Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Starting a new series looking at foreign newspapers, Adeline picks out 3 French papers which are essential reading for A-Level French students.
Reading foreign newspapers is an excellent way to stay in touch with current affairs in other countries while brushing up your language skills. Newspapers also lend themselves quite well to summer reading: with a variety of topics covered and article lengths, you can read as much or as little as you like, and focus on the areas that are of interest to you.
If you are lucky enough to be travelling, I would recommend that you try and pick up a copy of the local newspapers, whatever your level in the language. Do the papers look similar to British ones? Can you recognise phrases you know in the articles themselves? Newspapers can bring a lot of food for thought!
In this series, we are going to focus on the main languages that you might study at A Level, and highlight a few newspapers that are worth checking out. You should be able to get hold of a paper copy if you have access to a good library or international newsagents, but these newspapers also have websites where you can usually access most of their content.
These are authentic sources aimed at native speakers, as opposed to resources tailored for learners, so they are suited to students at A Level or higher. If you’d like more ideas to get exposure to a foreign language if you’re a beginner or intermediate learner, you might want to refer back to my suggestions in this article.
I’ll focus on French newspapers today, but will continue the series to include other languages.
Le Monde is the reference newspaper in France. I would recommend that you start first by looking at articles about things you already know — why no look at the French take on Brexit for instance? Having existing knowledge of the situation means you are likely to make educated guesses when confronted with new vocabulary, and you’ll find reading in the foreign language much less daunting.
Le Monde is also interesting because in addition to the usual headlines, it offers a few columns or series that focus on specific aspects. For instance, their series “Les décodeurs” analyses current affairs. The analytical nature of the articles doesn’t mean they can’t be fun: in a recent article, Tour de France 2019 : étape par étape, quel est le meilleur moment pour faire la sieste ?, you can find a breakdown of the Tour de France stages, with recommendations on when to take naps so that you won’t miss out on any action!
Initially a Paris-based newspaper, Le Parisien now covers nationwide issues. The articles tend to be shorter and are probably slightly easier to understand than Le Monde’s, with many of them being accompanied with short videos or infographics. For instance, I really like their “antisèche” on the 14th of July (“antisèche” is French for crib sheet), which uses both pictures and text to explain what the military march looks like on France’s Bastille Day.
In the same way as for Le Monde, I would recommend starting by looking up issues you’re interested in and know something about, but I would also suggest exploring the “Faits Divers” section. These are minor news stories — “A Batmobile look-alike destroyed in an accident” for instance. They can sometimes be quite bleak but there are some innocuous entertaining ones, which can be excellent material to work on your understanding of the language. They cover an event from start to finish so you usually wouldn’t need any previous knowledge, and the event is often both illustrated and explained through different perspectives.
This suggestion is definitely for more advanced learners, and I wouldn’t recommend trying to read it from start to finish, as it requires a very deep understanding of French current affairs, language and history. The reason I’ve included it is that this paper is the eldest satirical paper in France, and it’s an institution in the French media landscape. So it’s definitely worth knowing it’s around, and I would recommend taking a look at the “Une” (the cover page) on their website, to try and test your pun skills in French. For instance, let’s look at this heading for a couple of weeks ago when the heatwave was at its worst in France — “Canicule: Privilégiez les transpire en commun!”. You can probably recognise the phrase “transports en commun”, which you used at GCSE. But the writers have replaced “transports” with “transpire”, which is sweat in French, to make fun of how sweaty public transports get! If you love puns and like a challenge, keep checking their headlines.
I hope this has motivated you to try and follow some French papers — bonne lecture!
Blog Post Crafted by Adeline
Adeline runs our Admin Team. With a PhD in English, she can call herself a doctor but can’t write prescriptions!
Adeline manages the staff on our Admin Team, liaising with tutors, clients and applicants. She is responsible for processing the ID, Qualifications, DBS Check and References for all our newly joining tutors, as well as taking tuition enquiries, matching tutors to clients, and supporting tutors and clients throughout the process of tuition.