You Know More Than You Think! A Four-Step Method to Boost French Reading Comprehension

word jumble


Amazing, huh?

In the same way that you can understand what you’re reading simply by looking at the first and last letter of every word, you can understand a text in another language simply by recognizing some of the words on the page.

When learning French, reading comprehension can often be quite overwhelming.  It’s normal not to understand all the words we read on a page, but this can sometimes cause us to get “blocked” by the words we don’t know. We assume that because we don’t understand these particular words, we can’t understand the overall page or chapter we’ve just read.

Here’s a four-step method for boosting your confidence and maybe relieving some anxiety when reading French texts, whether they be short stories, non-fiction texts, or even short novels.

Step 1: Take it one page at a time.

First, highlight everything you know on the page. This includes:

  • All words you know in French (verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, etc.)
  • Characters’ names, names of places (Julien, l’Algérie, Toronto)
  • Words that are the same in English (restaurant, hotel, absent, promenade, public)
  • Words that are very similar in English (journaliste, réputation, académie, investissement)

Step 2: Test your guessing skills.

Skim through all these words on the page – think of them as clues – to try to get a better idea of what is happening, or what is being described.

For example, let’s say you were reading a detective story and had highlighted the nine following words on a page:

bombe- hotel- politicien – dangereux – crime – explosion – Georges Mathieu, le garde – accident

Before even reading the page, you would already know that:

  • a crime had occurred at a hotel
  • a bomb might have exploded
  • the bomb might have been intended for a politician
  • a guard named Mathieu might have been injured or killed by accident

Step 3: Go back to the beginning.

Read the page line by line, guessing at the meaning of sentences that include the words you know, and ignoring the sentences that don’t include words you know. By now, you probably would have a general understanding of what is happening, or what is being described.

Step 4: Use your resources.

At this point, you can choose to look up some of the verbs you don’t know. This will help you:

  • get a better understanding of the context
  • make sure your understanding is correct
  • improve your vocabulary (by making a note of these words and their English translations)

Learning a new language (any language!) involves a lot of guessing, and trial and error. These steps can be of help when tackling difficult texts, or texts you might think are way beyond your level. Just remember, you know more than you think you know!

french words

For other tips, suggestions, and support in developing your child’s French skills, please contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225 or visit


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s