5 Spots to Pick Up Texts in the Bilingual Parallel Universe

Some texts lead parallel lives.

In one universe, they’re written in English, French, German, Spanish… or in any of a dozen other languages.

Then, in a parallel universe, they’re the same book in a completely different language.

Bilingual parallel texts are wonderful for making the versions intersect, and we’ve got just the guide to dynamic sources of bilingual learning.


The Literary Learner’s Guide to Bilingual Parallel Texts

We’ve got five of the hottest sources for bilingual parallel texts right here.

We’ll tell you what kind of texts each publisher has to offer, their available formats and languages, where to find them… and what special features make each of them shine.


Historiae - The Histories: Bilingual parallel text: Latin - English

Symbolized by the half-human, half-horse creature displayed in the company logo, Kentauron brings you stellar texts that marry two separate languages. Bridging the gap between well-loved fairy tales and well-known literature, the Kentauron series also includes works of nonfiction.

Types of texts available: A mixture of fairy tales, fables, literature and nonfiction.

Languages used with English for parallel texts:

  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Russian

Other bilingual combinations:

  • French-Italian
  • French-Spanish
  • French-Russian
  • Italian-Spanish
  • Italian-Russian
  • Latin-French
  • Latin-Italian
  • Spanish-Russian

Formats: Kindle, paperback or both.

Cost: Price varies depending on format.

Special features:

  • Alternating or side-by-side. This publisher uses both a side-by-side translation and an alternating paragraph translation, depending on the book.
  • Literary legends. The Kentauron bilingual parallel text repository is comprised of celebrated works such as “A Christmas Carol,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Little Prince” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
  • Authentic artwork. Several books in the series feature restored illustrations from the original editions. Enjoy visual adornments of the same vintage as the texts.

Farkas Translations​

Translator Andras Farkas’s site houses an ever-expanding library of bilingual books.

Types of texts available: Public domain classics.

Languages used with English for parallel texts:

  • Catalan
  • Dutch
  • Esperanto
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Norwegian
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish

For many works, parallel texts for several other languages are included alongside the English translation.

Formats: Online (viewable in browser); do-it-yourself e-books.

The texts are also downloadable as offline HTML files. (The offline HTML mirrors the online version in appearance but lacks the filtering functionality you find online.)

The site offers a custom, downloadable program called Ebookmaker (will download automatically), through which you can transform downloaded texts into e-books.

Cost: Free.

Special features:

  • Table of Babel. Presented in a table format, translations in different languages are aligned side by side in columns. The literary work itself is broken into rows by sentences, some of which are quite long and complex. If you look in the Sources section, you can sometimes find links to the audiobooks for particular languages.
  • Filter for a custom brew. You have the option to see only the languages you want, provided you view the texts online in your browser. Simply select the “Hide” button (under the language name at the top of each column) to conceal any languages you don’t wish to read. If you change your mind, just click “Show All” underneath the title information at the head of the page.
  • Multiple parallels. Depending on which texts you try, you can find a fairly wide selection of parallel translations. Some works are available in nine different languages!


Double down for some serious language learning with literary style when you try Doppeltext.

Types of texts available: Well-known works from the public domain.

Languages used with English for parallel texts: 

  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Spanish

Formats: Purchased books can be read online (in browser), on Kindle and on other devices.

Cost: Usually under $15; the price depends on the length of the work.

Free samples are available online, if you’d like to try before you buy.

Special features:

  • Pop-up books. Remember pop-up video? If so, you might feel a twinge of nostalgia when you read bilingual parallel texts on Doppeltext. Doppeltext’s translations are not side by side or stacked top to bottom. You’ll only see the parallel text when you choose to do so. Each time you click on a phrase, the English translation appears in a bubble of contrasting color above the text in the original language.
  • Take small bites. Most translated fragments are about 120 characters long—shorter than the original tweet length of 140 characters. They’re short, sweet and easy to digest.
  • Choose your own adventure. Since you can turn translations on or off with a simple click, leading a parallel life with the text or staying fully immersed in the target language is always your choice. Doppeltext is formatted like a real book, with snazzy details like indented paragraphs and drop caps at the beginning of chapters.

But for all of the traditional look, you have the advantage of electronic adaptability: With a choice of seven different text sizes, you can easily adjust the text to your preference. Use the collapsed menu in the corner of the screen (symbolized by three stacked, horizontal bars) to quickly jump from one chapter to another.

Parapara Books​


Parapara’s name is a nod to their side-by-side translation format. And their books are on your side when you want to bolster your language learning through literary landmarks.

Types of texts available: Noteworthy works from the public domain.

Languages used with English for parallel texts: 

  • French
  • German

Format: Paperback.

Cost: Usually under $15.

Special features:

  • Magically mirroring pages. Facing pages mirror each other, with the French or German on one side and the English on the other. Glance from side to side to take advantage of the translation—or face away from it for full immersion into the target language text.
  • Well-known works. Seminal compositions such as Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Voltaire’s “Candide,” Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” comprise the small but growing Parapara collection.

Parapara also plans to add modern authors, especially from non-Western parts of the world.

Penguin Parallel Texts​


Dress up your bilingual bookshelf with publications from Penguin Parallel Texts.

You don’t need to wear a tux to read these… Penguin takes care of the literary formalities for you, with features such as scholarly notes and an in-depth introduction to each volume.

Types of texts available: The works of contemporary authors from the mid-to-late 20th century.

Languages used with English for parallel texts: 

  • Chinese
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Russian
  • Spanish

Formats: Paperback and e-book (Kindle, Nook, iOS, Android, etc.).

Cost: Most are under $15; prices vary, depending on format and vendor.

Special features:

  • On the other hand, the translation. The parallel texts are presented page by page, side by side, as you hold the paperback version of the book open. This makes it easy to compare passages or check translations for unfamiliar words and phrases.
  • Explanations afoot. Footnotes in each story provide more in-depth references and explanations of the language. Enhance your reading experience with this bonus information.
  • Keeping it brief. These short story anthologies from Penguin are perfect for readers who don’t have time to devote to a whole novel… or those who want more variety in one volume.

Brief, brilliant contributions from celebrated authors form a kaleidoscope of thought and imagination, spanning the latter half of the last century.

The Why and How of Bilingual Parallel Texts

Put text in its place: Learn in context

Unlike most vocabulary lists, bilingual parallel texts transport you to a world of non-literal, literary and descriptive language.

Rather than just learning new words in isolation, you can understand how words fit together in different usages.

Don’t get up! Save time

Much like the dual-language interactive subtitles on FluentU media clips, there’s no need to reach for the dictionary with bilingual parallel texts.

All words and phrases are glossed right within the text—so you don’t have to stop reading to translate a tricky term.

Now in stereo! Listen along

Kick your learning up a notch by listening to the text in the target language. As you read along, you can use the translation for reference.

Audio versions of many public domain texts are available for free on the web. You can look for your favorites in many languages using one of the following search engines:

  • LibriVox (searchable by author, title, genre or language; sortable alphabetically or by release date)
  • Loyal Books (arranged by language; viewable by title or author; sortable alphabetically or by popularity)

In many cases, the corresponding e-books are available on the same site.


So… are you ready to lead a double life? To travel space and time and experience parallel universes of language through the inter-dimensional doorway of bilingual texts?

You don’t need a ride on a spaceship or sophisticated scientific equipment.

Getting there is easy—with these five sensational sources for bilingual parallel texts, all you need is curiosity and a sense of adventure… and, perhaps, your reading glasses.

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