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)
Co-founder of Lenguajero – a free online conversation exchange community for Spanish and English speakers.