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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.Β  It was incredibly useful.Β  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.Β  However, reading their books is hard even for native English speakers.Β  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

Adjectives

The hero –Β  “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.”

Nouns

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.

Verbs

  • 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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