Reading with Interlinear Books

This post was originally posted on Babelhut.

Linas Vaštakas is an avid language learning enthusiast, and he currently runs a project which aims to make literature more accessible to language learners. He wrote this guest post about learning languages with Interlinear texts.

If you have been reading some of the posts about language learning in this blog, you probably know that learning a language requires constant practice . While reading books could be a good source for such practice, doing this is often difficult because the process of translating unknown words is bothersome and often unsuccessful . Today, I would like to talk about my project, which attempts to change this with Interlinear translations . First, however, let me tell you about Interlinear translations.

Example of an Interlinear book from

Example of an Interlinear text from

What are Interlinear translations?

Interlinear translations are translations of the kind, where the translation is provided below each concrete word and phrase. So, for example, you would have a Swedish translation like this:

Example of Interlinear translation from Swedish

Example of Interlinear translation from Swedish

In the Swedish example, you can see how perfectly everything translates. Now, does everything always translate so perfectly in all texts and all languages? Not entirely. But Interlinear translations still aim to preserve the original syntax as long as understanding is possible. If understanding is not possible anymore, a little bit more figurative translation can be used. See this example:

Interlinear Russian text sample

Example of Interlinear translation from Russian

In this example, you can notice that not everything is translatable as directly. Translating that Russian sentence literally, you would get something similar to “To Peter Ivanovich was not destiny to play bridge today evening.” Such translation, although probably still understandable, would quickly become clumsy. So, an Interlinear translation would connect some words to be translated together. It would do so for dogmatic expressions, too. Yet, even in languages like Russian, a lot can be translated literally.

How can Interlinear translations help you?

Interlinear translations can help you learn languages by reading books in your target language without the need of dictionaries, software or teachers. Ever wanted to learn Russian? Why not read some Tolstoy to do that? How about some Selma Lagerlöf, the legendary Nobel prize-winning Swedish writer, for Swedish? Interlinear translations can allow you to read such authors without a dictionary (and we all know how annoying constantly looking up a dictionary can be).

Reading Interlinear books offers a couple of advantages:

Where can you get Interlinear translations? has been focusing on translating fascinating books in various languages in the Interlinear format and selling them. We have currently released the following e-book translations:

InterlinearBooks is still in the beginning phase of the project and its mission is to bring literature closer to language learners. What translations we make and how we make them can still be largely influenced by our readers, and we are more than willing to hear feedback from you.

Even if not with Interlinear translations, have you ever successfully used reading for language learning? We’d love to hear your story!