UK newspaper The Guardian recently ran an inspiring list of bilingual books, with a beautiful introduction about growing up bilingual by Yara Rodrigues Fowler. Including novels featuring bilingual characters, blended dialogue and code-switching (as Fowler puts it in her novel Stubborn Archivist, with languages “bleeding like clothes in the wash”), this is perhaps a list of books about being bilingual rather than books that are bilingual in terms of being written in two languages side by side (also known as dual-language books).
Fowler says, “As a child I fantasised about being an author, but worried how I would write bilingually – there didn’t seem to me to be any books doing this.”
I do believe (or hope, at least) that compared to a generation ago there are many more books out there exploring bilingual and bi-cultural ways of living, and catering for the need to use and play with two languages at story time and bedtime.
So Fowler’s article inspired me to get a move on with a list I’ve been planning in my head for ages: poetry and picture books, published in bilingual editions. Not necessarily direct translations but books which place two languages side by side and explore and play with both languages as an integral part of the narrative.
Today, here’s a few suggestions of places to go for picture books/stories, and here you’ll find another list of bilingual/dual-language children’s poetry anthologies.
Bilingual publishers worldwide
Language Lizard offers bilingual books and audio resources in 50+ languages, multicultural book sets, posters, and other culturally responsive teaching resources for diverse classrooms.
Educators can download free multicultural lesson plans to accompany many of the books they carry.
Bilingual Books are available in English with Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cherokee, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Dari, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Karen (Sgaw), Korean, Kurdish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam, Nepali, Norwegian, Oromo, Panjabi, Pashto/Pashtu, Patois, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Shona, Slovakian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tigrinya, Turkish, Twi, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh, Yiddish, and Yoruba.
Award-winning UK-based publisher of picture books, often based on fairy tales and traditional stories. They make books and posters in English and one of over 65 languages. So far, they produce resources for the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual classroom in the UK, Sweden, Norway, USA and Canada, and their books are well represented in libraries. Most of their books are already available with Swedish replacing English. Their dual language e-book library has 450+ e-books with audio in both languages for school and home.
All Mantra Lingua’s books, posters, stickers and cards are sound-enabled. They play back audio narrations or music, and readers can also record their own voice on every page. Being the world’s largest publisher of dual-language books, listening as well as reading books in one’s home language and another language helps language development in many bilingual parents, children, families and communities in UK, Europe, USA and elsewhere.
Which languages? Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cantonese , Chinese Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, Croatian, Czech, Dari, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Irish Gaelic, Italian, Japanese, Karen (Sgaw), Korean, Kurdish, Kurdish Kurmanji, Kurdish Sorani, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam, Mexican Spanish, Nepali, Norwegian, Orcadian, Panjabi, Pashto, Patois, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Shilluk, Shona, Slovakian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Sylheti, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Tigrinya/Tigrigna, Turkish, Twi, Urdu ,Vietnamese, Welsh, Yiddish and Yoruba.
One Third Stories
Picture books that start in English and end in a different language. Available in French or Spanish, delivered to your door every month with educational activities and resources for children aged 4-9. At the heart of every box is an original, illustrated children’s story. With each story, you’ll also get a digital audio book narrated by a native speaker, an activity pack, and flashcards to reinforce their learning.
Betty & Cat
An unusual children’s book concept. Betty & Cat books are bilingual. However, the books are NOT translated. Each animal – Betty, a dog, and Cat, a cat – shares his or her thoughts with the reader in his or her own language. In this way, they better reflect the way today’s kids play with language. Available in various combinations of Spanish/French/Dutch/English.
b small publishing
This publisher offers a colourful range of early reader story books in the I CAN READ FRENCH/SPANISH series, as well as longer bilingual stories in the junior LET’S READ series, again in English-Spanish bilingual versions or English-French.
Inhabit Media Inc. is the first Inuit-owned, independent publishing company in the Canadian Arctic. They say, “We aim to promote and preserve the stories, knowledge, and talent of the Arctic, while also supporting research in Inuit mythology and the traditional Inuit knowledge of Nunavummiut (residents of Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory). Our authors, storytellers, and artists bring traditional knowledge to life in a way that is accessible to readers both familiar and unfamiliar with Inuit culture and traditions.” Inhabit Media publishes picture books, junior and teen books, and adult books, in several languages including English, Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and French. For some books there are three separate editions, in English, Inuktitut, and French.
This German publisher, Sefa Verlag, offers three bilingual picture book adaptations Hans Christian Andersen stories, printed in an impressive range of languages. Book comes with MP3s recorded by native speakers. The three stories are Wild Swans, Sleep Tight Little Wolf and My Most Beautiful Dream
Their range of languages includes Afrikaans, Albanian, Anglo-Saxon, Arabic, Armenian, Basque, Bavarian, Bengali (Bangla), Bosnian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dari (Persian), Dutch, English, Eritrean, Esperanto, Estonian, Farsi (Persian), Finnish, Flemish, French , Fula (Peul, Fulfulde,) Georgian, German, Greek, Hausa, Hebrew (Ivrit), Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean Kurdish (Kurmanji), Kurdish (Sorani), Latin, Latvian, Luxembourgish, Malayalam, Malaysian, Moldavian, Nepalese, Norwegian, Old English, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sesotho (Sotho), Siamese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swahili (Kiswahili), Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Tigrinya, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Xhosa (isiXhosa), Yiddish and Zulu (isiZulu).
