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Learn to Read French with Newspapers: A Comprehensive Guide to French Newspapers for Intermediate Learners

After you reach a B2 level of French you may find that you hit a bit of a bump, where progress might seem stagnant. One effective method is to learn to read French with newspapers.

Known as the Intermediate Language Learning Plateau, many people begin to feel as if they are exerting a lot of energy into language learning activities, but not really seeing much improvement in the language level.

Written language often has a wider vocabulary, and of a higher register than spoken language, and this is particularly the case with French. So a relatively simple way to improve your language knowledge and skills is by reading different texts.

Newspapers can be a good source of written French to improve your understanding of the language used in current affairs, politics, sport, travel or culture.

An advantage is that, if you consume news media in your native language, you will likely have an understanding of at least the international news items, which helps comprehension as you encounter new expressions.

Luckily, these days most French newspapers are available online, and many of them are free if you will happily accept cookies on the sites. Alternatively, you can pay for ad-free subscriptions for many of them.

Just starting to learn French? Not yet ready for newspapers?

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Level of French Required

Benefits of Reading a French Newspaper

There are many benefits to reading French Newspapers for the intermediate to advanced learner. They can be a particularly effective way of learning specific vocabulary and technical jargon in more niche topics. It will also help you to both learn to read French more easily, and improve your written French.

Here are a few other benefits of using newspapers to improve your reading of French.

  1. Learn contemporary vocabulary. Language can change quickly, and newspapers are more likely to reflect today’s usage. (Historically, in many cases words are first publically recorded in news media.)
  2. Grow and refine your repertoire in a specific subject. For example, if you are already comfortable speaking French but never had a conversation about current political affairs, you might struggle to find the right expressions.
  3. You can take notes, scribble and highlight words on the newspaper. It is easier to do it on a newspaper or printout than on a book, so don’t hold back – practice active reading! Particularly good for kinaesthetic learners.
  4. Seeing the written French is particularly useful for visual and text based learners.
  5. Raise your understanding of the French cultural perspective about different issues, give you an insight into the French psyche, and improve your comprehension of the semantics and pragmatics of the French language.
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French news media typically requires a high level of French. While some newspapers may have sections or articles that are more accessible to beginners, the majority of the content will likely be written in complex sentence structures and use advanced vocabulary.

To be able to read French newspapers you should have a good understanding of French grammar, including verb tenses and sentence structures, as well as a broad vocabulary and knowledge of idiomatic expressions. You should also be able to understand different registers of the language and the conventions of news writing.

Stephen Krashen’s theory of comprehensible input in language learning, also known as the Input Hypothesis, states that language acquisition occurs when a learner is exposed to input that is just slightly beyond their current level of comprehension. The theory suggests that when learners are exposed to input that is too difficult, they will not be able to understand and learn effectively. However, when the input is just challenging enough, it will push the learner to understand and acquire the language.

It’s worth noting that the language used in French newspapers is generally formal, precise and neutral. French media is renowned for its sophisticated language (unlike much of the English-world’s media, which is typically pitched at the English level of a 3rd year high school student). The use of colloquial expressions or contractions is limited and the style is usually impersonal. The exact amount of vocabulary needed to comprehend 80% of French newspaper articles can vary depending on the specific newspaper and the level of difficulty of the articles. However, a general estimate is that it would require a vocabulary of around 5,000-6,000 words.

Keep in mind that this is just an estimate, and that comprehension also depends on many other factors such as familiarity with the topic, understanding of idioms, grammar, and context. Furthermore, having a good general understanding of grammar, idioms and colloquialism will also help you to understand more of the content, even if you don’t know all the words.

Even if you are an advanced learner, reading a newspaper might still be challenging, but with regular practice and exposure, you will improve your comprehension and fluency.

