So here I am abroad in a country not too dissimilar from my own. Much of the culture is in common and I don’t think I’ve made too many faux pas. So it would be fair to say that the manners and social dynamics aren’t worlds apart. Any problems that pop up can usually be solved through the use of my pigeon French and a bit of tact. However there are some times when making the extra effort to get out of my comfort zone doesn’t seem worth it and so I take a more solitary option. I end up looking for something I know will put me at ease. As a bit of a nerd, few things do this better than reading comics. I love reading in general but there’s something about a good bit of sequential art that really gets to me.
One day in France when I was in one of these solitary moods, I went into a shop to get a few things and happened to see a classic spiderman story in French. Being a bit of a sucker for the classics, I bought it. On the bus ride home I had a leaf through it and found that despite not knowing a lot of the language used, I could pick it up the story easily from the context. It probably helps that I know a lot about Spidey anyway.
And that’s the beauty of any real world linguistic resource over a dry, abstract phrase from a textbook or dictionary. Anything from comics to TV shows, to signs on buildings gives you more of a sense of how a language is used on a day to day basis. This is vital for someone like me in a place where I’m dealing with the language in reality and stock phrases can only get me so far.
While TV shows, films and songs are great for improving listening skills, it can be difficult to pick up new vocabulary from them as by the time you’ve noted a useful phrase, you’ve lost track of what’s going on. Comics, on the other hand, allow you to go at your own pace. If you can find the right one, the story can be great. Not to mention the artwork which is often superb in the 60s editions. All of this means an opportunity to be exposed to the language in a way which proves very comfortable and engaging, which I thoroughly recommend.
The next thing for me, I think, is to delve into the world of native French comics, wish me luck.