Иногда вы хотите читать по-русски.
Sometimes you want to read in Russian.
Иногда вы хотите читать по-английски.
Sometimes you want to read in English.
When you want to read in both Russian and English, though, there’s a great option: bilingual books!
Bilingual, or dual-language books, are books in which text appears side-by-side in both the target language and English. For Russian students, these are some of the easiest Russian books to enjoy since you can practice your Russian without being in over your head.
Plus, there are plenty of different types of bilingual books, so there’s something out there for any learner at any level. You can read children’s books, Russian short stories and beginner and intermediate Russian books, all with the support of the helpful English-language text.
So, if you want all the learning benefits (and pride) of reading a story in Russian but would rather avoid the pressure and intimidation, try these seven beautiful bilingual books!
Why Read Bilingual Books in Russian and English?
There are plenty of benefits to using bilingual books in your Russian studies:
- Bilingual books are convenient. If you don’t know a word in Russian, you don’t have to keep referring back to a dictionary. All you have to do is look at the accompanying English translation. So, rather than spending valuable time thumbing through a thick reference volume or trying to remember how to type in Russian on your favorite device, you’ll get to spend more time actually reading in Russian.
- They’re unintimidating. When you first try to read in a foreign language, it can be daunting. Reading is a challenging test of your learning, and it’s hard to anticipate how successful you’ll be. With bilingual books, you have the translations handy, so you can approach reading practice without any nervousness. And do you know what less nervousness means? It means you’ll probably be less likely to put off reading practice and more likely to actually enjoy it.
- They grow with you. How you use the books will vary based on your level of proficiency. When you’re a beginning student, you may lean more heavily on the English. But as you learn more, you can enjoy the Russian text alone without referring to the English version. This makes bilingual books surprisingly versatile.
- They provide a great support for other learning resources. Use bilingual books in conjunction with the video learning service FluentU for a well-rounded Russian learning experience. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. Use the bilingual (English and Russian) subtitles, vocab lists, flashcards and much more to add some visual spice to your Russian learning!
Convinced yet? Read on for our favorite bilingual Russian-English books!
7 Beautiful Bilingual Books You Can Enjoy in Russian and English
1. “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy
There’s nothing like reading a Russian masterpiece in the original language. But Russian works are notoriously complex and often difficult to follow. Luckily, bilingual books are here to help.
Interlinear Books offers a downloadable bilingual version of Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” which follows a dying man as he grapples with how he’s lived his life. You can download the text onto your favorite device or print it out and read a paper copy.
“The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is a novella, so it isn’t as long as most full-length Russian novels. Therefore, it’s a good jumping-off point for anyone looking to try reading authentic Russian literature.
What to expect:
In this bilingual text, the English version appears directly below the Russian text, so it’s easy to switch between the two. Each word is translated directly below its Russian version, so you can not only put together the meaning of the sentence but also know what role each and every word plays in its construction.
2. “Chekhov Bilingual” by Anton Chekhov
If you can’t get enough Russian short stories, “Chekhov Bilingual” is for you.
This edition contains eight pieces by noted playwright and short story writer, Anton Chekhov. The works compiled here include his popular “The Little Trilogy” and an excerpt from the play “The Seagull.”
There’s also some information on Chekhov himself written in both languages, describing his life and eccentricities for anyone curious about the mind behind the literature.
What to expect:
Pages alternate between English and Russian, making it easy to read each story completely in one language or switch fluidly between the two. The Russian text contains accent marks so readers can easily see where to put the stress in each word, and the translations are literal and take few literary liberties—meaning you can usually see the exact translation of each line (even in the poems!).
3. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky is one of the biggest names in Russian literature. To read his books in the original language, you’ll need an advanced understanding of the Russian language… or a handy-dandy bilingual text!
In short, “Crime and Punishment” is about a poor man who commits a murder but ultimately feels guilt over his actions (though not for the reasons you might expect). The story is complex and compelling, but it can be a little difficult to follow, especially if you aren’t fluent in the language. Luckily, this bilingual text can act as a crutch until you can understand it on your own.