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How to Intentionally Learn with Newspapers

Here are a few tips to help you learn to read French with newspapers:

  1. Start with a newspaper or article whose content interests you. Choose shorter articles to begin with, increasing the length as your fluency improves.
  2. Read the heading, subheading and first paragraph carefully, to get an idea of the subject and content of the article.
  3. Read through it all, even if you don’t understand it. Also, reading it out loud may help to improve your pronunciation and intonation, which will in turn consolidate your ability to recognise whole words and read more fluently.
  4. Read through it again with, this time with a pencil in your hands. Highlight the words and phrases that you do not understand.
  5. Look for repetitive phrases and colloquialisms to increase your vocabulary range.
  6. Use a French-English dictionary or translation tool to help you understand new words and phrases, or use a service like HiNative.com to ask a native French speaker what an expression means.
  7. Pay attention to grammar and sentence structure, and try to incorporate what you learn into your own writing (and speaking where appropriate).
  8. Look for online resources (such as News in Slow French, or 20 Minutes) that have audio AND text, to help you with listening AND reading comprehension.
  9. It can be useful to cut out (or print out) the article and paste it into a scrapbook. Then you can leverage this learning into writing practice. Summarise the article in your own words, identifying the subject. Record the new vocabulary for revision.
  10. Read regularly; consistency is key to all learning.

Which Newspapers Should You Choose?

To help motivation, it can be a good idea to select papers that have articles that interest you. Check out the summaries below, and see which newspapers attract you.

Political Issues

Le Monde: Considered one of the most reputable and serious newspapers in France, known for its in-depth coverage of political and international news. The language can be quite complex.
(Free if you accept cookies, subscription of 10.99€/month.)

Libération: Known for its left-leaning political views and a more informal writing style compared to Le Monde.
(Free if you accept cookies, 1€ for 3 months or 36€ for 1 year if not.)

Le Figaro: A conservative newspaper with a more traditional and elegant writing style.
(Free if you accept cookies, 9.99€ to 19.99€ per month, or 100€ – 220€/year subscription if not.)

L’Humanité: The newspaper of the French Communist party, known for its Marxist perspective on news and events. Its focus is on political and social issues from a left-wing perspective, and it often covers labor and economic issues, as well as international news and events.
(Paywall blocks some articles, subscription from 9.90€, or 13.50€ premium per month.)

Financial and Economic focus

If you work in the business world and need to interact with France, reading newspapers is a great way to find out about the economical situation of France and become familiar with a more technical repertoire of French.

Les Echos : Les Echos is a daily business and financial newspaper. It is known for its coverage of economic and financial news, including stock market reports and analysis of corporate trends. Les Echos is considered to be one of the most respected business publications in France, and it is read primarily by business and financial professionals.
(Paywall blocks articles, subscription from 19.99€/month.)

La Tribune, a daily newspaper that covers economic, financial, and political news. It aims to provide a comprehensive overview of economic and financial news, but also covers a wide range of other topics, such as technology, innovation and sustainability. Its target audience is primarily composed of business leaders and entrepreneurs.
(Paywall blocks most articles, subscription from 12€/month.)

International News

Courrier International: Great if you wish to read news from your country in French. It is a Paris-based French weekly newspaper that translates and publishes excerpts of articles from over 900 international newspapers, providing a global perspective on current events. It offers a selection of articles translated from international newspapers and magazines, and covers a wide range of topics, including politics, economics, society, culture, and science. It also provides a section of opinion pieces and editorials.

Sports

L’Équipe: A nationwide French daily newspaper devoted to sport focusing on football, rugby, motorsport, and cycling, tennis, and more. It is known for its in-depth coverage of sports news, including match reports, interviews, and analysis. It also features sections on health and fitness, as well as on sports-related technology and equipment. It is considered one of the most reputable and respected sports newspapers in France, known for its accuracy and impartiality. (Free with cookies, or a variety of subscription options from 7.99€/month)

Current Affairs and Lifestyle

Le Point: A weekly news magazine with a focus on politics, economy, and society, both in France and internationally. The magazine covers a wide range of topics, including international politics, business and finance, culture, science and technology, and lifestyle. It is known for its in-depth reporting and analysis, and for its conservative editorial stance.The writing style is analytical and informative. (Free with cookies, or a variety of subscription options from 3.99€/ 4 weeks)

L’Express: A weekly news magazine with a focus on current affairs and cultural events. It is known for its in-depth reporting and analysis, and for its center-right editorial stance. It is one of the oldest and most well-respected news magazine in France and it has a reputation for its high-quality journalism and strong investigative reporting. The writing style is more accessible than Le Point.
(Paywall, with 1€/first month trial, then 10.99€/4 weeks, or 129€/year subscription thereafter.)

