Reading, or better reading accompanied by audio (audiobook) is a great way to improve your language skills. We have already written several articles on reading, including a selection of books in several languages. However, we have not talked enough about comics. Comics offer a reading model suitable for learning a language, especially for beginners and those who tend to avoid picking up a book. So keep reading (or scroll down to the bottom to watch a video recap) to find out how to learn a language with comics, and where to find comic books and graphic novels that you might like.
Learn a Language with Comics
When you start learning a foreign language, it is not easy to find a book that is at the same time interesting and at your reading level. I remember when I started in Spanish, I bought Treasure Island (in Spanish) but I really had trouble reading it. I understood about 60% of the words, but it was not pleasant because I lacked a lot of vocabulary.
However, fortunately, I had comics. Learning a language with comics offers a big advantage over books. It is that the images which accompany the reading make it possible to understand better. It is indeed much easier to understand with images, to guess both the story and the vocabulary.
What are the advantages of learning a language with comics?
This reading model offers several advantages:
- the first advantage, of course, is the ability to use the images to understand the meaning of the story (if you have trouble with the vocabulary alone). No need to turn to a dictionary, comics (and especially the images) allow us to understand for ourselves.
- it is a mostly entertaining activity. Reading comics in a foreign language allows us to combine business with pleasure. We are not tired of this learning activity, since it is above all fun and enjoyment.
- as in a TV series, there is something addictive in reading comics: when you start a series of comics, you often want to continue. And read the other “episodes”. This allows us to be regular in learning.
- Finally, there are comics for all tastes, and for both children and adults. So it’s simple to find a comic book that both you like, and adapted to your level in languages.
Personally, I have always been a fan of comics. I started very young with Tintin, and I continue to read comics regularly. So obviously, I prefer comics for an adult audience (I’m not talking about comics porn, eh). For example, the Enki Bilal, Manu Larcenet, and other series more known as the XIII, Lanfeust or, to please Luca, Corto Maltese 😉. Really, you will be amazed at the diversity and quality of European comics. And I’m sure anyone can find a comic book to your liking.
What Kinds of Comics Can I Read?
If you are learning English and you like comics (e.g. Spiderman, Walking Dead, etc.), you’ll be spoiled with choices. It is useless to give you some titles, as you will find comics in English all over the place. Ditto if you learn Japanese. With mangas, you will be spoiled with so many choices. But if you’re like me and you do not like American comics, or if you are learning other European languages (Spanish, German, Italian, etc.), you can always look for French-language comics translated into other languages. languages. Indeed, the commercial successes of European comics have been translated into many languages. This allows you to use the comic to improve languages in Italian, Spanish, German …
The last possibility to learn a language with comics is to look for the comics in the country from which you are learning the language. For example Italian comics to learn Italian. But to my knowledge, there are fewer creations outside of French-language comics.
Where to Find Translated Comics or Original Comics
If you have a tablet, it’s very easy to find comics:
- If you have an iPad, there are a lot of free comics on the iTunes Store, including several in English. For example, the first episode of The Walking Dead is available to download for free.
For some people, these links do not work on iPhone or iPad. If you’re having trouble, open the iBook application, then click on “Store.” But it’s more convenient to search from your computer.
If you have an Android tablet, there is also a lot on Google Play (The Walking Dead is also present)
Otherwise, you can have comics delivered in hard copy. Amazon offers for example many comics in English that you can get delivered quickly. It is possible to buy many titles in English, a little less in Spanish or in Italian. Finally, if you can not find anything to your liking, the last alternative is the illegal download (unfortunately). Until the legal offer is developed, it is possible to find a lot of free things in the dark parts of the internet. I do not want to give a link, but the keywords are the name of the language + CBR or Comics. For Spanish, the keywords to search for a comic are: “historieta” or “cómic.”
How to read comics downloaded from the internet
There are many ways to read comics on your computer or tablet. All the ones I list here are free:
- With Amazon Kindle (on PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android). What is good is that there is an integrated dictionary that allows you (if the context and the image do not allow you) to have the translation of the word. However, Amazon Kindle does not specialize in the formats used by comics, but it works pretty well.
- For PC, the excellent CDisplay
- For Mac, the SimpleComic software
- On iPad, the ComicFlow app
- And finally for Android: Perfect Viewer
All these programs will allow you to play a comic on your computer or tablet, in the same way as with paper comics. The advantage is that you can easily navigate from your tablet/PC to an online dictionary if you really have difficulty understanding.
Selection of Beginner Comics to Learn a Language with Comics
When you’re really a beginner, it’s good to start with comics for kids. I remember devouring almost the entire series of Tintins in Spanish after my first failed reading of Treasure Island. It is easy and pleasant to read thanks to the images. And it’s even easier when you already know the story.
Here is a list of classics, all translated into most languages (English, Spanish, Italian, German, etc.):
- Lucky Luke
- The Smurfs
- Mickey Mouse
- DC Comics
- Marvel Comics
But be careful, to progress, try not to stay in your comfort zone. When it becomes too easy, it is always best to move on to a more advanced level.
Comic Books for adults
As previously mentioned, you can refer to these titles of adult comic books:
- Enki Bilal
- Manu Larcenet
- Blake and Mortimer
- Valerian and Laureline
- The Rabbi’s Cat
- From Hell
- Maus of Art Spiegelman
- Hunting game
Bonus: Watch Our Tips for Learning a Foreign Language with Comic Books and Graphic Novels
If you like comics, you probably like things that are short and sweet. Like this video! It sums up the main ideas from this article. Watch it on our YouTube channel (it’s in English, but subtitles are available in 6 languages) or below.
Do you read comics in the language you are learning? If so, feel free to share your findings in the comments. Give the titles of comics that help you to make progress in languages too! You can also ask us your questions in the comments below, and we will try to answer them. Happy reading and happy learning!
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