Making the Most of Bilingual Books

Bilingual books are a fantastic resource for all ages; dual text allows you to read the book in two languages simultaneously!

Here are some tips and ideas for using them as an educational resource.

  • Practice pronunciation: reading aloud can do wonders for confidence - especially in another language! If you're not sure how a word is pronounced, you could look it up online together. (Advanced) An effective way to improve in speaking another language is to try and speak the same words at the exact same time as someone who's modelling good pronunciation (in-person or as a recording). This exercise is called Language Shadowing.

  • Learn vocabulary; you could write out some keywords on cards to create a matching game. To adjust the game for the child's comprehension level, change the number of pairs and add illustrations on the other side of the cards as a hint.
  • Bonding: Bilingual books can help people who speak different languages bond while reading together. Maybe they could even write their own bilingual book together afterwards!
  • Compare words between languages (advanced); you can develop inference skills by talking about whether any of the words in the language you're less familiar with resemble words you already know - can you guess what the words mean?

  • Learn about different types of words, grammar, and sentence structures (advanced);  Words like 'and'/'y' are very common - understanding how they're used can help give young readers a head-start on grammar in another language and reinforce what they already know about their first language. If the child is old enough to understand what verbs, adjectives and nouns are, you could go through a few sentences from a bilingual book and work out which categories the words fall into. Model using a dictionary in the target language to check if you guessed right! Choose a few sentences and write them out then color code them based on the word types. Are sentences built the same way in both languages?

  • Learn about translation (advanced): Can you find any sentences where the meaning or word order is slightly different? Nursery rhymes in other languages will have been adapted to match the tune and rhythm of the originals and picture books can contain phrases that need to be described in a different way - you could use this concept to talk about the role of a translator and all the decisions they need to make! Can you find the translator's name inside or on the book? 

    The way that sound effects are translated is also an interesting conversation-starter!
    ¡Mi colita no esta cansada!/My Tail’s NOT Tired! Spread
    The join-in refrain 'Show Me!' line in ¡Mi colita no esta cansada!/My Tail’s NOT Tired! provides a natural opportunity to repeat phrases in another language! (Original text by Jana Novotny Hunter, Translation by Yanitzia Canetti, illustrations by Paula Bowles.)

View our range of bilingual books here!

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