My French isn’t that good: I can hold a conversation (sometimes) but I couldn’t hold a job. One way I try to get better is to read more and listen to more in French. I recently came across the Langue Française section of the TV5Monde site, which has an almost overwhelming range of features.
One of them is 7 jours sur la planète (7 Days on the Planet). It’s a regular feature with three segments from the week’s TV news. For each segment, you can watch the video clip, read a transcript, and then test your comprehension with three levels of questions (elementary, intermediate, and advanced).
I watched the first clip in the grid above, about fish fraud (one species of fish passed off as another). I got the gist, then brought up the transcript to spot words I didn’t know, or catch meanings I might have mistaken.
That’s when I discovered Alexandria. TV5Monde’s site is set up so that on a page with a special icon (red circle with a question mark in the upper right of the following image), you can double-click any word to bring up a multi-language dictionary:
In this example, I clicked on l’étiquette. Alexandria popped up with a French-language dictionary, which reminded me that une étiquette is a little card or tag with the price, origin, or instructions for some product or item of merchandise.
You can set the dictionary to translate into any of more than two dozen languages:
What impresses me about this approach is that TV5Monde doesn’t have to create specialized hypertext for certain words. As far as I can tell, Alexandria’s dictionary works with any word on the page.
If you don’t know any French, of course, this would be a terrible way to learn it. You wouldn’t have any background to decide between one meaning and another, and a dictionary can’t tell you much about syntax or context. The title of the segment in French, La fraude aux poissons passe à travers les filets, could be read as “Fish fraud passes through the nets.” But even my paperback French-English dictionary has 27 main entries for passer, and given the subject, I’d translate the title as “Fish fraud is slipping through the nets.”
If you’ve got a low-to-intermediate level of ability with French, this is a powerful tool to help you understand more of what you read on the TV5Monde site.
It looks like there’s a lot more to Alexandria–more than I can spend time on this morning. I have the impression you can link any web page to the dictionary’s features. I haven’t tested that yet, but I will.