One can’t argue with the fact that reading books has a lot of benefits, and one of them is the potential to learn a new language. As a polyglot, I get to have the best of both worlds as I can read in English and three other languages. It helps when I don’t feel like reading something in English or when I want to read a book in its original language; such is the case with Cien años de soledad. I don’t know about you, but reading a book in its original language feels somewhat better, because sometimes things get lost in translation. There’s a popular joke in the language learning community that goes like this: “What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.” Well, it doesn’t have to be. Maybe this year, you’ll get to learn a new language just by doing your most favorite activity—reading—or rather, listening. The audiobook apps for language learning below can help with your reading and language learning goals. The only caveat is that all of these only have public domain books for now.
When I was starting to learn Spanish, this app helped me improve my reading and listening comprehension. It features fairytale classics in two languages—English and your target language. You can read the texts side by side and compare them so you may see how the sentences are constructed. There are also audio versions of the books so that you can listen to the pronunciation of the foreign words.
One thing that put me off the most is the lack of available titles that you can read. It’s also worth noting that most of the features are paid.
This is another app that is much like Beelingua. They have public domain books as well, and they are also paid. The difference is that when you play the audiobooks, the first paragraph of the English version will be played first and is followed by the first paragraph of your target language. This is accompanied by texts, so you won’t lose anything while listening.
The only downside is that the audiobooks seem to be read by a machine and not an actual human. Also, there’s a scarcity of titles to read if you’re looking for a variety.
Are you teaching your children a new language? Why not give them children’s books?
As with Beelingua, most of the books here are fairytale classics. The main difference is that they have eye-popping illustrations. There’s also an option to play short audiobooks in the app. And just in case your kids are learning several languages (what a feat!), there are buttons on top of each book that allow them to switch languages easily.
Most of the content is paid, but there’s a free title as well.
As the app’s name suggests, the texts of the books are in parallel. You select your target language, choose a book, and start reading.
The fun starts when you click on a certain paragraph and the translation below it appears, temporarily removing other texts from the book except the clicked paragraph and its translation. Some books also have audio versions. The selection of books is meager, though, just like other bilingual reading apps. Nevertheless, this may be very helpful in improving your foreign language comprehension.
The apps above, although not perfect, are useful in saving time—you get to hit two birds with one stone.
Do you want more ways to read and at the same time achieve your language goals? Here’s “How to Read in Another Language (Before You’ve Actually Learned It).”