Have you ever read an album of “Les Schtroumpfs” (The Smurfs) in French by Belgian cartoonist Peyo? If not, you are really missing the opportunity to both entertain yourself (after all, there’s a reason why Les Schtroumpfs have been so popular since 1958) AND to work on your French skills! (keep reading, I’ve designed some worksheets for you.)
By the way, my favourite album has to be “La Soupe Aux Schtroumpfs” (you can read through the first pages) : it’s fun from page one and it’s very representative of the series: the album shows the dangers the Smurfs have to face as well as the smart, resourceful ways they have to get out of critical situations. So there’s a bit of suspense, it’s kid-friendly and also very easy to understand ! (Comics are great to read and learn French, because the many images help support your comprehension.)
Read in French, Have Fun…and Practise!
Reading Les Schtroumpfs is an excellent exercise for you, whatever your level in French is (provided you can read a minimum of French, of course).
You see, les Schtroumpfs speak their own language: la langue schtroumpf (Smurf language). When a schtroumpf word is used, you can still understand the story because you instinctively replace it with an actual word that makes sense in the sentence :
- you determine what type of word is expected (a noun ? a verb ? an adjective ?). This is based on your knowledge of French grammar.
- you use the context to select a word that would fit in the situation. This is based on your understanding of the situation.
“Schtroumpfez-vous français ?”
→ The most likely possibility here is that “shtroumpfez” stands for “parlez”: “Parlez-vous français?”
(You can tell that you need to find a verb because of the –ez ending which is the mark of the “vous” conjugated form and also because of the way the question is structured.)
→ “Etes-vous français ?” is another option. (a verb in the “vous” form, in the context of asking about language or nationality).
So, when you don’t understand a word (whether it’s in Schtroumpf, in French or in any other language including your own native language), it is exactly what you should do : use all the information that you have to compensate for the missing information and have a guess / try to make some sense. It’s like an investigation game!
(In academic jargon, this is called a “compensation strategy”.)
The rest of the story will either
- validate your guess → well done!!
- tell your guess may be wrong (confusion, inconsistencies arises) → Good try, but you may want to get things straight at that point and check your dictionary.
Sometimes too, you will realise that the word you didn’t get was not really important to understand the rest of the story and how the action unfolds, so you can choose to pass/move on : I recommend not to try to understand everything and every single word, especially if you are not at a pretty advanced level of proficiency. Smart learning is also about filtering the information and accepting to focus on what’s the most important/critical, otherwise reading or listening tasks can quickly become very overwhelming!
Your Turn: Practise your French with these Free Worksheets!
I have prepared three activity worksheets for you to practice. There are 3 levels available: beginner, intermediate, advanced.
These PDFs come with a list of possible answers – if you find other answers, I’ll be happy to check them for you if you need 🙂 You can post your proposed answers in the comment section below.
I hadn’t posted new exercises for you in a while (except for the comprehension questions for French Voices podcast episodes!), and I was missing putting you to work 😉
Have you checked out my other French resources? You should find these useful:
Listen to my French Voices Podcast interview about the Smurfs and more!
- (Part 1) The world of Comic Strips and cartooning with Jean Auquier, manager of the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, French Voices Podcast, episode 80
- (Part 2) The world of Comic Strips and cartooning with Jean Auquier, manager of the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, French Voices Podcast, episode 81
Disclaimer: the links to books in this article are affiliate links. (it only means that I get a tip at no extra cost to you if you want to purchase the books!)