Are Dual Language Books Helpful?
The best way to answer this question is to delve into feedback from people who have tried them, and see what they had to say about them. You can do your own research by sifting through the reviews of the different dual language readers/books available (try the reviews on amazon.com or bn.com for example).
Here’s a summary of what we’ve found (both sides: pros & cons).
The benefits of using a Dual Language Book or Dual Language Reader in learning a new language:
- Entertaining to read
- Great for enriching/expanding vocabulary
- Format allows for simple cross-reference, with English on one side and the other language on the opposite side, as well as making it perfect for checking your understanding against the translation (most importantly, an understanding of the new language in context)
- Fascinating, but challenging: overall a great exercise for the mind.
- Dual Language Readers / Dual Langugae Books motivate the reader, while it certainly could be, and perhaps should be… this isn’t classroom instruction, the reader learns new words as he progresses through the story and since it is a story (depending on the story itself) it far more interesting. It’s more than reading a story, it’s a continuous activity of testing one’s own translation, as well as understanding and learning a new language in context.
- These books help to fill in the gaps between classroom instruction and how the language is really used.
- Dual Language Books significantly enhance the ability to understand and read the new language.
- They’re entertaining, the reader is enjoying a story and learning without even realizing it, often without effort.
- Compared to sitting in a classroom environment, dual language books are fun to read & even allow the reader to test him or herself, making the dual language book extremely convenient to use. How can a reader test himself? By trying to read either text (English or foreign language) independently, then using the translation to see how much they knew or have now learned.
- You can try to read the text in the foreign language and use the translation for when you get stuck on a word or phrase.
- No need to always have a language dictionary on hand at all times.
- No endless word memorizing, boring lessons, dual language books allow the reader to jump right into the story with a readily accessible reference to guide them when words come along they didn’t know before.
- You can read the story in both languages, then attempt to read the foreign language story only. Once the reader is capable of doing that, he or she can move on to other texts in the new language (newspapers, new books, etc).
- Using the story format, on top of all the other benefits, the reader is exposed to dialog in the foreign language.
- Use the dual language reader in class, with a tutor, or with a friend to read out loud and greatly improve one’s speaking ability.
- People who use dual language readers will be able to move on to literature and texts completely in the foreign language sooner than they thought possible.
Here is a summary of what we found regarding the drawbacks of a Dual Language Book or Dual Language Reader:
- Beginners who have no experience or knowledge at all, may have a difficult or frustrating time with a dual language book at first. Many reviews recommend at least some experience with the language (high school class, etc).
- Many say intermediary level is more appropriate (…although the reviews are mixed here, some say that beginners would benefit greatly using a dual language reader).
- Sometimes the reader expects a “literal” translation, and are disappointed when that isn’t always the case (however these cases provide great examples of how the language is really used).
- Sometimes the story is old and the language is archaic. These critics call for using more contemporary stories and suggest that stories where people are already familiar with would be more appropriate.
- It can be difficult to resist the temptation to look at the English translation (sometimes…)
- The selection itself, dual language books can be difficult to find and the stories/content available is limited.
In conclusion, we’ve found that for those who are trying to learn Spanish, English, French, German or any other second language, a dual language reader is a great resource (and probably underutilized). If you haven’t tried one, give it a shot. Learning to read in another language is the first step in learning to think in another language and that’s the real secret to being able to converse in that language.
Here are a few dual language books to check out in some of the more popular languages studied by native English speakers (also note that for those learning English as a Second Language these are great for the same reasons!):
To learn Russian:
To learn Italian:
To learn German:
To learn French:
To learn Polish:
To learn Arabic :
To learn Spanish: