's one of the few French books written using the passé composé (the normal spoken past tense). Some people love this book, others hate it. It's easy to find, and worth glancing at. For most other books, you're going to see either the passé simple (which is not "archaic", no matter what some teachers claim—it's the standard written "narrative" past tense of French, used for storytelling), or the present tense.

Le Petit Prince is famous, but actually it can be fairly hard for a beginner. Maybe save it until a bit later.

But the real idea I want to pitch to you is to strongly consider bandes dessinées, and France's culture of graphic novels. France produces a staggering number of really good BDs on just about every theme imaginable. You can find histories, and spy thrillers, and romances, and science fiction, and detailed stories about living in cultures around the world, and biographies of French prisoners of war, and really just about anything else you can imagine. Many popular series like Astérix have been read by basically everyone in France, but the variety is endless.

These BDs often run about 100-150 words per page and the standard format is 48 pages. The language tends to lean more towards spoken dialog, which many students of French need more of. The illustrations make it much easier to guess the meaning of words. And many popular BD series contain dozens of volumes. So if you're looking for "kids books for adults", this is a fantastic place to start looking.

Buying BDs on paper is expensive, but Izneo can provide them in digital format. They even have a subscription version, which is very useful if you want to read more than one BD a month. And unlike many kinds of French digital media, I believe most BDs on Izneo are available in the US.

For other recommendations, I'm super fond of SensCritique. This is sort of like the French version of GoodReads, but for everything. Users can make lists and write reviews, and it keeps track of the currently most popular titles in each category. I have several SensCritiques lists of easyish and interesting French material for people doing a Super Challenge.

The French term for foreigners learning French is Français langue étrangère (FLE). So, for example, you can also search SensCritique for "FLE" and get back several lists of media for people learning French. And once you find a promising list, you can find related lists (sort of like Spotify). Poke around a bit, read some reviews, and find something you like. And if you can't read the site UI or the reviews yet, you can always treat it as learning exercise.

Anyway, I hope that's enough to give you some starting ideas. If you'd like more specific recommendations, please let us know what kind of things you can read already, and what kinds of genres you enjoy the most!
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby jeffers » Sun Apr 21, 2024 2:17 pm

ThebigAmateur wrote:Guys, is there a list of French beginner-friendly books on the forum? I have not read anything in French (except for Le Petit Nicolas) and would like to start with contemporary novels.
There are tons of French novels that I would love to read, but I want to begin with the easiest material. I can't stand not knowing too many words in a book.


Le petit Nicolas is a great book series, and the audiobooks are mostly really good as well. However, they are fairly advanced for a new learner. The problem is, most children's books are still written for native speakers, so I found as a beginner I would be looking up a few words per page even on books aimed at 4-5 year olds. It is better to read books aimed at foreigners learning French, normally labelled as "FLE". It's best if you can get the type of book that comes with audio, and you can use the audiobooks for the film portion of the challenge. These can be a really mixed bag because they are still often pretty stupid stories, or watered down versions of classics, so boring either way. Here are a few examples that I found to be decent reads:
  • Enquête capitale, by Marine Courtis, an A1 levelled book about someone following a trail of clues around Paris. I actually found the story quite engaging, and I would like to follow the trail of places on my next visit to Paris.
  • Mystère sur le Vieux-Port, by Pascale Paoli, another A1 book about a crime set in Marseille. Not as engaging as Enquête capitale, but better than the average A1 reader.
  • Pas d'oscar pour l'assassin, by Vincent Remède, a straightforward detective story written for A2 level students. The same author has two more stories in the series by the same publisher.

The last book mentioned is from Mondes en VF https://www.mondesenvf.fr/. Mondes en VF is a seriew with original stories by established authors. They are aiming at books that are readable by learners but still have literary value. You can get them in print or on Kindle, which has the added advantage of the possibility of using the popup dictionary. And best of all, when you buy a book you can download the audiobook for free (you just have to answer a question something like, "What is the last word in chapter 7?") I have only read a few books by this publisher (all 3 books by Vincent Remède), but I enjoyed all of those that I read.

