Using Comics for Language Learning
Reading comic strips can be a really fun way to practice a new language. As with illustrated books and graphic novels, the visual stimulus of the pictures can help learners to understand the story even if they do not recognize all of the vocabulary. And since the text tends to be short, comics can be less overwhelming than a full book. As this article points out, there are many other benefits to using comics for language learning:
- They provide access to authentic material from the target language
- They provide dialogue from daily life
- They provide access to slang and colloquial language
- They illustrate many aspects of culture including geography, history, politics, and current events
- The pictures can stimulate expression, no matter what the level of proficiency
As a teacher, it’s important to tap into your students’ interests so take some time to find a few comic strips that you think they will like. You can even have them create their own comics by whiting-out the text in existing comics, or by having them create their own from scratch. These days there are ample online tools for creating comics and even animated movies – see this blog for a sample listing of online resources for creating and using comics.
The Magic of Mafalda
One of my favourite comics for teaching and learning Spanish is Mafalda. Created by Quino (Joaquin Salvador Lavado), Mafalda ran in Argentinian newspapers from 1964-1973 and was republished in short books. The comic features Mafalda, an intelligent six-year-old who is concerned with injustice and often baffles those around her by asking complex questions. Most of the strips feature reflections on Latin America which can be great for teaching about cultural issues, and many include linguistic features which are perfect for teaching Spanish.
Teaching subject pronouns:
Demonstrating how English has influenced the Spanish language:
And in classic Mafalda style, there’s always room to discuss politics: