How Comics Help your English by Gabriel Keene

When it comes to learning English as a foreign language, people usually think of books and trips abroad as the only ways to acquire it. However, they often forget that an extremely powerful tool is right in front of them, at the closest newsstand: comic books. Although not the primary source of language acquisition, comics may well be the best aid you can find in your learning of English. They can help develop your vocabulary, grammar and even pronunciation, all the while taking you into a new world of stories and characters. In order to take full advantage of them, this is what you should do when reading comics.

First, just like in books and other media, you will be frequently exposed to new vocabulary. However, in comics, you have the unique juxtaposition of images and text that only works in this medium and allows you more opportunities to infer the meaning of a word than any other means of communication. Comics allow you to learn and retain new vocabulary and collocations better because the images are complemented by the text, and vice-versa – one helps you understand the other. So, when you see the hero and the villain stop their fight, gather their breath, and continue it, it’s possible to learn from the caption, “And so they resume the battle!” that “resumes” is a synonym for “continue”, and not “summarize”.

Second, grammar points like question tags, embedded questions and others are often employed in comics, making readers used to them. The constant exposure to lines like Calvin’s father saying: “Calvin, you’re not jumping on the bed, are you? Do you have any idea what time it is?” help readers become accustomed to these structures much more easily. When in class or in an actual foreign-country experience, this exposure will have built a robust scaffolding for them to recognize and make use of conversational structures.

Also, as comics enjoy more freedom than books do in representing sounds and the way people speak, they tend to depict these graphically. This will often help your pronunciation and also your understanding of the sounds in the English language, as long as you can infer that when a certain character’s word bubble has “Ah see”, he or she actually means “I see”, but that’s his/her accent. The same goes for when you read a character’s line as “Howz’ it goin’?” It’s possible to infer that, in the pronunciation for “How’s it going”, the “s” sounds like a “z”, and the letter “g” isn’t pronounced by this character.

Therefore, reading comics will help your English in terms of apprehending new vocabulary and collocations, grammar points and even simplifying pronunciation patterns in order for you to visualize them. Lastly, of course, you will also have a good time and enjoy your studying, or reading, in English. Read more comics if you want to have fun and learn at the same time.

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