General Interest (Easy Reading)

20 Minutes: A free daily newspaper, covering general interest issues, 20 Minutes is often used as an easy-read while commuting. Of particular interest to the French learner, the written articles are accompanied by an audio reading of the article, which can tune your ear to the language and builds auditory memory. This, in turn, helps to improve your pronunciation and intonation.

Religious Newspapers

La Croix: A daily Catholic newspaper with a focus on religious and social issues. It covers topics such as Church teachings, papal visits, and social issues from a Catholic perspective. The language is relatively simple and easy to understand. (Free with cookies, or subscription 1€/month introductory offer, then 11.90€/month or 129€/year)

Le Pèlerin: This is a weekly newspaper that focuses on Catholic news and events. It covers topics such as the pope, the Vatican, and the Catholic Church in France. (Free, with upgrades for magazine and newsletter extras)

Culture

Le Canard enchaîné: A weekly satirical newspaper, Le Canard is particularly useful for very advanced learners who wish to familiarise themselves with French puns and cultural references. It is filled with reports, polemics, and jokes, all written with double entendres. According to it’s website, “‘Le Canard is neither left nor right, it is opposition’ … an irreverent newspaper, humorous and good humored.” (Paywall, from 4.20€/month)

Parisien and Regional Newspapers

Le Parisien: A popular daily newspaper with a focus on general news, with an emphasis on coverage of the Paris region. It covers a wide range of topics, including politics, business, sports, entertainment, and lifestyle. It also includes coverage of local news, events and culture, as well as national and international news. The newspaper tends to have a center-right editorial stance, but it is considered an independent newspaper.. The language is more simple than the other newspapers. (Paywall blocks some articles, introductory subscription for 81.90€/year, then from 7.99€/month, to 9.99€ per month )

There are also a number of regional weekly newspapers, that have information particular to their area, and often have a simpler language style. They are particularly interesting if you want to learn about the French way of living in specific areas. 

NewspaperCityRegion coveredWebsite
L’AlsaceMulhouseGrand Estlalsace.fr/
L’ArdennaisCharleville-MézièresGrand Estardennais.com/
L’Est RépublicainNancyGrand Est regionestrepublicain.fr/
L’UnionReimsGrand Estlunion.fr/
La Dépêche du MidiToulouseOccitanie regionladepeche.fr/
La MarseillaiseMarseilleProvence-Alpes-Côte d’Azurlamarseillaise.fr/
La MontagneClermont-FerrandAuvergne-Rhône-Alpes regionlamontagne.fr/
La ProvenceMarseilleProvence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regionlaprovence.com/
La Voix du CentreOrléansCentre-Val de Loirelavoixducentre.fr/
La Voix du NordLilleHauts-de-France regionlavoixdunord.fr/
Le Bien PublicDijonBurgundy-Franche-Comté regionbienpublic.com/
Le Dauphiné LibéréGrenobleAuvergne-Rhône-Alpes regionledauphine.com/
Le Journal de la Haute-MarneChaumontGrand Est regionlejournaldelahaute-marne.fr/
Le Journal de RouenRouenNormandylejournalderouen.fr/
Le Maine LibreLe MansPays de la Loirelemainelibre.fr/
Le Populaire du CentreOrléansCentre-Val de Loirelepopulaire.fr/
Le ProgrèsLyonAuvergne-Rhône-Alpesleprogres.fr/
Le Républicain LorrainMetzGrand Estrepublicain-lorrain.fr/
Le TélégrammeBrestBrittany regionletelegramme.fr/
Sud OuestBordeauxNouvelle-Aquitaine regionsudouest.fr/
Regional Newspapers of France

Summary

French newspapers are an excellent resource for learning to read French because they offer authentic and up-to-date language in a variety of styles and contexts. They can improve vocabulary, comprehension, and grammar skills, and provide exposure to French culture and current events. Additionally, reading newspapers can increase confidence and motivation in reading French, as well as providing an enjoyable and practical way to practice language skills.

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