A quick comment about method. When I worked through these books I always started with the audio, and listened through the audio several times, understanding a bit more with each pass. This allowed me to get good grasp of the main outline of the story before reading it, with the result that I didn't need to look up as much when I finally actually read the text. More importantly, it meant that while reading I was pronouncing things in my head correctly.

I will cross post this to the French Study group https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=1575, and hopefully people can add other reading suggestions for beginners there.
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby jeffers » Wed Apr 24, 2024 1:24 pm

Just one more week until the Super Challenge starts!

Also, there's a 6 Week Challenge starting the same day. I might just kick this off big time by doing that as well!
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby DurhamZLearner » Thu Apr 25, 2024 6:19 pm

Cannot edit signature for progress bar

I am trying to create a progress bar for the challenge. After spending a lot of time searching the forum I found instructions saying that I need to go to my user control panel, and under the profile tab, select the edit signature tab. However, I do not have the option to edit signature. How do I get that? Thanks!
Last edited by DurhamZLearner on Thu Apr 25, 2024 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Thu Apr 25, 2024 6:30 pm

I suppose that's an option which appears after a member has been active enough. (I don't know the details.)
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby rdearman » Thu Apr 25, 2024 7:17 pm

DurhamZLearner wrote:Cannot edit signature for progress bar

I am trying to create a progress bar for the challenge. After spending a lot of time searching the forum I found instructions saying that I need to go to my user control panel, and under the profile tab, select the edit signature tab. However, I do not have the option to edit signature. How do I get that? Thanks!

This is a participating thing. The more you participate in the forum and discussions the more you are permitted to do. :D

EDIT: BTW, just editing the same post over and over doesn't count towards your participation score.
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby Carl » Sat Apr 27, 2024 3:57 pm

I'm curious about how veterans of past Super Challenges have read the books, and what they recommend. There's an article on the wiki that reminds me of how many options there are for reading a target language book: reading silently vs. aloud; monolingual vs. bilingual texts; reading with the eyes and ears at the same time; etc.
https://learnanylanguage.fandom.com/wiki/Strategies_for_Reading_Books

And then there's the deep dive method described in a book Alexander Arguelles says he rereads regularly, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading:
https://search.worldcat.org/title/902633756

Since the Super Challenge measures quantity, I expect the easiest way to fulfill the challenge in a TL one is at less than C1 with is with parallel texts, reading silently and extensively. But I'm guessing this forum has many people who have made the Super Challenge more Challenging for themselves, and I'm curious how that went.

I'm also curious about what technology people are using for the reading. I've used Learning with Texts, ReadLang, and a little LingQ in the past. I've heard enough good things about Lute that I've installed it and am playing with it. For those books I want to read faster, I plan to use bilingual texts. These are for German and Spanish, where I'm at B1 or B2. I don't need much help reading Swedish, Norwegian, or Danish, so I'll probably just use Marvin on the iPhone or that shelf of classic Swedish physical books I haven't finished. What are others doing?
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Re: Super Challenge: questions and discussion

Postby rdearman » Sat Apr 27, 2024 4:09 pm

Well, I'm not young. :D

You might know about these, but we used to have these things made out of dead trees. They would print words on these sheets of dead wood and we would read them. I've done 4-5 Super Challenges in French and Italian. I would beg, borrow, but not steal as many of these dead tree devices as I could get, and I would read them. I only looked up words when I couldn't figure them out in context, and if they showed up a couple of times I would write the translation in the margin (this is a small space on the dead tree sheets where you could write).

I used to use the 25-1 rule, which means every 25th page I would look up every single word I didn't know, and sometimes I added it to anki, sometimes not. As I got better at the language and knew more words, I changed the rule to 50-1.

I never used any electronic books if I could avoid it, but did sometimes use a kindle. I never used bilingual books either, since only 50% of the book counts toward the challenge!
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