Learning with a Romance Novel

I used to read romance novels when I was 13, but I only read them when I was babysitting. I babysat for a family that had stacks of them lying all around their house. I would start one after the kids went to sleep, and then spend the next couple of hours furiously reading it in a desperate attempt to finish it before the parents got home. When I heard them at the door I would throw the book back where I found it, and turn on the tv.

Many years later, when I was learning Spanish I decided to start reading romance novels to help me practice.  It was incredibly useful.  Here’s why I think reading a romance novel is a great way to practice learning English (or any other second language).

1. Romance novels are easy to read.

There is a lot of great English literature. William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain are three such authors.  However, reading their books is hard even for native English speakers.  Trying to read a book by one of these authors when you are learning English would be hard and not a lot of fun.

Romance novels are at a much lower level of English and are fun to read (as are the Harry Potter books, The Da Vinci Code, and many others.)

2. Increase your Vocabulary


The hero –  “Was handsome…Very masculine, very strong…Had an air of authority.”

His clothing-designer fiancee (we hate her) – “Had plump lips, golden hair in an elegant ponytail, large green eyes, a classic nose, and a slim figure.”


Gain an advanced body vocabulary. When I was learning Spanish I used to read romance novels on a daily basis. I don’t know if my Spanish professor was impressed or worried that I knew the meaning of nalgas (buttocks), entrepiernas (crotch) and pezones (nipples). Plus, with a romance novel you get to learn the sexy nouns – heartbeat, moan, bra, silk and earthquake.


  • Past tense – Everything is in the past tense. Reading a romance novel will really help clarify the different relations that the different past tenses have to one another.
  • Learn to state things hypothetically – In romance novels people are always wondering what would have happened IF they had done something else. You’ll become really comfortable with statements like If I had met him earlier I would have had to run away with him forever”, and I bet he’s strong enough to…”

My recommendation for reading a book in a second-language is to be easy on yourself, read as much, or as little as you feel like. Every time I sit down with a book in Spanish I change it up. I do all, none, or some of the following:

  • Underline words I don’t understand
  • Look up underlined words right away and write them in the margins
  • Read right through just making sure that I get the gist of things
  • Review words that I wrote in the margins in previous chapters
  • Say every word in my head (or out loud)
Written by August for EnglishClub | August 2009
Co-founder of Lenguajero - a free online conversation exchange community for Spanish and English speakers.

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