French reading at intermediate level can be complicated. When we’re writing we usually use a wider variety of vocabulary and more complex sentences. You probably haven’t been exposed much while you were learning French unless you’ve studied at post-secondary level.
However, if you want to reach an advanced level and enjoy the richness of French literature (and even classic movies) you take the plunge and dive into pieces written in French.
I know I focus a lot on test preparation but we all need to take a break from studying sometimes. Reading is a great way to stay immersed in the language while enjoying a relaxing time. The following list focuses on shorter pieces of content to get you started and keep your motivation up as you notice your progress!
Keeping the reading sessions short will help your brain process the information. If you get tired, it’s best to take a break from reading as you won’t be able to absorb anything. Extend your reading sessions progressievly.
Magazines: a good introduction
Reading magazines has a double advantage. First, you learn vocabulary about topics you’re passionate about. On top of that, they usually feature longer articles telling stories (called “reportage“). In these articles, journalists like to showcase their writing skills using metaphores and rich vocabulary and syntax.
Therefore it’s a good introduction to litterary French.
Stories for children: start reading from the beginner level!
When you’re at a false beginner and lower intermediate level, these are great resources. Even when you’re intermediate but have never read literature in French.
Here are 3 of my favourites:
- The Fable Cottage: you can read and listen at the same time AND there’s an English translation! It’s the fastest way to boost comprehension on all levels. I’ve seen amazing progress with my clients who’ve used the website.
- Read + listen: Tchoupi stories read by moms on YouTube like this one. You can follow along while they turn the pages of the book.
- A website to download cute stories in French from all over the world: https://litterature-jeunesse-libre.fr/bbs/. Great to introduce some diversity in your reading ! They’re rated by level from 1 to 3. Level 1 stories are accessible to false beginners from early on.
Bandes dessinées (comics): if you enjoy visual support and short sentences
There are so many comics in French (called “bandes dessinées“), you’re bound to find a style you enjoy.
It’s a great way to start reading in French if you don’t like reading novels. Sentences are shorter and spoken-style and the pictures may help. Be careful though because a lot of them use humour which might make it harder to understand. There are more and more great bandes dessinées targeting teenagers that are rather easy to read and very modern. They will help you with “everyday French” (culture, argot and spoken French).
Riad Sattouf – Les carnets d’Esther
Nouvelles (short-stories): for the satisfaction to reach the end of the story in a relatively short time
In French, when we use the word “nouvelles”, we usually don’t speak about the news (l’actualité), rather about short stories. It’s a litterary genre in itself and although it’s not the most popular in France, you can find “recueil de nouvelles”.
- You can find a lot of amateur nouvelles on this website
- and some French teachers also publish their own to help French learners (Nathalie FLE).
- I believe the most famous French writer of “nouvelles” is Guy de Maupassant. They were written in the 19th century so you have to keep in mind that people lived a much simpler life at the time (no cars, no cell phones, very little international travel) but they’re very accessible once you get used to the passé simple conjugation. You can find a few stories here to see if the style appeals to you. We never use passé simple to speak so you just need to be able to recognize the verb to be able to read it. Most of them don’t look much different to infinitive or other tenses you already know so you’ll understand it quickly once you become exposed to it.
- Download a PDF of nouvelles in French created by Versailles University, a compilation of contemporary short stories. They all have in common that the ending is unexpected. Some suspense to get you reading until the end!
Ananda Devi is also a great francophone writer of nouvelles.
French reading for intermediate levels: contemporary novels
When you’re ready to move on to full books. I’ve compiled a list of suggestions of contemporary writers in this post.
If you’d like to talk about a piece you’ve read or work on improving your writing, let’s meet!