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Bi-Lingual Bookworms

What books do you enjoy most in other languages?

Maybe there's an author you admire so much that you decided to read his books in their original language. Or maybe there are books you've read in a foreign language that you love but that have never been translated. Maybe you've even translated a book yourself!

Whatever the case, share your favorites below! It's always a milestone when you complete that first book in a foreign language.


October 31, 2017



I’ve really enjoyed reading in Italian. I’ve read Jhumpa Lahiri’s recent memoir “In Altre Parole,” which she wrote as her first book in Italian; struggled through (some of) Eco’s essays on translation; some wonderful small novels by Baricco, including “Seta” (Silk); and my absolute favorite - short stories by Dino Buzzati, which are quite hard to find translated into English (and expensive to purchase!), but easily available in Italian.

When I was starting out I read an intermediate mystery novel geared to Italian learners called “Omicidio alla Moda,” which wasn’t that brilliantly written, but was rather fun, and easy to read.

My recommendation is to read on an e-reader (like a Kindle), with a mono-lingual and bilingual dictionary built in so you can look up words on the fly, by just clicking a word right in the body of the text. I always look things up in the monolingual dictionary first, and only if I cannot understand a word from that - and from context - do I then look them up in translation. This was the very best advice I got as a new reader. Don’t go for the English dictionary first!





I am more of a fan of the monolingual dictionary than the biligual, as to think in the target language. I also really like reading without using a dictonary and trying to infer meaning from context. Its clearly not always possible, but I have gotten a lot better at inferring and I think it is quite fun, especially seeing the same word a lot and piecing together its meaning. I think that is quite enjoyable.


Hello, I have a Kindle app on my iPad. Please can you help me with which dictionaries to download in order to try reading in Italian?


Click on a word and hold your finger down on it. It will bring up a pop up menu that says “dictionary.” At the lower left corner there is a button that shows what dictionary it thinks you are looking for. Toggle that button to pick the one you want. If it’s a single word (Italiano, or English (US), Deutsch, etc), it’s a monolingual dictionary. If it’s a dual word phrase (Italian-English), it’s a bi-lingual dictionary. Click the blue arrow to download it. Repeat as you like for others.

Thereafter when you click on a word, it will bring up a dictionary, and you can toggle the button to pick which dictionary you want. It defaults to the one last chosen.


Thank you so much, I have just had success with that. Now I shall download your easy reading recommendation, and see how I go. I really appreciate your help.


I'm totally a bilingual bookworm! I love to read and books were one of the reasons why I made a huge jump in my ability to understand English (I couldn't wait for the translation of the 4th Harry Potter). So now most of the books I read are actually in English, with the exception of books first published in German (my native language) or French. If the original language is neither of those it really depends on the mood when I buy it.

I'm currently reading my first book in Swedish - it's Harry Potter again and the fourth version of the first book. I plan to read Astrid Lindgren (Ronja and Kalle Blomqvist in particular, those are my childhood favourites), but after Harry Potter I'll first read "Man som heter Ove", which I already own and haven't actually read in any other language yet. So that'll be interesting. Previously knowing a book is a bit like having training wheels on, it helps so much with context and filling in the blanks, which is why I like to do it as a stepping stone (and because it's turned into some sort of tradition for me to read about the adventures in Hogwarts).

And I agree with Dcarl1 that e-readers are awesome for reading books in a different language! I make a point to look up as little as possible and just as much as needed. Context helps more than one might think and it's an ability everyone learning languages should have and train. It also helps me to enjoy the books more if I'm not stopping my reading flow by looking up words or by even using another language (when using a bilingual dictionary. I agree that the order should be: Context - Monolingual Dictionary - Bilingual Dictionary).


I attempted reading Harry Potter once in German, but I got too distracted by schoolwork and the fact that it was really hard to make it past like the third page. I might try again soon though!


Back when I was a bit more able in Spanish, I noticed there was a ton of fanfiction in Spanish on http://www.fanfiction.net I haven't been there in a while, but when I was there, it was very easy to sort their stories by language, fandom (include books, tv shows, movies, and more), age rating, etc. It's not the name of an author, but I figure some other bookworms who also enjoy fanfiction might find that info handy. ^_^


Reading is one of the main reasons for me to learn some languages. I'm looking forward to the day (in the far off future) where I might be able to read Tolstoy untranslated...

In French, I'm a 19th century fan, so I read a lot of Hugo, Balzac or Dumas. I also really enjoy Molière's plays, the humour just works for me. In Spanish, my favourite has to be "El beso de la mujer araña". I haven't yet gotten very far in "Don Quixote", but I really enjoyed a cut-down version for learners about ten years ago (which is why I now so badly want to read the original). I'm still trying to find a Swedish author apart from Astrid Lindgren whose works I enjoy, I'm just no fan of crime/thriller novels.


the one about the fox and the hare in spanish


I don't really know if I have a favorite author, but I like reading a lot in Spanish. The first book I read in Spanish was El Alquimista. I recently read El Principe de la Niebla and I liked that a lot, and I am part way through El Sombra del Viento, which I quite like. I have read a bit of Paulo Coelho in Spanish, and I can't say I am enthused. I see cliches, a bunch of crap about god, and just enough! Me Llamo Rigoberta Muchu y Así Me Nacío la Conciencia By Rigoberta Menchu was not bad; she is a quite interesting woman.

