jayd_en (jayd_en) wrote in linguaphiles,

French recs for novels/poetry/plays/movies/music etc.

Hi linguaphilies,

I just started studying French. However, studying from books and courses have never been the best method of study for me because I've always been the type to immerse myself in the culture of the language I'm studying and to hear it everyday. What movies, novels, plays, poetry, or music would you recommend? Genre doesn't really matter, I'm not picky, and I really like to read. Any tips on studying the grammar & vocabulary are much appreciated.

Thank you!
Tags: books, french, movies, music, recommendations
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded  



December 26 2013, 02:43:14 UTC 3 months ago

I really enjoyed being able to read La Planète des Singes in the original French, being a sci-fi fan and having read Planet of the Apes a number of times in English.


December 26 2013, 11:00:44 UTC 3 months ago

I've never read Planet of the Apes, and I think there's a movie called that too, but I've never seen. I looked it up and it seems really interesting. Thanks for the rec!


December 27 2013, 02:49:36 UTC 3 months ago

You're more than welcome! That's right, it's been adapted to film twice in English (the 1968 one is better), but both changed some important elements of the story, so even if you see the film(s) it still won't spoil the novel for you. :)

Oh, I forgot to mention Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, which also saw a cinematic release in the English-speaking world as simply Amélie. I like it a lot. It's quite funny and occasionally touching, so you might like to check it out as well.


December 26 2013, 06:16:55 UTC 3 months ago

I loved the Gérard Depardieu Comte de Monte Cristo. There's also L'Auberge Espagnole (though that one's not completely in French), L'Argent de poche, and Le Pacte des Loups.

For music, I like MC Solaar, especially Solaar Pleure and La Belle et le Bad Boy. My mother, a French teacher, likes to play Corneille for her students, although I'm not really a fan so I can't recommend particular songs of his. If you're a Disney fan, Disney songs in different languages are up on YouTube, including a few songs where they have both French French and Québécois versions. There's also Eurovision entries--not all of France's entries are in French, but I know their 2013 song was.

I read Notre-Dame de Paris in English, not French, but it was good, so you might try to see if you can find a copy in French.

There are also newspapers--there's Le Figaro and Le Monde.


December 29 2013, 19:27:51 UTC 3 months ago

The Count of Monte Cristo and The Humpback of Notredame have been on my to-read list! Reading them in French is going to add a whole other level to my satisfaction. :)

I can't find thosefilms on Netflix so I'll have to search for them but I found some interesting ones on Netflix I'll watch as well.

I'll listen to a few of all of their tracks and see what's more to my taste. I love music so I'll probably exposed to that more than anything else.

Thank you!


December 26 2013, 07:42:38 UTC 3 months ago

That's quite a question, but I'll try to answer.

(1) you know enough English, obviously, for it to be of help when studying French. English has borrowed so much over the centuries, that you ALREADY passively know SEVERAL THOUSAND of the common French words

(2) But you do not know that you know them. You'll need to find this out.
The worst possible way to learn French is by spending, say, 80% of your time on grammar, and the remaining 20% on 'reading books and watching movies '. There are deep reasons for that.

    (2a) First, the biggest part of leaning a language is _not_ its grammar, it's vocabulary.
    (2b) Second, this vocabulary must be absorbed with collocations and contexts, and NEVER as "word-translation" pairs.
    (2c) Third, words in a language and not equal. The first 3000 cover up to 80-85% of any general text, form most collocations and idioms and have most senses, and basically "glue together" the rest of the language.

    THEREFORE you have to get yourself acquainted with this core, after a cursory look at grammar, sufficient just to understand the word order, and what changes in that language to glue separate words together in a sentence (verbs, which have tenses, adjectives bcs there are 2 genders in French etc.)

(3) How can you acquire those frequent words IN ALL OR MOST of their senses?

    (3a) The worst, slowest method is the traditional book reading. You see, memorizing happens when some item gets recycled sufficiently often. But even the frequent words from the language core may come once per 10 or 20 pages in a general text, and then in some random sense (out of 4, 6, 8 or sometimes even 50 or 70 for the really common words like "get" or "go" in English).
    Therefore to get it from the books you'd have to read literally thousands and thousands of pages.

    (3b) This problem of natural texts can be overcome if one finds a special text in the target language, which on the one hand provides examples from real life, but on the other of _all_ senses, and for all frequent words in some systematic way.

    Such texts exist - they are French-French dictionaries written specifically for foreign learners of French.


December 26 2013, 07:46:33 UTC 3 months ago Edited:  December 26 2013, 09:09:34 UTC


    1. You read enough French grammar (in English) to understand their word order, and basic features of the language (gender, tense forms etc)

    2. you read just enough of a basic textbook to begin to understand how it all looks and sounds. Supposedly, after this stage you'll know a few hundred most common words in 1 or 2 most common senses

    3. You take a good French-French dictionary for foreign learners (such as "Dictionnaire du Française" by Josette Rey-Debove) and start reading its entries for most frequent words of French.
    This is your main course, the moment when the real learning happens

    While deciphering those definitions and reading example phrases, you
    (a) realize that many of them are known to you in English
    (b) you recycle the core (because all the definitions are written with the simplest words, as well as examples)
    (c) you learn _all_ senses of the target words
    (d) you see them used in many grammatical forms and structures
    (e) and with their natural collocations

    4. To help your memory, you make a TTS (text-to-speech) program read these entries to you using a high-quality French voice. You listen to this recording several times (when doing your laundry or dishes, when driving some place etc).
    This will allow you to recognize words, written or spoken, although not yet use them actively.