What to expect:
This downloadable text is designed to be used on your favorite device. Simply click a sentence (or part of a sentence) to see its English translation. The translations are expertly done and focus on getting the gist and meaning across, rather than the literal translation, so you can’t use it for word-for-word translation. As a result, this one is recommended for higher-level learners.
4. “The Spine of Russia” by Paul E. Richardson and Mikhail Mordasov
Do you enjoy gazing at beautiful pictures of Russia? Do you want to get your cultural and language education all at once? “The Spine of Russia” is a great option.
This book is a collaboration between a journalist and a photojournalist that provides a unique look at Russia and its people. The book offers readers a journey across Russia, showing places and people that might otherwise go unnoticed. It’s filled with images of Russia and Russians, along with thoughtful descriptions in both English and Russian.
What to expect:
Because it includes a lot of photographs, it’s an easy, unintimidating read. Some captions describe the image. Others include commentary from the people featured in the pictures. You can enjoy the brief descriptions in Russian or refer to the English versions. Regardless, the photographs will provide you with a clear context to help you understand the descriptions.
For the most part, the text is an exact translation, but some phrases are not translated literally, instead opting to convey the bigger meaning. Challenge yourself by finding these discrepancies and figuring out what a literal translation of each might look like!
5. “Russian Fairy Tales” by Svetlana Bagdasaryan
If you have a soft spot for fantastic tales, you’ll love Russian fairy tales.
“Russian Fairy Tales” features five stories, including familiar tales like “Jack Frost,” alongside Russian classics that any Russian student should know, like “Vasilisa and Baba Yaga.”
Since the stories are intended to be appropriate for children, the language level isn’t too advanced.
What to expect:
The text is broken up into chunks and jumps back and forth between languages, so if you don’t understand something, it’s easy to check the English translation.
Be warned that the translations here are rudimentary and don’t always use the best English, but they do a good job of getting the meanings across, and often opt for literal translations—perfect if you’re hung up on a particular word or phrase.
6. “Yum! Let’s Eat!” by Thando Maclaren
Want to learn the Russian words for delicious international dishes? “Yum! Let’s Eat!” is a fun, illustrated way to learn all the vocabulary you’ll need to name your favorite foods.
This picture book from Language Lizard is intended for children, so the vocabulary is simple. “Yum! Let’s Eat” is available in a number of different language options. If you want it in Russian and English, just use the drop-down menu.
If you’re learning multiple languages, you might even use different volumes to learn the same words in several languages. Or check out the rest of the “Our Lives, Our Worlds” series, which includes similarly structured books about games/sports and modes of transportation.
What to expect:
This is an excellent book for beginner learners. Each Russian word is accompanied by its English translation and a colorful illustration, so there’s never any doubt regarding what each word means.
Unusually for language learning books, this one is not specific to the Russian culture, and instead uses 11 children from different places around the world to introduce cultural foods and dishes, all in Russian with full English translations. Use it to learn simple sentence structures as well as how to say ethnic food names like “sushi” and “tagine” in Russian.
Who doesn’t know the tale of “The Three Little Pigs”?
You know the one—three pigs build their houses out of different materials. When a wolf blows at the houses, only the house made of bricks is left standing. It’s familiar and easy to follow, so even if you want to try reading exclusively in Russian, you’ll probably be able to understand it.
However, just in case, you might want to give this bilingual text a try. It’s entirely free online thanks to Duotales. Perhaps best of all, Duotales also offers MP3s that you can download or listen to online. This way, you can hear the spoken words as you read along with the story, working a little listening practice into your reading activity.
The website also offers plenty of other stories, so you can ramp up the difficulty to Pushkin works, or read other children’s stories.
What to expect:
Every sentence is translated directly under it, so the text alternates between languages in every line. Once again the translations are not literal, so don’t try to use them to learn individual words. Instead, use the translations to check if you understood the basic meaning of each sentence.
With these seven beautiful bilingual books, you can start reading in Russian today, regardless of your current proficiency level!
And One More Thing…
Since you’ve read this far, you’re obviously serious about learning Russian. And that means there’s a good chance you’ll love FluentU.
FluentU takes all kinds of real-world videos and turns them into language learning experiences, as you can see here:
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? FluentU makes native Russian videos approachable through interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
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 Russian with real-world videos.