Friday, June 7, 2013

Cartoons for ESL

I came across an interesting website recently that has cartoons for English learners, with accompanying information. For each cartoon there is a transcript of the text, vocabulary explained, and information about context (explaining the cartoon and giving cultural background if relevant).

The website Comics English is at:

It’s fairly new (started 20 May 2013), but invites the reader to “visit regularly” for cartoons. I told my students about the website so that they can read it on their own – I figure that cartoons and comics will be a big motivator! But in class we looked at the following cartoon (originally from the website xkcd:, which describes itself as “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

The Comics English website explains all the relevant vocabulary and, as Context, adds, “Notice that the first sentence is like a formula. Speakers can put the name of any new technology they want in between < … > (Google Glass in this instance).”

But my students and I went further. We discussed the significance of having a “formula” by which you could discuss any kind of new technology, even if you don’t know anything about it. We played around with it a while, substituting other technologies the students know about. Then we tried to think of other “formulas” for discussing technology, art, literature, their studies, etc.

The cartoon made me think of the idea behind a series of books (or more accurately, booklets) called Bluffer’s Guide. Topics in the series include economics, poetry, skiing, sex, hiking, beer, quantum universe (and many others). The series helps you “bluff your way with those who claim currency in the subject. Nothing demanded, just a sense of humour.”


  1. Nice post :)

    PS: The permalink of the cartoon mentioned is:

    ( /page/2/ changes regularly as I add posts)

  2. Thank you for your update, Jonathan! I've changed the link on the blog post. Of course page 2 would change - and it's important for teachers to keep viewing the Comics English website, because cartoons with other subject will provide even more material for classes.