17 January 2009

Learning Spanish with Bart and Archie

When I first came to Mexico and was desperate to learn Spanish as fast as I could I discovered once I got past the basics that reading comics could be a big help. I started out by reading the comics in the Sunday newspaper when I lived near Monterrey but I soon learned that there are comic books available in Spanish that feature characters that I have long been familiar with. My favorite Spanish comic book is “Archie Comics” because I am very familiar with Archie, Betty, Jughead, and Veronica due to my misspent youth. The thing about the comics is that they use a common vernacular that is more or less every day street Spanish. Let's face it, most comic books are pretty simple. They aren't designed to be read by rocket scientists and brain surgeons. Nevertheless they can be quite challenging for non native speakers depending upon the amount of slang and idiomatic expressions that they contain. That is really the best feature though. It is a quick way to discover slang and idiomatic expressions that average people use all the time in their day to day conversations. Thus, if you want to understand young people who are at least literate but perhaps a bit under motivated then Archie and Jughead (especially Jughead) may be able to help you. You will probably find that need some assistance understanding some of the slang used but the pictures help and they can give you a general idea of what is going on. To begin with you can find a complete Archie comic in Spanish to read online at: http://www.archiecomics.com/

[edit] Here is a more direct link for the Spanish version:
Actually it is a bit tricky to find from the home page. You have to click on "Comics" and then click on "Foreign Language Comics" on the rack in the cartoon bookstore.

There are lot's of other comic books besides Archie to read. Some of my other favorites are “Gasparín (Casper the Friendly Ghost), “El Pájaro Loco (Woody Woodpecker), and “Riqui Ricón” (Richie Rich). You can find examples of these and many more online at: http://www.mundovid.com/

Whenever I pass a news stand I always look for comic books but sometimes you have to ask the news stand vendor “¿Hay comics?” (¿Ay COH-meeks?) and he or she will reach down and bring up a stack of assorted comics. I think they keep them out of sight because kids tend to walk off with them without paying. They generally sell for about twenty pesos each. My latest find is a Bart Simpson comic entitled “¿Bart en Apuros!” or in other words “Bart in trouble” or “Bart in a fix”. Bart, being a contemporary kid, might be a bit more challenging to read than Casper or Richie Rich. There is another famous but controversial comic book in Mexico that you may have seen or heard about called “Memín Pinguín”. This comic book is controversial because it features a mischievous black Cuban boy who has been around since about 1940 and although the character is well loved by the Mexican people there are others in the world, especially in the United States, who deem it quite racist. Personally I just leave it alone and think that it will just fade away eventually. Besides that, the dialog contains so much contemporary “hip” slang as to be unnecessary for beginning and intermediate students of Spanish.

Now if you are really serious about learning Spanish, especially Mexican Spanish, then get out there and look around for some Spanish comic books. If your spouse or one of your friends start to question you on your choice of reading material or your sanity just tell them that you are doing your homework. It will probably be the best homework assignment that you ever received. I just wish that they could have put arithmetic in a comic book. Maybe then I would have had better report cards.


Frankly Ronda said...

My kids read Spanish comics! More of the action figure variety, though.

YayaOrchid said...

Archie comics is great in any language! Glad you have access to so many great ones!

Billie Mercer said...

Bob, I know that this is about comics but you brought up Memin Pequin. I previously did a bit of research about Memin and race relations in Mexico. The Mexicans seem to pride themselves on not being racist like the US but they are very aware of color and class.

1st Mate said...

Gracias for the online comics links! I've started keeping a list of expressions, from subtitled movies, newspaper articles, even conversations. You won't catch me talking like a textbook!

ElleCancun said...

Excellent idea!!!! I'm always reading magazines, and they are most definitely NOT street talk!! Most are actually written in Spain!I like the idea of Archie en Espanol!!!

GlorV1 said...

I think that is a great idea. Who wouldn't want to read Archie in Espanol. You are so clever Bob. Have a great evening.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Memin Pinguin... the fact that this character has been around since 1940 (that is 69 years through 2009) I doubt very much "it will fade away" as you hope and/or wish it would. As long as Mexicans love Memin, he'll live forever. Incidentally, as a child Memin Pinguin was my favorite character and I never missed a single issue. As an adult it brings memories from my childhood.

Anonymous said...

Bob... been busy with my FM2 papers & the tax office but wanted to put in my 2 cents worth of feed back.
My favorite comics (and cartoonists) are:
(1)"La Familia Burron" by Gabriel Vargas.
(2) "Boogie" by Roberto Fontanarosa of Argentina.
(3) All of the books by "Rius" (aka. Eduardo del Rio)
By the way my new blog site is:

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.