Comics and foreign languages: a love story

First of all, happy world book day (Sant Jordi in Catalunya)! 😀 I didn’t realize that today’s post was going to be related to it.


Did someone say… shelfie?


As promised, this week’s post will be more general and focused on different strategies and motivations to learn a language. Looking for interesting material can always be a problem for people who learn languages at more formal settings or because they need to acquire a language for work or their education. I must have been lucky that I always managed to look for extra motivation when I learned my languages in formal settings, but still, it was hard most of the times.

To be honest, I always relied on special material to practice my language knowledge in a more fun setting: COMICS. Since I was young, I remember reading comics. Whether it was Condorito (a classical magazine for any Chilean about a humanized Condor), Tintin, Asterix, The Simpsons or Dragon Ball Z… comics had an important role in my interest for cultures, reading and writing (and of course, learning grammar and new vocabulary). Unlike many people of my generation, I was more interested in the expensive, European comics than the US-American big-muscled superhero comic magazines I could easily get on my local kiosk. Good thing my godfather lived in Spain back then 😛 (Otherwise, I wouldn’t have managed to get a full Tintin collection when I was 11). Despite I left behind comics when I was in High School, at Uni, comics came back to stay! Easier access to them, looking for new ways to practice and the growing popularity of graphic novels helped a lot: reading Tintin in my target languages, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels in French, reviewing English with Craig Thompson’s beautiful works and now… I am starting to read Thorgal… IN POLISH!

Comics can indeed teach you about history, the local culture and many different things. Do you remember the trial Tintin got in Belgium because of its xenophobic portrait of the Congolese? I remember I was appalled by it when younger, but for any academic working with ethnicties, it might be a valuable source! Do you remember when Mafalda and her friends called each other “¡sos un papafrita!”? No, that doesn’t mean you are delicious, yummy and good as fries, but that you are dim-witted. Do you wish to learn about Modern Argentinean History? Well, El Eternauta can help you with that!

Right now, online comics have become relevant for many language and culture learners. You can viralize your comic strips easily thanks to the Internet and publish your comic from Santiago, Chile and get it read in a different language in Baku, Azerbaijan (true story!), interact with different users worldwide and even create an official translation team or living out of them! I am quite proud to have sponsored some comics (local and foreign ones) either by buying their work (and use them as perfect gifts for friends abroad) or chipping in when they need it. I am quite surprised to know when comics I started reading when they had a small fanbase now take over the world!

Comics can be a perfect gate for people to practice their languages at a more friendly setting and serve as window to cultures and learning expression and jokes. I am even having a big multilingual collection of Tintin comics and I often compare and contrast different translations 🙂

Do you use comics in your language learning process? Do you have any good recommendations in your target languages? Please write a comment and share your suggestions!

Special mentions to Itchy Feet Comic, Expat Gone Foreign, Lunarbaboon, Sephko, Diario de un solo, Y, viste cómo es and many more people who give us a daily/weekly smile online, and this post is dedicated to María José (aka Kotorra) and Jaime who have helped me rediscover my passion for comics. ¡Muchas gracias chicos!