Yes, you can kick your Spanish reading enthusiasm into gear just like a scene from any Batman comic book. All you have to do is pick up a captivating comic or gratifying graphic novel and begin reading. Light and easy to carry, you can read your comic book or graphic novel on the train, at the beach, in line at the post office—you can take it anywhere!
Lame grown-ups might not all understand why you’re toting that colorful, illustrated entertainment around, but kids will likely stare at you with glee and admiration. Own it.
Comic books rule.
Open one up and within seconds you’ll be engrossed in the visual beauty, action-packed drama or post-apocalyptic terror of these gripping stories. Forget textbooks for an hour (or more) and jump into a tale that will take you places where Spanish reading is simple, fun and still educational.
Why Comic Books Make Amazing Spanish Learning Resources
- Include artwork: Instead of pausing in your reading to translate every word into English, the pictures and images associated with these kinds of books act as visual clues which allow you to establish context without needing to understand all of the dialogue. This makes it easier for Spanish learners to recognize and comprehend the story line regardless of their Spanish level.
- Conversational: Comic books don’t have a lot of space for fluffing up the story line. They’re direct and to the point which keeps your interest perked up the entire way through. They also teach you specific conversational Spanish that you can use when speaking Spanish with others.
- Short to finish: Unlike novels and textbooks, comics and graphic novels are much shorter so you don’t have to feel anxious about trying to translate your way through 300 pages of text. You can choose to read one comic strip, a comic book or a whole graphic novel depending on your skill level, mood and amount of available time. Each of your choices are different sizes, but all of them will help you develop your Spanish skills.
- Not just for kids: Dora isn’t the only explorer! There are a variety of comic books that cater to an older audience so you aren’t subject to childish story lines and dialogue.
- Teach you about culture: Comic books and graphic novels are rich with visual artwork. Every detail has been picked for a specific reason, so look closely at the environment, the background, the clothes of the characters and the words they choose to use in order to learn more about the culture you’re reading about.
Now that you know why comic books can help you improve your Spanish learning, go ahead and incorporate some of the tips below to make the most of your time and to further develop your learning skills in a fun and interactive way.
Spanish Learning Strategies for Comic Books
- Focus on the visuals and write a description of what you see. Pick one specific image on the page and, using the vocabulary you do know, write a description of the environment, person or furniture in the room. You can choose an image on every page or pick a specific point (like every five pages) to pause and describe. If you don’t want to write full sentences, pick an image and write a word list of everything you see in the picture. This can help develop your range of dialogue. You might find that you know many more words than you think.
- Write alternative dialogues. Pick a page and write down the dialogue from that scene. Then try to come up with substitute ways of saying that specific dialogue. You’ll basically be playing a game of word association with yourself, which builds context for learning and recalling many more words. This is a great way to improve your current vocabulary and expand it with new word choices. This can also help to increase your knowledge of colloquial Spanish for future conversational use.
- Answer the character’s questions. Many comic books and graphic novel characters speak their thoughts, or their thoughts are shown in thought bubbles on the pages. Many of these thoughts are posed as questions. For example, “How can I save them?”, “Where would they be hiding?” or “Who can I trust?”. When you reach a question in the dialogue, pause and write a response to the character’s question before continuing.
- Write a review. When you finish, write out your thoughts and opinions about the story line, including what you’d change and you wouldn’t change. Think about how you’d describe and recommend this story if you were talking to a friend in Spanish.
- Sign up for a daily comic strip email. Not all comics are full stories or even weekly portions of a story. Some can be daily cartoons, which is great for always remembering to practice with a little reading. Sign up for a daily comic cartoon like “Dilbert” en Español in order to learn some new Spanish words in seconds.
If you prefer to read a full story line with extreme visuals and great Spanish dialogue, here are five great comic books and graphic novels to get you started.
For an even more visual learning method, give FluentU a try. FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
5 Captivating Comic Books for Spanish Learners of All Ages
1. “Pandora: El Fin de los Dias” by Peter J. Ang
With beautiful manga artwork, horror fans will enjoy this apocalyptic graphic novel set in New Jersey. The story begins when the media exhibition of an ancient artifact unleashes a plague that threatens mankind. Only some can help save the world against Pandora, the end of days, and Katie is one of those few.
2. “The Walking Dead” Spanish Language Edition by Robert Kirkman
Now a major TV show, “The Walking Dead” is about survival not only against the zombies, but also against those fighting to save their own humanity. Fast-paced with shocking twists and turns, this graphic novel is a social commentary that blends perfectly with good old zombie-apocalyptic horror! As an added bonus, read the graphic novel and, afterwards, binge watch the entire show on Netflix in Spanish.
3. “Ardalén” by Miguelanxo Prado
With gracefully elegant imagery, Ardalén isn’t only a tale about aging, it also looks at how our personal memories shape the perceptions we have of our own lives but, in turn, how we’re created by the memories of others too. A sophisticated graphic novel, this one steps away from the superhero drama to look at the realities of our lives.
4. “Mortadelo y Filemon” by Francisco Ibanez
If you’re a fan of Laurel and Hardy or The Three Stooges, then you’ll really enjoy “Mortadelo y Filemon.“
Although this comic book series began in 1958, it has stood the age of time and continues to be a comic book that delights its modern readers. The slapstick humor revolves around two men, the angry Filemon and the dimwitted Mortadelo, who, as spies, embark on disastrous spy adventures time after time.
If you’re looking for a funny, engaging way to improve your Spanish, then this is the comic book for you.
5. “Dora” by Ignacio Minaverry
An Argentinian comic about a young female spy who, during the 1960s, becomes a Nazi hunter and travels around Europe and Argentina, Dora is a great comic that’s nestled in political and global history. Although a fictional story, it’s based on historical fact, and the attention to detail is fantastic, especially in the specific architectures of each country presented.
Comic books and graphic novels will have you learning new words, sentence formats and conversational Spanish in no time.
They’ll also develop and strengthen your reading skills in an enjoyable way.
Remember to take your time, be patient with yourself and the learning will be a breeze!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.