“La pluma es la lengua del alma.” (“The quill is the tongue of the soul.”) — Miguel Cervantes
It’s no surprise that the widely acclaimed Spanish author Miguel Cervantes would leave us this amazing literary quote! After all, he’s the man responsible for bringing Don Quixote to the world.
As Cervantes says, the written word can be timeless and priceless, and it certainly often comes straight from the author’s soul.
Reading all that soulful material can be heartwarming, heartbreaking or even heartless, but there’s no doubt that reading—whatever the topic—is necessary for any language learner.
It can be difficult to get started with reading—many find it pretty challenging. But you don’t have to dive into it all at once.
If you’re having trouble practicing your Spanish reading, try using bilingual books to ease into full-on Spanish reading.
The format of Spanish-English bilingual books takes the uncertainty out of reading in a foreign language. There’s no need to look up every word and you can instantly see if you understood a sentence correctly.
And if you can get it all for free? That’s extra fabulous!
Let’s find some free bilingual books so you can get your Spanish reading practice moving along!
Why Bilingual Spanish-English Books Are a Super Addition to Your Language Program
Bilingual books are unique because they provide a translation immediately. That means there’s no need to use a dictionary or even a translation app.
Even though those two items are unnecessary it’s still a great idea to keep a pad and pen nearby. That way, when you come across unfamiliar words you can use them to compile a new vocabulary list!
Bilingual books are formatted to show text either side by side or with English translations directly beneath every line of Spanish.
This format makes it a breeze to skim text or just settle down and read.
Bilingual books take the stress out of reading. And if there’s less stress there’s more room for enjoyment.
Factoring dual-language books into your Spanish program is a snap. Schedule reading practice time into your study routine and it won’t be long before your reading skills improve.
Just remember not to rely too much on the English translation! Make sure you actually try to understand the text by yourself, then look up anything you didn’t understand in the translation. You’ll notice that gradually, you’ll check the English version less and less often.
Bilingual books elevate Spanish practice reading, emphasizing entertainment and story by making the reading process more fluid!
7 Places to Find Bilingual Books in Spanish and English for Free Online
Below are some of the best resources for free online Spanish-English bilingual books. You’re sure to find something perfect for you in these seven resources!
For even more bilingual goodness, check out FluentU’s enhanced videos.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
If you’re a fan of the classics, this site is the place for you!
The home page lists many translations of popular fiction. Both short stories and longer works have been translated into Spanish as well as French. There are audio and video files to be accessed, as well!
Simply scroll down to choose a title. I chose one of my favorite stories, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and was thrilled to see the side-by-side text for all three languages is aligned so well that it’s effortless to gaze from one language to another.
When you get stuck on a word, just look over to find its meaning. For more effective practice, jot down both the word and its meaning for review later on. Soon, you’ll have a new classics-inspired vocabulary list!
If short stories are more your thing, try Jack London’s “Encender un fuego” (“To Build a Fire”).
And if you’ve ever wanted to peruse the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens or countless other acclaimed authors, take a moment to look around. I did, and ended up reading some great literature!
Another great feature about this site is that there’s a brief description of every story as well as the year it was published. You can even find additional tidbits about the authors, too.
Bilinguis is a super source for bilingual books, featuring side-by-side translations. The selection is limited but every option is definitely worth reading!
I chose Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and wasn’t disappointed.
In addition to Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Franz Kafka and Jules Verne are represented. The choices consist of a small but stellar group of authors and some of their best works—all ready for Spanish reading practice!
To access a book, click on the title. The next page will ask what foreign language you want to read—it’s called the “left language” because the foreign text appears on the left side of the screen.
Just hit the arrow to bring the drop-down menu into view, choose Español (Spanish) and then hit the “read” button. It’s that easy!
The selections here include some beautiful black-and-white illustrations that accompany the text. And those lovely images need no translation!
Alba Learning’s parallel-text books feature many authors’ classic works. They’re offered in several languages. Many titles will be familiar!
Miguel Cervantes is on the roster, although his famous “Don Quixote” isn’t available. “La fuerza de la sangre” (“The Force of Blood”) is accessible. If you’ve never read it, I suggest taking a peek. It’s a compelling story in any language!
Cervantes isn’t the only whose works are here. James Joyce, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London and a ton of other respected novelists are on the literature list. It’s a who’s-who of the writing world and every work is translated into Spanish for us to love and learn from!
One great bonus to the books on this site is that they’re also available as free audiobooks. The option is right at the top of every section of the book so if you want to hear the story as well as read it, click on that little audio button!
Accessing bilingual books on this site is uncomplicated: Scroll down to find an author you like, then choose one of their titles (click on to the version with the familiar red-and-yellow Spanish flag to get the Spanish version) and start reading.
Text is displayed side-by-side, Spanish on the left and English on the right.
Free Kids Books
While the books at Free Kids Books target the children, there’s no reason why beginner Spanish learners, or any adult for that matter, can’t enjoy the fun, quick reads. They accommodate toddlers to young adults (although this adult read several of their books just this morning).
Choose a story from the home page. When a book opens, you get the option to read it online or download it for free.
This website is especially useful because some books include the literal translation in addition to the Spanish and English versions. This shows the nuance of the language and its translation, and makes for some interesting reading!
Online Spanish Club
Online Spanish Club has only one book available but it’s formatted and translated so well that it’s worth reading.
“La sorpresa” (“The Surprise”) is about a young couple and a surprise that goes awry. I won’t give up the ending—you’ll have to find that out on your own!
The translation is given below the Spanish passages and each line is numbered for ease of understanding and for comparative purposes. This is a good way to get a taste of bilingual reading—it’s not too long or complicated!
This app is available for iPhone and Android users. It shows stories in two languages simultaneously and provides an audio reading so learners can hear the words and their pronunciation.
“The Adventures of Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Tortoise and the Hare” are among the stories featured on this app.
Every sentence is highlighted as it’s read aloud. There’s also an option to reread a line or section so revisiting a portion for clarification couldn’t be easier!
And just to show how much fun free Spanish bilingual reading materials can be, our favorite pig diva, Olivia, is the star of this sweet video.
Ian Falconer’s beloved pig comes to life in the telling of “Olivia,” the first book in the series.
The story is read and translated—and it’s so entertaining I can almost guarantee you’ll watch it more than once—I know I did!
I own a physical copy of the Spanish version of “Olivia” and its pages show how often it’s been read in my house!
Cervantes was right.
Words do come from the heart and soul. And if we’re lucky, they touch our hearts and souls.
Spend time reading with stress-free, fully translated free bilingual books. Gain tons of Spanish language skills—and have your soul touched, too.
What’s not to love?
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