It is slowly being felt by me that learning French will give me access to the rich mathematical literature of France. I will be obliged if someone would please refer me to a source or book where I can learn to read a bit of French for my mathematics education. I know it is not easy but I would be happy to learn your language. I am fluent in English.

  • Just to get an idea, what level of mathematics are you looking to learn? Depending on your answers the vocabulary will be quite different, so please clarify that so we can redirect you to links/books most appropriate to what you're looking for. May 12, 2012 at 20:59
  • @linker I have started collegiate mathematics(undergraduate level) and I believe, in a short time(in a few months),I will be doing some graduate level number theory so I want to familiarize myself with a fair bit of French for number theory and a bit of analysis.
    – user1126
    May 13, 2012 at 4:40

2 Answers 2


Having the same issue in the opposite way, the best advice I have is to rely on Wikipedia's interwiki, both for the style and for the vocabulary. Try to read the same proof in French and in English and to see how sentences and symbols map1, if you need a translation of a word, look at the article in (en), then follow the interwiki to (fr). It works for almost everything2.

I expect that you will get the structure fairly easily, as it is doesn't change much between proofs. Just be aware that the philosophy of mathematics is not quite the same in France and in Anglo-Saxon countries. France remains under the influence of Bourbaki, whereas many Anglo-Saxon mathematicians now disregard this approach.

1. & 2. Haha

  • Wikipedia cannot be a reliable tool.It cannot be a substitute for texts and documents.
    – user1126
    May 13, 2012 at 17:14
  • 1
    Well, it is texts and documents. If you question its reliability, have a look at the sources of the articles, at the bottom. You will find that the proofs in the article are not so different from those of the sources.
    – Evpok
    May 13, 2012 at 17:28
  • 2
    @SabyasachiMukherjee, the symbols might actually not be exactly the same either. Contrarily to popular belief, maths notations are not universal. In my experience, English-based maths usually seems less rigorous in terms of presentation than what you'd find in French books (possibly due to bourbakism). This won't be a problem if you're just reading, it will be if you plan to take exams.
    – Bruno
    May 13, 2012 at 18:34
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    +1 to Bruno. A couple of tricky points that come to mind at the moment: in French, intervals are denoted by e.g. ]-1;5] to mean the interval that in English would be denoted by (-1, 5]. Similarly, the statement x > 0 in English is "x is positive". In French, «x est strictement positif». x ≥ 0 in English is read "x is non-negative". In French, «x est positif». If you get into topological spaces and functional analysis, it becomes a nightmare. A Hausdorff space is «séparé» in French, «simplement connexe» doesn't imply connected for all authors, whereas "simply connected" does, etc. May 14, 2012 at 3:00
  • 3
    I would recommend grabbing an introductory textbook (in French) to whatever topic you are trying to read, and studying it. If you know the material already, this will give you a nice review of the mathematics and will teach you the elements of French mathematical style and vocabulary you may need. May 14, 2012 at 3:02

Si l' arithmétique vous intéresse, je vous recommande chaudement le petit livre de Pierre Samuel Théorie algébrique des nombres, publié chez Hermann.
Ce livre est un petit bijou ne nécessitant comme connaissances préalables ("prerequisites") que les matières enseignées dans les deux premières années de l'université.
(Pour la petite histoire, il s'agit d'une version édulcorée d'un projet de rédaction pour un volume de Bourbaki qui finalement n'a jamais vu le jour.)
La cerise sur le gâteau est qu'il existe une traduction en anglais de cet ouvrage , également publiée chez Hermann, que vous pourrez utiliser en cas de difficulté.

Since Sabyasachi might not yet know enough French to understand my answer , let me say that the gist of it is that he might try to read Samuel's elementary and beautifully written Théorie algébrique des nombres, published by Hermann, and that the icing on the cake is that there is an English translation ( same publisher) which will be helpful in case a problem with the language should arise.

  • J'ai eu à m'en servir (à bac +4 en maths) et je l'ai trouvé assez horrible. Il est très instructif mais ce n'est certainement pas ce que je conseillerais à un débutant en Français. Pas plus que Bourbaki, d'ailleurs.
    – Evpok
    May 20, 2012 at 16:30
  • Cher Evpok, je suis très étonné que vous ayez trouvé ce livre merveilleux "assez horrible". Je ne comprends pas non plus "que vous ayez eu à vous servir" de ce livre: qui vous y a forcé? Et pourquoi ne recommanderiez-vous pas ce livre à un débutant en français: la langue en est simple et belle? Je crois que si vous voulez critiquer un livre aussi universellement apprécié, écrit par un auteur aussi prestigieux, il conviendrait d'en faire une critique plus précise. May 20, 2012 at 17:16
  • J'ai eu a m'en servir parce qu'il était dans la bibliographie imposée de mon cours de théorie analytique des nombres. Je trouve le style de preuve complètement obscur, le manque total d'exemples dès qu'il s'agit de notions complexes et l’absence de motivation pour la plupart des définitions vraiment pénibles. Certes il est très propre, très rigoureux, très bourbakiste et parfait comme référence, mais pour l'enseignement ou l'apprentissage je ne le conseille pas du tout.
    – Evpok
    May 20, 2012 at 18:34
  • Cher Evpok, merci pour votre réponse. Nous continuerons à avoir des avis divergents mais c'est dans l'ordre des choses: des goûts et des couleurs... May 20, 2012 at 18:55

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