I am a fan of reading in other languages, especially out loud. I think that is a way to build connections between the sounds of the language and the text, practicing phonetics, and it is a great immersive way to gain new vocabulary.

In Spanish I read some of Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina and I have a copy in French I tried to read after. I think I got a bit better with pronunciation after that, and after reading aloud I felt I had a higher capacity to absorb after the fact. Can't say I love French though, so perhaps I should try reading in Italian? I have some kids books in the language from a city called Ponferrada in España.

I think reading in other languages is great! (I have even done some in Portuguese and Arabic)

Lis-tu en français, Dancepoint? Je peux comprendre un peu quand je lis, mais je ne comprende de Français très bien; le Portugais et la Espagnol sont plus faciles pour moi. Et maintenant je ne lis en français parce que je ne suis intèressè.


I have been reading the Harry Potter series in Spanish. I used to read it whenever I would ride on the bus when I was in Perú. I can understand everything


I'm a polyglot bookworm and I read the authors in their original language when I can :D I read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and all Russian authors in Russian, Hugo, Balzac and French authors in French, Alighieri, Emilio Salgari and Italian authors in Italian, Cervantes and Spanish authors in Spanish, etc. :D


Reading books in a foreing language is actually my goal, not just something that I make possible in the course of my learning. Every language comes with culture and literature, and a great part of it stays untranslated. The language is a gateway to the culture, and conversely, you need to understand the culture to learn the language properly.

But here's another thought inspired by this discussion: Why is it that so many people mention Harry Potter when talking about reading in foreign languages? Is it just because so many people have read it? I don't think it's much easier or better-suited for learners than other books - I might be wrong, though. When I read it my English was already good enough to pass through it without much trouble.


To me, and I bet for others too, reading Harry Potter is a bit like wearing training wheels. It's so much easier to know the context, because if you're like me, you know the original almost by heart.

I also know some other people, whose first English book was Harry Potter. Why wait half a year for a translation, if you could try reading it when it comes out? ;) It becomes sort of a tradition to read it a different language, at least for me.


So it is the popularity. I read Harry Potter as a grown-up so the experience wasn't as mind-forming as for some other people. :)


Yeah, it is. And timing really is a big part of the impact it had on me. It just feels like I grew up with the trio. I probably wouldn't have been as attached if I'd been much older or younger.


I'd like to add: Harry Potter is available in a large amount of languages and very easy to find. HP4 was the first audiobook I ever had in English, simply because there weren't any others easily available at the time; the public library in my home town stocks HP in at least six languages... you see where I'm going. There are few children's/teen's books so reliably available in any language.


I'm currently learning The Happy Prince of Oscar Wilde in English, but I'm finding this a bit hard to understand :(. Can somebody give me another books from English authors for me to start reading?


Kevin, I am not an expert and have only recently started to try to read books in German (which is the one and only language that I am trying to learn, unlike all you expert multi linguists on Duolingo!) and I find that the best thing is to read a "page turner", something that keeps your interest, that is not a chore. So I can understand perfectly why some of the contributors love reading the Harry Potter books, they are familiar, they are not difficult to read, they are not hard work. I am reading the Scandinavian Krimis. I wouldn't necessarily buy one in English because I have better authors and books to read, but they are perfect in German - short sentences, everyday language. Sure, my vocabulary is restricted to 10 different ways of killing someone and solving the mystery, but my theory is that I must be imbibing some German as I read before I fall asleep. Anyway, this is long winded way of saying that Oscar Wilde is fabulous, his use of the English language is unsurpassed, in my view, especially in terms of playfulness and playing on words and phrases and grammar and the beauty of a language. And the Happy Prince is my favourite story for children. BUT (big but!) I would not read him if I weren't a native English speaker. He needs to be kept as a treasure, only to be opened when you have read lots and are very comfortable with English. I don't know the equivalent in German, maybe like me trying to read a Thomas Mann book. Why not try a genre you already like in your own language, but an easy version of it..... ??


I agree with you Marian. I started to read Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince, but It took me a lot of effort to understand due the complexity English and the overall meaning of the history. Some great Duolingo users gave me a list of books to start learning and are easier, and this is what I'll do. Thank you for you great advise Marian.


Kevin, you are great at English, it appears to me. Please come back to Oscar when you are finished with all those other books you have been recommended! He is worth the effort.


This is what I'll do when I'm better with the words. Thank you Marian, I'm really happy for read those kind words from you


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone in Irish is by far my favourite. It's easy to follow as I practically know it by heart in English and once you learn the vocab for the wizarding stuff its simple! It also worked wonders on my Irish.


I love the Harry Potter series in Spanish!

(So good!!!!!)

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