In French, It’s The Little Things That Hurt You: A Look At French For Reading By Karl C. Sandberg And Eddison C. Tatham

French for Reading, a programmed text,  is by far the most ambitious and thorough of all the Prentice-Hall for Reading series.  Unlike the other language texts in the series, this one has no gradual introduction to the history and geography of the country and no introduction to its culture.  Instead, it plunges immediately into original texts, beginning with an excerpt from a chemistry journal on the definition and analysis of polymeric(macromolecular) structures.  This is no coincidence, because at the time the text was composed in 1968, there was a great emphasis on learning to read scientific articles in different languages. So, in this book, the reader will find many articles taken from scientific journals ranging from the influence of water and light on plants to nuclear physics.  There are also literary passages, economic excerpts, religious articles, historical and political reflections.  In short, the book provides a thorough introduction to reading technical French on many levels.  At the end of the book there is a potpourri of articles for additional reading practice, including ones about how to be a shaman, why water-witching can be effective, a diary of a German princess at the court of Lois XIV, dangers of atmospheric pollution.  The good news is that all of these articles are much easier to read than the difficult passage from Pascal’s “Dialogue with the Libertines”, concerning Pascal’s famous wager and his religious thought in the last chapter, Chapter 21.

The authors state that after having completed the text, “… you will be able to recognize the meanings of all the grammar forms in Le Francais fondamental(the French government list prepared for overseas French schools.)  The most difficult and problematic elements of French are the small words.  Indeed, it is rather disconcerting to learn that there are eleven uses of the word “que”.   One has to be careful not to forget “le” and “la” which often blend into other words, leaving a solitary “l”.  The pronoun “on” has many meanings, depending on the context.  Thus, it is necessary to look at all the tiny words with extra care, otherwise you could miss the essential meaning of the sentence.  The authors are excellent guides, however, and if you work through all the frames, you should be in excellent shape to read any technical French that you might need in your research.


More About German For Reading

As stated in an earlier post, German for Reading by Karl C. Sandberg and John R. Wendel is an excellent book for improving your literary knowledge of German.  In many respects, the first chapter is the most important one since it deals with recognizing cognates, which are plentiful in German.  Be sure you study this chapter carefully as it will save you much dictionary use in the future.  The limitation of this book is that there are no excerpts from German newspapers or magazines, which employ a different kind of German than one finds in literary passages.  I recommend to the authors(assuming they are considering another edition) that they include excerpts from Der Spiegel, and German newspapers to better prepare the reader.

If You Study German, You Better Love Commas

If you study German, you better love commas.  Forget the other unimportant punctuation marks such as periods, question marks, exclamation marks, semicolons, and colons.  Focus on commas, your deepest love.  Only then will you truly grasp the nature of clauses.  And, most importantly, you will be on your way to finding the mysterious verb and subject.  German is a kind of puzzle.  Perhaps that’s why the Germans produced so many great philosophers.  It’s a language that abounds in tricks and words that have many meanings dependent on their context or function in the sentence.  Ganz abgesehen, German can be great fun to read.  Get a hold of German for Reading by Sandberg and Wendel, and in 6-8 months you will read German fluently.  This wonderful text contains actual excerpts from the writings of:  Freud, Jung, Jaspers, Engels, and Schweitzer, among others.  Good luck!