How Can Interlinear Books Help You Learn Languages?

You may have seen our first two Swedish and Lithuanian or subsequent other Interlinear bilingual book translations. You may also have heard that we are currently producing new translations, about which you can find out by subscribing to us. But, like many people, you might also have further questions about Interlinear translations. I will try to answer some of your questions here.

1. What is the purpose of Interlinear translations?

Our translations are primarily intended to help people practice the languages they are learning by reading fascinating books in those languages. Here’s how it works. Imagine you are four months into learning French. You are trying to read the book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne in French. You begin reading the first paragraph of the first Chapter: > L’année 1866 fut marquée par un événement bizarre, un phénomène inexpliqué et inexplicable que personne n’a sans doute oublié. Sans parler des rumeurs qui agitaient les populations des ports et surexcitaient l’esprit public à l’intérieur des continents les gens de mer furent particulièrement émus. Les négociants, armateurs, capitaines de navires, skippers et masters de l’Europe et de l’Amérique, officiers des marines militaires de tous pays, et, après eux, les gouvernements des divers États des deux continents, se préoccupèrent de ce fait au plus haut point..

Being a learner, you can understand quite a lot of the words already! But there are always these words that are more difficult to understand. For example, being an English speaker, you can no doubt figure out that phénomène stands for phenomenon, and you can probably use your already acquired knowledge to understand that parler means to speak. But what about armateurs, émus or even négociants? Chances are, you do not really know such words. Reading a normal text, there are a couple of things you can do to compensate for that. First, you you can attempt to guess the meanings of unknown words from the context. However, this is often very difficult. If I tell you that armateur means ship owner, do you think you could easily have guessed that? Most people couldn’t. Context isn’t always very telling. Thus, trying to always guess words from it would mean that you wouldn’t understand some parts of the text (or perhaps even essential parts of it). This would take away from the enjoyment you get in reading a story. Second, you could try to find out the meanings of those words in a dictionary. Yet, that solution distracts you from the story to an immense degree, as you would have to spend your time searching the dictionary instead of reading. That would also make your reading speed very slow. Moreover, looking at the dictionary would also often be ineffective, because words often have multiple meanings. The word marquée, which is in the text above, could mean marked, underlined, denoted, emphasized, wrote down, branded and a number of other things. Reading with a dictionary isn’t easy. We think Interlinear translations give you a better solution. Imagine reading that text with the help of an Interlinear translation, where everything is translated in a way you can understand:

Example of an Interlinear translation of Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, paragraph 1 (example only, actual translation of the book does not exist)
Example of an Interlinear translation of Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, paragraph 1 (example only, actual translation of the book does not exist)
Reading such an Interlinear translation, you can just look below a word or an expression to immediately get an accurate translation of it. You can then direct your look back at the original text. Moreover, as you keep encountering the same word in the text and looking up (should we say: looking down) its translation below, chances are you will eventually begin to remember that word yourself. When that happens, you will soon be able to recognize that word in the original text. We believe that this lets you learn foreign languages by doing something very fun – reading and enjoying a story. ### 2. But how is Interlinear translation different from ordinary parallel text bilingual books that already exist in the market?

Interlinear books are a kind of bilingual books that present the translation literally and translate each individual word or expression. This makes sure that you do not usually have to re-read that same sentence or let alone paragraph – we believe this saves a lot of time for language learners, and this can often make the difference between carrying out the reading through and not doing so. ### 3. But why shouldn’t I just use Google Translate or another automatic translation service? How is this different?

Interlinear Books are very different from automatic translation because, at Interlinear Books, every word or expression is translated by a human being who works hard to make sure that the translation is understandable by other human beings. Our translations make sure everything is accurate and they provide short explanations of implied and omitted text in parentheses where such text is necessary to understand the full meaning of the passage. ### 4. But can you really effectively translate a language to English word by word? Isn’t it too simplistic? Even if you look at that example… it doesn’t translate well, does it?

We believe you can, at least for most European languages. This is because their word order and sentence structure is relatively similar to English. Yet, we admit our English part of the translation is not always grammatically correct. And… that is exactly the point! An Interlinear translation is supposed to keep encouraging the reader to read the original text instead of the translation. The purpose of an Interlinear translation is to make the original understandable, not to replace the original. Now… a question arises: is an Interlinear translation understandable? We believe it is. First, for the texts and languages we have translated (Lithuanian, Swedish), one could understand the text just from the translation alone, because the word structure is pretty similar. Second, keep in mind that these translations are for learners who are likely to already have some knowledge of the original language. In English, we indeed say military marines and not marines military, thus an Interlinear translation saying the latter may seem a tad bit awkward. Remember, however, that such books are intended for language learners who have some knowledge of the language they are reading in. With the knowledge that, in French, the correct word order is marines militaires, an Interlinear translation saying marines military quickly becomes understandable. Finally, all our translations follow the principle literal but understandable, which means that where a literal translation would impair understanding, we use a more idiomatic translation. For example, we wouldn’t translate the French expression faire le pont as make the bridge. We would rather translate it idiomatically as to make a long weekend. Thus, the principles used in Interlinear translation maximize both originality and understanding of the text. (Apart from that, we have other translation principles, which you can find out about on the pages of our translations). ### 5. Alright. What do you translate?

We are currently focused on translating classical works. We believe that learning a language entails also learning about the culture of the places where that language is used, and we also believe that literature forms an important part of that culture. A part that we would like to help you discover. We have translated a Lithuanian, Swedish and other books in the Interlinear format. We have an upcoming translation to be published very soon. Subscribe to our mailing list to find out when our next translation is released and of from language we have been translating.

Did you like this post? This comes from Interlinear Books – we make Interlinear translations for language learners, where each word and expression has a translation right below. Be sure to check out this blog for news and short translations, and our website for our purchasable Interlinear book translations. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter.

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