8 Italian-English Bilingual Books to Improve Your Reading Skills
Reading is one of the most important keys to picking up a new language, but it can be a little hard to get into.
There is, however, a solution to this predicament: bilingual books, which provide the text in both Italian and English, usually side-by-side or line-over-line.
Let’s look at why bilingual books are so useful and discover some bilingual Italian-English book recommendations.
Your Italian will improve page by page!
- 1. “Let’s Learn Italian Picture Dictionary”
- 2. “Color & Learn Easy Italian Phrases for Kids”
- 3. “Color & Learn Easy Italian Phrases for Kids”
- 4. “100 Bolognesi in Cucina“
- 5. “Ti voglio bene, mamma”
- 6. “Bella! Italia. Le grandi meraviglie”
- 7. “Juventus Museum”
- 8. “Abruzzo: Una terra da scoprire”
- Why Reading Italian Is Easy
- Why You Should Read Bilingual Books
1. “Let’s Learn Italian Picture Dictionary”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well in this case, it’s 30 colorful picture spreads and 1,500 Italian words. You’ll get vocabulary in a big picture context in this one.
For example, there’ll be a classroom scene, with all the objects you find in a typical class. Then beside or below this big scene (in the same spread), you’ll find the common objects this time individually illustrated and translated. So you’ll find words such as il quaderno (notebook), il libro (book) and la maestra (female teacher).
The book features many different scenes in the house, kitchen, zoo, supermarket and even outer space. So you don’t just get a dry list of unrelated vocabulary, you have words grouped according to context, which helps in the recall department.
At the back of the book, you have a handy glossary and a pronunciation guide.
This one deserves space on your Italian bookshelf and can be a ready reference for when you want to review the most common Italian words.
2. “Color & Learn Easy Italian Phrases for Kids”
This one will get you speaking confidently in no time.
Whereas the last book covered basic words, this one is about the most common phrases and expressions in the format of a coloring book. You’ll find many common articulations including buongiorno (good morning), a più tardi (see you later) and quanto costa? (how much does it cost?).
The words and expressions are accompanied by illustrations for quick recall. For example, to teach buongiorno, this book uses a picture of an excited little boy stretching on his bed, as the sun is slowly peeking through his window. With this simple picture, chances are you won’t forget how to greet with “good morning!” in Italian.
Below the Italian word or phrase is a pronunciation guide so you can start practicing words on your own. And, in order to keep the focus on Italian, the English translation is provided only at the bottom of the page.
Make no mistake, although this is a coloring book, adult language learners can glean much from its 60 pages—which also feature Italian numbers, food, family members and more.
3. “Color & Learn Easy Italian Phrases for Kids”
Who can forget “Humpty Dumpty,” “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” and the other nursery rhymes of our childhood? You may not remember what you had for lunch today, but the rhymes and songs you’ve learned 30 years ago will always stay.
That’s why you should consider this book for the long haul. It contains 20 nursery rhymes that have been around for generations.
When native speakers want their kids to learn their mother tongue, they resort to these classics. But they’re also perfect for the budding Italian language learner, regardless of age or hairline.
The whole nursery rhyme is written first in Italian, and then on the same page, with its English translation provided.
In addition, there are sets of language games and challenges that offer a fun way to remember the words contained in the selections. You’ll be asked to do word pairs, fill in missing letters or rearrange Italian word jumbles.
All 46 pages of this book are chock-full of language lessons.
4. “100 Bolognesi in Cucina“
It’s no secret that Italian culture and food are tied up pretty tight. Your journey into learning about Italy and its language may very well involve tackling the enormous food culture of the country. This book is a great place to begin.
Bologna, one of Italy’s many regions, is renowned for its cuisine. You may recognize its name from the well-known bolognese sauce that covers so many pasta dishes (though the Italians usually call it ragù).
Bologna’s rich food history spans savory and sweet, and this book is a bilingual jump into that particular cultural landscape.
“100 Bolognesi in Cucina” (100 Cooks from Bologna in the Kitchen) takes a look at Bologna not only from the standpoint of its recipes, but also from its people and culture as a whole. This book will help with your reading abilities while transporting you to a unique, beloved part of Italy’s diverse culture.
The book itself is also filled with a number of recipes that’ll satisfy any interested foodie. Just make sure you don’t read on an empty stomach.
5. “Ti voglio bene, mamma”
Unsurprisingly, many bilingual books are actually made for children. These types of books can be highly beneficial to a child’s learning process and can help them get a jump start on reading in another language while they’re still young, but they’re also useful for Italian learners at any age.
