Superheroes have seen somewhat of a second coming in recent years. Marvel studios have been firing out film after film of the classic well known characters as well as introducing us to heroes, villains and comic sidekicks from the fringes of the fantasy universe. I’m not a huge Thor fan but the new movie has the Hulk in it so you can bet I’m going to pay good money to see it. The DC franchise is also getting in on the act, often opting for a more dark, realistic approach (with obvious superman shaped exceptions). In contrast to this the comic book industry is struggling. It seems despite the popularity the characters like Batman, Iron Man or Groot (my favourite) enjoy the original medium which birthed them is left unexplored by their fans.
So I think that the community of French language learners should do our part to give them a hand by using comics more to help us during our French language stay in France. It’s win win!
Comic books tend to be more aimed at younger French learners
The combination of the narration or dialogue bubbles and the pictures provides context and means that it is usually rather obvious what the text is referring too. It’s the same as when you’re working on vocabulary in your French class at the French immersion school, you are often given picture sheets which not only explain what a word represents but also add visual information which helps you remember. If you’ve got a funny image of Obelix stubbing his toe and screaming his lungs out you’re less likely to forget the word for toe.
I actually prefer it when it isn’t obvious however. When some words within the text bare no resemblance to anything I’ve seen before and there are several things going on within the image a fun ‘who dunnit?’ detective process begins. As I attempt to decipher what is the most likely option from the current, previous or following pictures it is surprising how many possibilities there are.
For example, if the word looks like a verb, looking at all the characters in the image and closely examining what each is doing and crossing off those verbs I already know is a fun process. It is surprising how many possibilities there are even when there doesn’t seem to be much happening in the image. Like the saying goes a picture tells a thousand words, you really see the truth behind this when reading comics in French during your French language stay in Montpellier. I find I don’t just learn the words in the text either but all the words I imagine it could be and the process seems to really make it sink in; especially the eureka moment when you finally figure it out!
There are More Mature Options
Although many comic books are directed at younger audiences there is a wealth of choice if you want something grittier. These will not only satisfy your desire for a more nuanced story but also increase the range of vocabulary you are likely to find. Some classics include ‘Watchmen’ and ‘V for Vendetta’ both of which have been turned into awesome movies and are available in French everywhere. ‘V for Vendetta’ is a story revolving around freedom and government set in a dystopian future so as you can imagine you are going to find some unusual but interesting stuff awaiting in the pages.
Colloquial Language is more Useful for French Students
I thought it would be great to learn French by reading the classics of French writers so I could get to know the tales of old at the same time as sharpening my reading skills. There are a lot of benefits to this which I will discuss another time but one thing I quickly noticed is that I couldn’t use a lot of it because it was too formal or dated. Comic books on the other hand use a lot of modern colloquial language and slang that you can use day-to-day.
Great French Comics Avalaible at the French School
There are loads of translations of comics following the adventures of the popular superheroes so you’ll never be short of those but there also tons of graphic novels that are originally in French too. You will most likely have heard of Asterix and Obelix and Tintin. This is a wonderful place to start but there are hundreds of interesting characters waiting for you to have adventures with and in the return they’ll be sure to give your French learning a whole new dynamic. Learn French in France and enjoy comics available at the ILA French school in Montpellier.