Interlinear Books Review: My Personal and Honest Opinion
I like to read books in other languages but at the same time, I don’t like to look up words. It distracts me from reading and it’s time-consuming. I end up closing the book and doing something else while I know that reading is a good way to improve my vocabulary.
I discovered interlinear books, the solution to my problem! They offered me a book in French, “Un coeur simple” by Gustave Flaubert, for a review in return. So here’s my personal and honest opinion.
But first, what is/are Interlinear Books?
Interlinear Books is a company that sells bilingual novels that include the original text and an English translation underneath in a smaller font. This idea is based on a translation method (Interlinear) that existed for quite a long time but this was mostly applied to scholarships of old texts or fields like linguistics.
Here’s a picture of what a page of an interlinear book looks like.
Currently, there are 8 interlinear books available. Those are in French, Swedish, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Russian, and Swedish. You can buy them as a physical book (paperback) or as a digital (pdf/EPUB) version. The price varies between $12.99 and $29.99 depending on the language of the book.
Interlinear’s translation methodology
The book obviously translates words one-by-one in their literal meaning. The word order of the translation is based on the word order of the language you’re reading in. If you have some knowledge of the grammar in your target language, you can understand the sentence in English. Take the sentence below as an example.
However, in some cases, the literal translation can be hard to understand. Interlinear Books helps you understand the text anyway by adding words in parentheses to the translation, choosing other words that fit the context of the story, and grouping words.
The interlinear book I read
The book I read is called “Un coeur simple” by Gustave Flaubert. In short, the story is about a girl named Felicité who dedicates her life to her mistress (Madame Aubain). She has no husband, no children, and no property, and is reliant on her mistress to keep her.
After doing some research, I discovered that the story makes part of the Three Tales (Trois Contes) and was originally published in French in 1877. I think that’s awesome because I’ve never read a book that was written so long ago.
My interlinear books review
My level in French is currently A2/B1. I do speak it well despite a lack of vocabulary but I don’t always understand what I hear or read. Reading this book was quite a challenge and impossible without the translation. However, when I reached the half of the book, I started to recognize words that I read earlier and felt that I undoubtedly made progress.
I used the book in different ways. Sometimes I read the chapter entirely in English (by reading the translation) and then read it again in French. Sometimes I read the chapter in French and read the translation only when I didn’t know a word.
Sometimes I didn’t even read the page in French when I felt tired of reading in my target language. It feels like cheating but it’s possible.
What I like from Interlinear books (the pros)
Here are the pros based on my experience.
You don’t waste time looking up words
I believe that the biggest advantage of Interlinear books is that you can read a book in your target language faster than usual and still understand what you read. You don’t waste your time looking up words and guessing what the definition would be in the context of the story.
You won’t get confused
The difference between the two languages is so obvious that you can focus entirely whether you choose to read in English or your target language.
You can read novels even if you’re not at an advanced level
Like I mentioned earlier, my level in French is A2/B1 and I could read the book and even I picked up some new words.
What I don’t like so much from Interlinear books (the cons)…
One book per language
Interlinear books are perfect tools for language learners but currently, there is only one book available for each language. However, Interlinear Books is working on expanding their library. You can sign in to their newsletter to receive updates about it.
You may need a dictionary anyway
There are only interlinear books from a foreign language to English. If you’re not a native English speaker like me, the translation into English might be a little hard to understand and sometimes require using a dictionary anyway.
Do you want to know more about Interlinear Books?
You can find more information on their website.