“Ti voglio bene, mamma” (I Love My Mom), which means literally “I love you, mom,” is one of the many options available. These books are useful for children and families who may want to study together, but they can do just as well for older readers who want to start somewhere simple.
The illustrations provide a helpful guide to the text, and the child-friendly structure makes it easy to pick up valuable new vocabulary and grammar.
This is, of course, one of many options in the way of children’s bilingual books. There are plenty more to look for, so don’t be afraid to go exploring for others as well. “Ti voglio bene, mamma” comes in in a physical print edition, but can also be purchased digitally.
6. “Bella! Italia. Le grandi meraviglie”
With an ancient culture that spans thousands of years, Italy has plenty of unique architecture to spare. The various buildings that cover the country come from a huge range of time periods and cultural contexts, and there’s much to learn from taking a peek at them. “Bella! Italia. Le grandi meraviglie!” (Beautiful! Italy. The Great Wonders) is a bilingual book that takes a look at the beauty of Italy’s buildings.
Stefano Zuffi’s book takes readers through some of the most famous of Italy’s architectural and artistic offerings, and can be just as visually interesting as it is helpful to Italian learners.
The pictures are particularly beneficial to the newest of newbies, because they provide extra context and help you build visual associations for the Italian words along with the translations.
Plus, even without the words, readers can admire some of the beauty of Italy’s culture, which is always a help in any language learning adventure.
7. “Juventus Museum”
Sports are another big part of Italian culture, soccer being the biggest of all.
Soccer (or “football,” or calcio in Italian) is far and away the most popular sport in the country, with the national team having its fair share of awards to go by. The nation’s soccer league is known as Serie A, which currently contains 20 different competing teams. Juventus, a football club from the Turin region, is one of the strongest.
This book details the Juventus team’s history and past glory with their official museum, containing plenty of other material to keep any sports fan interested. A copy of “Juventus” might best benefit someone who’s already invested in soccer or Serie A, as the rules and details might get a bit confusing for people who are out of the loop.
That being said, anyone looking to learn more about Italy’s sports culture could benefit from this text. Even those who are new to the language should find themselves managing just fine with the bilingual edition.
8. “Abruzzo: Una terra da scoprire”
Abruzzo is another one of Italy’s many regions. Located on the coast, just south of Central Italy, the region is worth knowing for everything from its resort towns to its dialects to even its unique olive oils. The land itself, however, is just as unique and breathtaking as the culture that lives within it.
“Abruzzo: Una terra da scoprire” (Abruzzo: A Land to Discover) is a bilingual book that takes the reader through the beauty and wonder of the eastern region. There are a number of photographs within the book that could capture the attention of any Italian student, providing a unique visual journey into a very specific corner of the country’s culture.
The text gives insight into the culture and history of the area, while photos make it easy for readers at any language level to enjoy. The book is a great exercise in cultural immersion, visual learning and reading comprehension.
Students of any level from any background can come away from this book having learned something completely new about Italy and its many regional cultures.
Why Reading Italian Is Easy
- With cognates, you’re not starting from scratch. If you know French, Spanish or Portuguese, chances are you already know a little bit of Italian. These languages belong to the same linguistic family, the Romance languages. They’re derived from Latin, the language spoken by the Romans. As a result, they have plenty of cognates, or words that look and sound very similar to one another.
- It’s a phonetic language. Now, this is where reading Italian becomes even easier. In Italian, there’s a strong correlation between how words are pronounced and how they’re spelled. Depending on your what your native language is, beginners will know how to say an Italian word by simply looking at its spelling in most cases.
- You don’t have to go in blind. You don’t have to start from books when you’re first learning to read. You can start with a three-minute clip of authentic Italian. How does watching videos help you with your reading? With FluentU, every video is a way to practice reading (and listening and comprehension and…). That’s because every video comes with a transcript, subtitles with translations that you can easily turn on or off and so much more.
Why You Should Read Bilingual Books
As we’ve established, reading in a new language can be super daunting, especially if you’re only just starting out. Bilingual books, however, are nifty tools that any language learner can use to their advantage.
So why should you read them?
- These books are specifically crafted to contain both English and Italian text, providing the reader with easy, in-context translations that can be consulted without interrupting the story. It’s almost like having a language guide with you throughout your reading process.
- There are plenty of books to choose from. Bilingual books can benefit students at any skill level, but are likely to best help beginners or those who aren’t as confident in their reading abilities.
- This doesn’t mean, however, that more experienced students can’t use them to brush up on Italian reading. It never hurts to practice, no matter what level your Italian is!
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
There’s much to learn from the wide world of bilingual books at any reading level and subject matter. A good read can make all the difference!