    5. After a month or two of this, you start reading books in French and see how the elements you've learned are used in real texts, where everything is unsystematic and mixed together.
    If you have used the TTS programs, you already know how it all sounds. But you can always read books with audio too (there are plenty of them on the Internet etc). I did.

    6. SO FAR your learning has not been active - one has to see the right uses and understand the meanings before trying to use this all new knowledge actively. That's the only way a human brain works. So the next, third stage is ACTIVATION of the material you've learned so far.

    You start talking to yourself, remembering and retelling the stories you've read, etc.
    At this stage you can also take some intermediate/advanced level textbook and do all their "active" exercises. (The textbooks at this stage are already "below" your level, you can read them easily and fluently, understand their recordings and videos etc. etc. etc., although producing language on that level may involve hesitation and require some checking).

    Again, you activate only now, only after you already know how to read and understand the core French spoken to you.

    This is finally the stage when you go back to the grammar books to aid you in expressing what you need to express in the activation exercises - i.e. you do not read them cover to cover, you use them as a reference to make sure the phrases you create are all right.

    At this stage you also begin to watch French TV (available on the Net from many sites that stream it) and movies and stuff.

    -- passive understanding first, activation later
    -- systematically acquaint yourself with the core vocabulary
    -- support this with TTS sound, and replay it 4-5 times to commit to memory
    -- this will enable you to read books, watch TV, etc.
    -- and at this stage activate your knowledge

P.S. And remember that at each stage in your progression you get a useful, functional (although partial) set of skills - i.e. do not think you "have not learned it yet" and that "you do not know" the language if you can "only" read or understand but not speak or write.
Nope, each skill has a lot of practical value in itself.


December 26 2013, 12:24:58 UTC 3 months ago

"Stupeur et Tremblements" (un roman d’Amélie Nothomb, publié en 1999)
Use the French original plus audiobook in French alongside an English translation.
Quite easy, well-known in the English-speaking world, and funny


December 29 2013, 19:28:27 UTC 3 months ago

This is a lot of advice and in depth. Thank you! I'll try to implement some of it :)


December 28 2013, 12:38:30 UTC 3 months ago

musical: Notre Dame de Paris

novels: Les âmes grises, Julien Parme, La vie devant soi, L'élégance du hérisson

films: La cinquième saison, Les émotifs anonymes, Le huitième jour


December 29 2013, 19:34:21 UTC 3 months ago

Ooohh. Interesting plots. I saw Les émotifs anonymes on Netflix and it's already in my list. :) All of these interest me a lot. :D Thank you!


January 1 2014, 21:47:11 UTC 3 months ago

Also, "Le prénom" is a recent film that I absolutely loved. You'll probably need subtitles if you're still learning, because they speak very quickly, but it's one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. I even went to see it twice. Whole-heartedly recommended.


January 1 2014, 22:00:43 UTC 3 months ago

I can't believe nobody's recced poetry yet, because honestly, French poetry is amazing. Two of my favorites, off the top of my head: "Demain, dès l'aube" by Victor Hugo and "De même que Rousseau jadis fondait en pleurs" by François Coppée. You can find both online.

The movie "Persepolis", which is also a comic book, I think? I've never read it, but the movie was interesting.

As for music, I find that French music takes a while to appreciate. La chanson française needs to be appreciated in much the same way as poetry - I hated it at first, but now that I've reached a C1/C2 level in the language, I love it. Even if you never appreciate it and are one of the people who think it's cheesy, these might be worth checking out:

Renaud - Mistral gagnant (and many others)

Jacques Brel - Les ports d'Amsterdam (check out the live version on YouTube, that's the one I fell in love with) and many other songs, George Brassens has a ton of funny/dirty songs as well

Gilbert Bécaud - Et maintenant

Gérard Lenorman - La ballade des gens heureux

Axelle Red - Sensualité

Michel Fugain - Une belle histoire

Salvatore Adamo - Inch'Allah ; Laisse mes mains sur tes hanches ; Vous permettez, Monsieur

Mouloudji - Comme un p'tit coquelicot

Patrick Bruel - Combien de murs

Pierre Lapointe - Nous n'irons pas ; Vous ne savez pas ce que c'est que d'être aimé


January 1 2014, 22:08:49 UTC 3 months ago

Another movie: "Le fils"

I'm just adding things to this thread as they come to me, let me know when you've had enough. Finding things I liked about French culture was a real problem for me when I was learning the language and had nobody to recommend anything to me, so now I'm paying it forward. You won't regret learning French; culturally, it's one of the most rewarding languages there is, in just about any medium. I'm grateful every day for all the years I spent working towards an advanced level.

I hate Amélie Nothomb as a writer (mostly because of sexist, homophobic and fatphobic stereotypes), but her books really are excellent at the level where you start reading authentic French novels for the first time. She writes in short, clear sentences, with little slang, and the story's usually interesting enough to keep you reading. I started with "L'hygiène de l'assassin," which is her first and - in my opinion - her best novel.


January 3 2014, 19:37:46 UTC 3 months ago

Oh don't stop. I'm going to go through all of the different recs slowly over the next couple of months. Add whatever comes to mind xD I'm always looking for stuff :)


January 1 2014, 22:22:06 UTC 3 months ago

"Au revoir, les enfants" (movie)

If you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the original, the French dub is excellent and easy to follow.


January 4 2014, 22:47:03 UTC 3 months ago

Another song: Francis Cabrel - Je l'aime à mourir.