Independent US publisher and distributor of multicultural and bilingual books in 50 + languages including Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Hmong, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Nepali, Punjabi, Portuguese, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese.
Multicultural children’s books publisher Leo and Low have several bilingual books and also several which they publish in dual editions. I like the look of Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina. “Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.”
Henry Holt & Co.
We love the look of this bilingual English-Spanish edition of Derek Taylor Kent’s El Perro con Sombrero , illustrated by Jed Henry, translated into Spanish by Gabriela Revilla Lugo. “Move over, Puss in Boots and Cat in the Hat; now there’s el Perro con Sombrero and el Gato con Zapatos… A nifty bilingual treat.” Kirkus Reviews
Bilingual Chinese-English children’s picture books, including Chengliang Zhu’s Flame translated by Helen Wang.
More bilingual Chinese-English children’s picture books such as Happy Mid-Autum Festival by Yanan Meng and Jasmine Alexander.
Lovely range of Dari/English, Pashto/English and Spanish/English bilingual picture books by Afghan authors. Proceeds from the sale of these books go to support Hoopoe’s Books for Afghanistan program.
CreateSpace (self-publishing platform)
There seem to be a lot of self-published bilingual editions of children’s books originally written in English, e.g. this Albanian edition of Am I small? (A jam e vogël?) by Philipp Winterberg.
@tulikabooks is an independent children’s publishing house in Chennai, India, producing multilingual books in a variety of genres. You can search the website for bilingual books or see their themed box sets list. Publishing in English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telegu, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali, these books are notable for their lovely, vibrant illustrations.
Fun, simple Swahili children’s books including the bilingual counting book, Kumi, Kumi / It’s all Swahili to me.
Bok Bok Books
Bok Bok Books aim to publish powerful bilingual, English and Bengali children’s books for Bengalis all across the globe. One of their first titles is this bold black and white bilingual baby board book. Catch up with them on twitter at @BokBook_Books, where every day throughout #worldkidlitmonth they’ve been suggesting one #Bengali children’s book that has been translated to English.
NEU WESTEND BOOKS
A little mouse walks into the Lost & Found, but can only speak Spanish. How will Mr and Mrs Frog figure out what the mouse is missing…? Aimed at children aged 2-7, the unique ‘Story-powered language learning method’ combines humour, story and emotion to gently and memorably introduce kids to 50 Spanish words and phrases.
THE FABULOUS LOST & FOUND by Mark Pallis with adorable illustrations by Peter Baynton is available in an impressive range of languages: Albanian, Arabic (coming soon!), Chinese (coming soon), Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian (coming soon), Irish, Italian, Korean, Latin, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Romanian, Spanish, Slovenian, Slovak, Swedish (coming soon), Turkish, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Vietnamese and Welsh. You can also buy it with Italian as the main language and the following second languages: Italian-English, Italian-Spanish, Italian-German, Italian-French, Italian-Albanian, Italian-Romanian.
Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp spoke to Mark Pallis. You can read the interview here.
READY SET GO BOOKS
Ready Set Go Books is a series of Amharic and English picture books published by the non-profit Open Hearts Big Dreams. The organization aims to spotlighting Ethiopian stories and languages, as part of an overall mission to increase access to books and thus support literacy in Ethiopia. Ready Set Go Books released its 100th bilingual book in October 2020. Their website links to Amazon where you can browse the full range of 100 bilingual books.
Two mothers began their mission to introduce bilingualism and Latin American culture through picture board books. Lil’ Libros was created to inspire parents to read to their children and encourage them to do so in two languages. Their books focus on Spanish and English and celebrate Latin American culture and important figures in its history. Find out more here.
New Africa Books
South African publisher of adult literature, children’s books and YA, publishing many if not most books in the eleven official languages of South Africa. Picture books are available in the following languages: Afrikaans, isiNdebele, Siswati, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Hai||om, Nuu, English. Read our World Kid Lit interview with Dušanka Stojaković, publisher of children’s books at New Africa Books.
Gaps & Letters
Based in Australia, Supriya Cherian at Gaps&Letters independently publishes Malayalam-English bilingual board books and printable Malayalam alphabet worksheets for Malayali children to stay connected to their Kerala heritage. Pictured here is Namukku Pokaam/Let’s Go by by Supriya Cherian, illustrated by Mili Eugine.
The Somali Bilingual Book Project
The Somali Bilingual Book Project, part of The Minnesota Humanities Center, has published four traditional folktales from Somalia in both English and Somali. Their goal was to “ensure the community has high-quality authentic resources that promote and preserve heritage languages and increase English literacy skills of refugee and immigrant families” (quoted from their website).
Still not found the language you’re looking for? For more leads, check out this list of multicultural and bilingual publishers by Californian educator Nicholas Meier. And as always, please tweet us with suggestions or requests; we’ll do our best to help!