Studying French with Project Gutenberg

Blog entry
Authored by
6 September, 2008

My current approach to studying French is to make my way through some popular literature, picking up vocabulary words along the way.

I've found a number of Jules Verne works at Project Gutenberg, many available in both French and English. (I've seen several posts on one of the learning language forums reporting good results from reading a book in English and then in the original language. So far, I'm starting with the French, but I may change my mind.)

I decided to start with Around the World in 80 Days.

I downloaded the text, and I'm reading it bit by bit when I have some free time.

As I find new words I want to learn, I create flashcards using Anki, using a template that tests me in four different ways:

  • given the French word, come up with the English translation
  • given the French word, come up with the French definition
  • given the English translation, come up with the French
  • given the French definition, come up with the French word

I've got a nifty little paperback Larousse de Poche for the French definitions (looks like it cost me 45 cents at a used book sale somewhere).

In addition, I've been adding examples of the word in context, so I can practice those along with my knowledge of the term. To come up with those examples, I search Project Gutenberg for the word. It works wonderfully well. For example, to find phrases that use the word "convenir", I can search like this:

It seems to be going quite well - I'm learning new words and enjoying some French literature in the original. It's slow going, for now, but good progress.