Learning to speak French can be a daunting task, so why not make it fun? Watching and reading French material is a fantastic way to study the language. In this article, teacher Walker P. introduces you to the wonderful world of French graphic novels…
One of the biggest steps we can take in our foreign language learning is reading in French. But let’s be honest, sometimes we’d rather take just half a step – and that’s okay!
Instead of staring at a block of text and feeling intimidated, we can begin our journey to literacy with the engaging world of comic books and graphic novels. Furthermore, France has a rich world of illustration that we can enjoy beyond our studies.
Whether you want to help your child learn French or learn it yourself, these novels have something for everyone. Let’s take a look at five publications of different skill levels that all have a unique story to tell.
1. Histoire de Babar: le petit éléphant, Jean de Brunhoff
The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant
After his mother is killed by hunters, young Babar escapes the jungle and arrives in a city where he is befriended by an old woman. She hires him a tutor and dresses him with an heir of sophistication. What we end up with is a charming and refined young elephant who brings civilization to the land of elephants.
This children’s book with full-page illustrations is perfect for beginners and anyone who wants a relaxed, immersive experience with French.
2. Les Aventures de Tintin: On a marché sur la Lune, Hergé
The Adventures of Tintin: Explorers on the Moon, Hergé
Tintin is an adventurous young reporter and main character of this very popular series. Loved for its slapstick humor, realistic world, and well-researched plotlines, this series is perfect for anyone just beginning to develop their French vocabulary skills.
This time, on a trip to the moon to explore stalactite caves, Tintin and his companions face stowaways, depleting oxygen, and the challenges of survival in space. It’s a simple and fun science fiction jaunt to warm up your brain to the French language.
3. Titeuf, Dieu, le sexe et les bretelles, Zep
Titeuf, God, Sex and Suspenders, Zep
The most popular comic series in France currently, Titeuf, stars an inquisitive eight-year-old who really just wants to understand life. Standing at the edge of puberty, Titeuf explores the questions of what lies ahead and invokes a playful, honest attitude toward growing up.
This series is perfect for younger French students that can relate, as well as for those more advanced who want to laugh as they learn.
4. L’Arabe du Futur, Riad Sattouf
The Arab of the Future
Born to a Syrian father and white French mother in the 1980s, Riad grows up between two cultures. Drawn to art and having a gentle disposition, the male-centered, aggressive worlds of Libya and Syria challenges Riad as a young child.
This graphic novel is written from his perspective but makes many observations on the politics of France and North Africa, as Riad navigates the culture of his father and of Islam. A great choice for people at a high school or college reading level.
5. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
Ranked by Newsweek as the fifth-best fictional book of the decade, Persepolis explores the childhood and adulthood of its author during and after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The protagonist, Marji, fights for what she believes in and explores her cultural identity throughout this wonderful series.
Anyone looking for a more advanced read and still wants an engaging, beautifully-illustrated experience need look no further than Persepolis. As an added bonus, once you finish you can watch the animated adaptation and practice your French listening skills and oral comprehension.
Welcome to the world of French graphic novels, or as we would say in this case: bandes dessinées. Now take these skills that you learn from the novels and try to have a French conversation with someone. As always, practice with consistency, and study often!
Photo by morebyless