One the secrets to success in adult second learning is accepting the fact that the “native speakers” have  at least a 17 year head start on a you (assuming you are 17 years old -more if you are older).  If you accept this, then you have to find shortcuts to learn faster. But because you have so many basic skills to learn phoneme-comprehension/production, basic grammar, basic discourse tools, etc, you are often best served by breaking up these tasks a bit. The reason for this is that it is nearly impossible to keep track of all the different things you have to do in the new language. Until you have routinized some of these things, you simply don’t have the working memory to deal with all the features.

The best thing ever

To help you “load up language” more efficiently, there is one tool that may shine above the rest. I would like to take this moment, to break the flow of this paragraph to remind you that that tool is most definitely not a grammar book or some paper-based dictionary. Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled paragraph: Perhaps the best tool for language learning is the graphic novel.

Yes, the graphic novel is amazing. Let me tell you a lot more about it. If you learn anything from this post, other than the fact that it makes good kindling but bad toilet paper, it should be this fact: graphic novels are language learner’s best friend.

Why graphic novels are so great

First of all, since the graphic novel does not talk, you don’t have to mess with the sound system. Trying to learn all the minor variations and accent differences that make spoken language (even words you know) hard to understand are absent from paper-based media. While solely focusing on comic books is not a good idea, certainly at points in your development they could (temporarily) make up most of your language input. Yes, they are that good. They are like subtitled TV that waits for you.

The second reason they are so good is because they simplify language. The novel format of text-based communication, requires that you “paint on” the scene using complex grammar and often more obscure sayings. While I (as a certified pedant and nerd) love these obscure saying and needlessly complex sentences, I must admit they are simply not tools for everyday use. The fact that most of the action is painted onto the paper of a graphic novel, means that we ignore most of the descriptive language (i.e. horrid relative clauses), most of the action verbs, most of the descriptions of how people “feel.” While you do need this language to live a full adult life in your new language, it is certainly true that usually these ideas are expressed with difficult grammar. I will explain more about this in a differnt post. For now, graphic novels, however, give you human dialogue –lots of it.

Seeing as how most people learn a language to interact with other people, and a massive part of interacting with others is talking, having a way to quickly learn dialogue tools and conversation styles is invaluable. That is what graphic novels are full of -dialogue.

I recommend that you include graphic novels and similar print materials in your language learning/teaching plan.

To that end, let me share one graphic novel I use in my English teaching. I recommend it because it fairly elegantly deals with issues of gender and social class, without getting preachy. The topic is absurd but it manages to bring in very normal English that teenagers and older people use. It does have some curse words.

Paper Girls Volume 1 by Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Jared K. Fletcher, Matthew Wilson

You can buy this graphic novel from any US comic book store, or online from If you cannot get it in your country, let me know, I am sure I can help.

If you leave a constructive comment below, I will share with you a sample of the first few pages that I scanned.