How to improve reading in a foreign language – Part 2: Parallel/Bilingual Texts

Continuing with the subject of last week, let’s talk about how to improve reading.

The graded reader books are great for beginners and people who love literature classics and suspense stories. But, to achieve a high level in any language you need a more diverse vocabulary. To acquire this type of vocabulary while reading, I will present another strategy for someone who hasn’t domain of the language yet.

Bilingual texts

There are books and magazines that are bilingual or you can make your own texts. Usually, the books have the texts side by side, on a page you read the original text and on the other the translation. I.e., very simple to use, if in doubt just look at the word you don’t know the on the other side.

There are books that texts are not side by side, in this case is more difficult to find the translation. Magazines are also made in both models. Some have texts side by side; others are made in separate editions, one in language X and language on the other Y.

The Portuguese resources are few, but if you know English you can find plenty of options, just search in google for “dual book” or “Parallel Books” and put “English plus the desired language.”

Penguin Publisher has a few options here.

The lacks of texts in Portuguese don’t need to be a limiting factor. A great option to learn a language is to buy the original book and the book translated to your language. The good thing about this option is that you can use books/authors that you like. For example, Paulo Coelho has been translated to 67 languages, Harry Potter books have been translated to 67 languages and the Norwegian book “Sophie’s World” to more than 50 languages.To find the original editions of the book, you can purchase at online bookstores or ask a friend who is traveling.

Another good option is to use the internet site  Interlinear Books, which translates texts word by word and is available in: French, German, Spanish, Russian, Lithuanian, Swedish and Greek.

How to do your own bilingual texts

In case you don’t find good options, you can make your own texts. The process is quite simple; find e-books online in both desired languages that can be copied. Before buying any, always look at the format in which it is available and that you can copy or extract the text.

Then just open a text editor. Create two columns and paste the text of each language in a column. It is obvious that the texts will not be fully aligned. Typically for Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French texts are more alike, but texts in English/Portuguese aren’t it; so the ideal is make the English column smaller, since the language has shorter words and synthetic expressions.

If you do not have money to spend on books, you can still do the texts legally and for free.

For Brazilians learning Spanish, a great option is to access the Brazilian edition of the Spanish newspaper “El País“, select interesting texts and look for the same article at the Spanish Edition, such as:

A Turquia escolhe entre democracia e autoritarismo

Turquía escoge entre democracia y autoritarismo

The same can be done at the website of “Le monde diplomatique” magazine, available in 26 languages, including Esperanto.

Uma questão de “equilíbrio”

Une question d’« équilibre »

Or even, at the German website “Deutsche Welle“, available in 30 languages.

UE está pronta para ajudar na reconstrução da Faixa de Gaza

EU will Gaza beim Wiederaufbau helfen

My favorite website to make parallel texts is the site Global Voices, that has articles available in over 40 languages, it is not necessary to seek the original text and other versions. At the right side of the article, you can check who wrote, who translated and in which languages the article is available. The work of the organization is voluntary, but it has enough quality and wide-ranging texts.

For example, this story about a female Nepalese football player, besides in Portuguese, the text is available in the following languages: Malagasy, Bengali, Polish, French, Spanish, English and Hebrew.


About Nathalia

Polyglot Nerd creator, love foreign cultures and learning languages. Speak: English, Portuguese and Spanish. Learning: French
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