I was a French major in college, and my French teacher mother-in-law suggested that the best way to keep up with French was to read a French novel once a year. I’ve been abysmal with this. But I got one in last year, and now I have 3 new French novels that my parents-in-law brought me back from their latest trip and so I’m going to try to read one in the next month or two:
Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles by Katherine Pancol
This one is just about to be published in English and when I showed the ARC of the English version (from my own mom’s trip to BEA–I am very well-connected in the book-getting world!) to my mother-in-law, she got the French version for me. (In case it is not already evident, I have the best in-laws on the planet.) Since I am trying to not rely on the dictionary for every word I don’t understand, here’s my process so far:
- Read a section (or a few pages) in French, underline words that I don’t understand which I think are very important for the story.
- Read the English version of bits that I completely didn’t get in France (so far, it’s mostly been a paragraph here or there)–and I usually skim the English for the parts I did understand to see how well I understood.
- Look up the words I underlined when I have a little extra time to go through my French-English dictionary.
So far, I am very happy with how much I’ve been able to understand just in French–and I’ve also been reminded what a tricky business translation can be. While many sections are translated exactly (by which I don’t mean word for word–too many idioms for that, but idea for idea), there are some sections that are basically paraphrased. Now, I know this is an ARC, so that may not be the final translation, but it definitely increases my motivation to read in French: there are some details–maybe not essential to the plot, but part of the story being created–that are just left out of the English and I’m glad to have the chance to get them, even if I don’t get them all right.
I definitely read a lot slower in French than in English (and I’m not super fast in English), so this one will take awhile, but I think blogging about it will help keep me going.
Briefly, the plot so far: Josephine has just kicked out her unemployed husband, Antoine, who’s having an affair. Her older sister, Iris, calls to remind her about a family dinner and hears about it but promises not to tell their mother. (Iris seems to be something of a jerk: the cool, movie-making older sister vs. Josephine’s more academic, less spectacular interests). Josephine’s daughters come home from school for lunch. And that’s as far as I’ve gotten!