Review: Learning French with Poetry

Sarah Taylor, 20/03/2012Image credit:

This product review is the second installment of our overview of Camille Chevalier-Karfis’ learning tools, guides and products. Today’s review focuses on ‘Easy French Poetry Reading and Analysis‘ (Volumes 1, 2 and 3).¹ These guides can be found on, a website with useful and practical resources for French learners of all levels.

Easy French Poetry Reading and Analysis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis, 06/03/2012Level:
Intermediate and Advanced.

To make classical French poems accessible to intermediate and advanced learners of French, by using clear and straightforward verbal and written instructions.²

This guide is available in three parts. The first volume examines French poetry from the 16th and 17th centuries, including work by poets such as Louise Labbé, one of the earliest-known French poetesses. The second and third volumes explore French poetry from the 19th century, ranging from titles by Victor Hugo to those of Charles Baudelaire. Each poem is thoroughly analysed in both French and English.

This package includes:
1. Audio recording
2. French transcript
3. English transcript

I am reviewing this product as I am always interested to experience different teaching styles. Having studied French at university, and taught at the Université de Lyon III for two years, I have experience in learning and teaching a foreign language.

Format: This product gives intermediate and advanced-level learners of French an insight to French poetry through listening, reading and clear analyses of each poem. The structure of each new audio recording is as follows:

  • A short introduction at the start is followed by a slow, clear recital of the poem.
  • The poem is then broken down and each line is examined in French.
  • This is followed by some background information about the poet.
  • Next, we listen to a contextual analysis of the poem, which explores the key themes within.
  • Once the listener has had time to digest all of this information, the poem is recited at a slightly faster pace.

Format benefit: This format enables the listener to get to grips with the fundamentals of the poems, as well as to learn some vocabulary. It is an approach that is likely to increase the confidence of an intermediate to advanced-level learner, as the explanations given are detailed and challenging without being overwhelming.

Camille states that “repetition is the key”³ and I think this is a valuable piece of advice. Her method is to begin slowly, then increase in speed. This gradual increase in the depth and pace of explanation allows for a great sense of achievement at the end. A concise commentary is given and key words and phrases are repeated throughout. This is a tried and tested method of learning.

If the listener is still struggling to understand the vocabulary, or the meaning of certain expressions, they can either:

  • replay the audio recording;
  • read the French transcript;
  • (as a last resort) refer to the English transcript.

Camille Chevalier-Karfis FRENCH AUDIO LESSONS for My French Life - Ma Vie Française

Approach: If you are pressed for time, why not divide this learning tool into three smaller and more manageable sections (Volumes 1, 2 and 3), or even into sub-sections? No matter how much time you have set aside to do this, you will achieve something by the end of each poem; whether this is knowledge of a new writing style, learning new vocabulary or pronunciation, or learning about the poet.

Listening to all three guides consecutively will take a considerable amount of time. If you don’t have the greatest attention span in the world, this approach could be detrimental to the learning process. However, students who have committed the time and effort required to attain an intermediate to advanced level of French are unlikely to be put off by the length.

You may think that poetry is not for you… but this product is definitely worth trying if you are an intermediate or advanced-level learner of French. Poetry from any era can be a great tool for learning and practising the French language, and also serves to expand our knowledge of the French culture.

Furthermore, the teaching techniques and methods used in these guides are easily transferable to other styles of writing, enabling the listener to continue to improve their level of French by using a wide variety of sources.

¹My French Life™ does not accept free samples, products or compensation for editorial coverage.
²We recently published an interview with Camille Chevalier-Karfis where she sets out her view of learning French with poetry. Reading this interview will help put our product review into context.
³Chevalier-Karfis, Camille: Easy French Poetry Reading and Analysis (Volume 1). p.4.

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Sarah Taylor

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