Comparing ease of reading Parole de vie vs. Louis Segond

Monday, August 27, 2012

A few days ago I carried out another test using learning with texts, similar to the one where I compared German vs. Afrikaans, but this time using two translations in the same language instead of between languages.

The two translations used were French translations of the New Testament. One is called Parole de vie and is a simplified translation, which claims to limit itself to 3000 words. One really obvious example of this is where "repent!" is translated as "changez votre vie!". The other translation is Louis Segond, the classic French translation. I went with the newest version of LS (2010, I think?).

Because it was a day off and I had the time for a longer experiment, I went with the entire book of Matthew - 28 chapters in total. The numbers below show the number of unknown words/items per chapter, followed by the total number of words in the chapter. The line below then shows this as a percentage. For simplicity's sake names are counted as words (because removing them all would be a nightmare). So how does a reader who knows no French at all but miraculously is able to learn each and every word through a single reading progress through both translations?

Here are the results:

Matthew 1 Parole 184 (184), LS 172 (172)
Parole 100% unknown, LS 100% unknown

Matthew 2 Parole 177 (262), LS 182 (258)
Parole 68% unknown, LS 71% unknown

Matthew 3 Parole 112 (205), LS 118 (201)
Parole 55% unknown, LS 59% unknown

Matthew 4 Parole 116 (249), LS 131 (254)
Parole 47% unknown, LS 52% unknown

Matthew 5 Parole 200 (386), LS 228 (374)
Parole 52% unknown, LS 61% unknown

Matthew 6 Parole 123 (296), LS 142 (289)
Parole 42% unknown, LS 49% unknown

Matthew 7 Parole 87 (257), LS 101 (265)
Parole 34% unknown, LS 38% unknown

Matthew 8 Parole 96 (315), LS 118 (323)
Parole 30% unknown, LS 37% unknown

Matthew 9 Parole 87 (332), LS 118 (337)
Parole 26% unknown, LS 35% unknown

Matthew 10 Parole 112 (356), LS 125 (354)
Parole 31% unknown, LS 35% unknown

Matthew 11 Parole 90 (326), LS 94 (304)
Parole 28% unknown, LS 31% unknown

Matthew 12 Parole 94 (409), LS 126 (406)
Parole 23% unknown, LS 31% unknown

Matthew 13 Parole 103 (405), LS 132 (414)
Parole 25% unknown, LS 32% unknown

Matthew 14 Parole 44 (302), LS 83 (304)
Parole 15% unknown, LS 27% unknown

Matthew 15 Parole 38 (342), LS 80 (338)
Parole 11% unknown, LS 24% unknown

Matthew 16 Parole 40 (274), LS 54 (275)
Parole 15% unknown, LS 20% unknown

Matthew 17 Parole 36 (277), LS 61 (289)
Parole 13% unknown, LS 21% unknown

Matthew 18 Parole 41 (301), LS 70 (318)
Parole 14% unknown, LS 22% unknown

Matthew 19 Parole 38 (290), LS 51 (280)
Parole 13% unknown, LS 18% unknown

Matthew 20 Parole 36 (317), LS 46 (288)
Parole 11% unknown, LS 16% unknown

Matthew 21 Parole 71 (386), LS 104 (406)
Parole 18% unknown, LS 26% unknown

Matthew 22 Parole 43 (337), LS 76 (329)
Parole 13% unknown, LS 23% unknown

Matthew 23 Parole 74 (332), LS 96 (309)
Parole 22% unknown, LS 31% unknown

Matthew 24 Parole 84 (396), LS 98 (379)
Parole 21% unknown, LS 26% unknown

Matthew 25 Parole 51 (323), LS 60 (313)
Parole 16% unknown, LS 19% unknown

Matthew 26 Parole 87 (490), LS 133 (538)
Parole 18% unknown, LS 25% unknown

Matthew 27 Parole 84 (459), LS 121 (471)
Parole 18% unknown, LS 26% unknown

Matthew 28 Parole 20 (207), LS 31 (226)
Parole 10% unknown, LS 14% unknown

Total terms: Parole 2368, LS 2951

And a chart of unknown words as the reader progresses:


After six chapters the reader is always able to understand at least 60% of the text in both translations. However, Parole de vie consistently ranks lower in the number of new words that must be learned, and by about the midway point each chapter only has 10-20% new vocabulary while Louis Segond is more around 20-30%.

Of course, the student who has read Louis Segond will emerge at the end of the day with a larger vocabulary, so the reduced vocabulary in Parole de vie may not be ideal for all. On the other hand, Parole de vie is a lot less taxing. When reading a text in a foreign language it is interesting to look up every tenth word or so, fairly tiring to look up every fifth, and if you are looking up every third word or so you are hitting the dictionary or grammar reference some fifty times per small chapter.

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