Some language learners are leading double lives.
They switch between languages willy-nilly, sometimes with only a quick sideways glance to confirm.
Yeah, they play it so cool.
And they’re admired and envied by many.
That’s because a double life isn’t a bad thing when it comes to language learning.
After all, you need to work on your new language, but you’re probably still a lot more comfortable with your native language.
If you want the comfort of your native tongue with the skill-building potential of reading in your target language, there’s nothing quite like assuming a dual identity in order to have both.
Okay, so your language learning double life might not be as action-packed as your favorite spy movie, but it’s exciting in a different way.
Dual-language books can provide just the momentum you need to propel yourself towards greater fluency.
Dual-language books, also known as bilingual books, are one such type of language learning book. They throw you in the deep end of reading in your target language, but they also toss you a life preserver so you won’t drown.
And the great news is, they’re available for a wide variety of languages. Want to try out some bilingual Japanese books? Bilingual German books? No matter what language you’re learning, these texts provide you with the practice you need and extra support to ensure you succeed.
Considering living a double life with dual-language books? Here’s everything you need to complete your mission.
A Dual-language Book Intro: Welcome to Your New Double Life!
What Dual-language Books Are and Why You Should Use Them
First of all, it’s important to understand what dual-language books are. Dual-language books are a tool for language learners and/or bilingual readers. They offer text in two different languages. Often, this text is side-by-side in each language, but some books will share a short excerpt, such as a chapter, before switching languages.
They’re basically like a pure-text equivalent of the optional bilingual video captions you get on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like commercials, cartoons, vlogs, news and music videos—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
For language learners, dual-language books are an ideal reading option because they’re less daunting than reading fully in your target language. Reading in a foreign language can be intimidating for even experienced learners. However, if you know you have English translations handy, it’s much easier to give reading a try without fear of failure.
Because they offer additional language support, dual-language books are perfect for beginning and intermediate students. Having the English text handy means that you can easily fill in any vocabulary gaps with just a glance. Starting out with a dual-language text is a good stepping stone to reading in your target language without support.
While dual-language books are often associated with beginning and intermediate students, they’re popular among all levels of language learner. That’s because they offer a quick way to ensure you’ve understood the meaning of the text. More advanced learners might read in their target language and then just skim the English translation to ensure they fully comprehended the text. This is a good way to spot-check to ensure you actually understood what you thought you understood.
5 Dual-language Book Resources Language Learners Love
The Dover Dual-Language series focuses on providing stories in a target language and English. Many of their options include authentic stories that originally appeared in the target language. Reading these is a helpful way to practice your language skills while learning more about important literature.
The Dover Dual-Language line includes several volumes of short stories. For language learners, these are low-stress tools for practicing reading in a foreign language.
- “French Stories: A Dual-Language Book” features selections by popular French authors, including Voltaire and Camus.
- “Best Short Stories: A Dual-Language Book (German)” focuses exclusively on stories by Franz Kafka.
- “Italian Stories: A Dual-Language Book” features stories by Machiavelli and others.
- “Russian Stories: A Dual-Language Book” includes selections from Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Pushkin, Gogol and other big names.
- “Spanish Stories: A Dual-Language Book” features stories by Cervantes, Borges and more.
Additionally, these books are available in print or Kindle versions. Consider that in the Kindle version, you’ll have to change the page to refer to the translations. This can be a pro or a con. It requires a little more work to see the translation, but in that extra second, you might figure out the meaning on your own.
Another option for readers using a Kindle is to install a dictionary for easy reference while reading. If you like to see both texts at once, you can also use the Kindle Cloud Reader on your laptop and copy the corresponding text into a word processor. If you like to see both texts at once, just keep them open side-by-side!
The Penguin Parallel Text series focuses on providing contemporary short stories in their original language alongside English translations. This series offers a few more languages than the Dover Dual-Language series.
- “Short Stories in Chinese: New Penguin Parallel Text” offers a number of contemporary stories by Chinese authors.
- “Short Stories in French: New Penguin Parallel Text” features works by French and Canadian authors.
- “Short Stories in Japanese: New Penguin Parallel Text” focuses on contemporary Japanese works.
- “German Short Stories 1: Parallel Text Edition” focuses on post-war German short stories.
- “Short Stories in Italian: New Penguin Parallel Text” features selections by Calvino and other Italian authors.
- “Short Stories in Russian: New Penguin Parallel Text” provides Russian short stories, some of which appear for the first time in English.
- “Short Stories in Spanish: New Penguin Parallel Text” includes contemporary short stories by both Castilian and Latin American authors, including Allende and García Márquez.
Like the Dover Dual-Language series, these books are available in print or for Kindle. Again, on your Kindle, you’ll have to flip a page to see the translation, but you can also use these books on your computer through the Kindle Cloud Reader so you can have the texts open side-by-side. Otherwise, using a dictionary on your Kindle will provide you with a quick reference if you ever need to know what a word means immediately.
Language Lizard provides a wide array of bilingual children’s products. There are options in over 50 languages, so it’s a rare valuable find for anyone looking to learn less common languages.
Just select the language you’re learning on the left-hand sidebar and browse to your heart’s content.
Language Lizard offers languages paired with English for their dual-language books, with multiple languages across books. So if you find a certain book in Spanish, for example, you might also be able to get the same book in Urdu, Albanian, Bengali, Irish and many more languages.
Since the books focus on simple children’s stories with common vocabulary you’re likely to need, these books are excellent for both children and beginning adult learners, and great if you’re learning multiple languages.
Bilinguis.com is a free online resource offering side-by-side translations of books. The text appears line-by-line, side-by-side, so you can easily glance at the English version whenever you’re struggling with a word or phrase.
The focus is on popular, public-domain works like “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Language offerings vary by work but often include Chinese, German, French, Russian and Spanish. Less common offerings include Finnish and Catalan.
Bilinguis also offers some audio options. In these versions, you can listen to a reading of the text in your target language while looking at the text in your target language and English for easy, supportive listening and reading practice.
Project Gutenberg is known for providing a huge selection of free public domain texts, but it probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about dual-language texts.
However, for the clever language learner (that you obviously are), Project Gutenberg is a treasure trove of dual-language texts.
That’s because many texts are available in multiple languages. You can use this as a dual-language resource by opening two browsers side-by-side. To find the right text, you can browse by language to see selections in your target language. Then, look for that same work in English. Another easy trick to find texts in multiple languages is to browse by author. This way, you can see what languages are available for any author’s work, regardless of what language it might have been in originally.
For instance, you can read “Don Quijote” in Spanish or the equivalent “Don Quixote” in English. If you’re really into quixotic knights, you might even try the equivalent “L’ingénieux chevalier Don Quichotte de la Manche” in French.
Give these dual-language resources a try.
Your double life might be the best thing to ever happen to you!
And One More Thing…
Don’t wait any longer to start your new fully dual-language life with FluentU’s bilingual captions. FluentU makes it possible to learn languages from music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks.
With FluentU, you learn real languages—the same way that real people speak them. FluentU has a wide variety of videos, like movie trailers, funny commercials and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover over or tap on the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s “quiz mode.” Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that vocab to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.