Interlinear Book Review: Reading Between the Lines…literally

I recently had an exciting opportunity to check out Interlinear Books! I gladly accepted on the basis that I could read one of their amazing new books. *Please note I am not affiliated with Interlinear Books in any way. This is an impartial review by a language learner for language learners designed to help you make a more informed decision before you make purchases.

 

So what are Interlinear Books all about?

In their own words…

Interlinear are bilingual books that include the original and an English translation below in a smaller font. Interlinear gets you reading fascinating literature in foreign languages – subtitles for books

In my eyes…

“I love foreign literature, but sometimes especially if you are new to a language having a dictionary to hand can be time consuming and the story can get lost in translation. This is were Interlinear Books step in. They have taken the term ‘reading between the lines’ literally providing classic books, but with the English translations in smaller print below should you require it.”

What does it cost?  

Books can vary in price depending on length and complexity of the translation of the text.  The books start from around $12.99 – $29.99. In addition to the paid books, there are also shorter free texts available from their library.

How I used it…

 

I read “The Colloquy of the Dogs by Miguel de Cervantes as part of my 10,000 words a day challenge. I was able to learn new vocabulary by reading interesting literature and did not have to spend time looking up words from a dictionary that I didn’t understand. This meant I didn’t lose the storyline.

What languages are on offer?

Currently, the books are in French, Spanish, German, Greek, Portuguese, Russian, Lithuanian and Swedish!

Translation includes:Capture1

  • Approximately 170 standard-book pages of text for “The Colloquy of the Dogs
  • Over 20 thousand translated words.
  • The original text with aligned Interlinear translations – allows you to understand and learn Cervantes’ vocabulary.
  • Printable/electronically readable PDF and EPUB files
  • A link to download the audiobook!

Translation methodology

In their own words Interlinear translations say that they attempt to translate words one by one and literally. However, there is an exception to this rule: where a literal translation would impair understanding. If it would, understanding is prioritized.

For example, the usual translation of the sentence above would be “Two thieves stole a very good horse in Antiquerra.” Yet, we have translated it completely literally, as we think that such a literal translation is still understandable, especially since the reader is supposed to have at least some prior knowledge of how Spanish works:

 

Interlinear translation - the dog followed not after him

But try reading this translation if it were literal:
literal Interlinear translation from Spanish

As you can see, in such cases, if translated literally, understanding would suffer. Thus we have chosen a more understandable translation:
not exactly literal Interlinear translation from Spanish

In summary, we have made our translations to be literal, even if slightly clumsy. Unless such clumsiness hinders understanding, in which case we have opted for understanding.

Pros and Cons

The Pros 

  • Save time on searching through a dictionary.
  • Clear, well spaced and easy to read the text.
  • Available in different electronic formats, i.e. PDF and EPUB.
  • The translation is of high quality.
  • Good classic books to choose from.
  • Link to an audio version of the books.
  • Printable.

The Cons

  • Limited selection of books at the moment, but I do not doubt that the product selection will continue to increase over time.
  • The books are not for complete beginners as you are required to have a basic understanding of how your target language works.
  • More electronic formats such as Kindle?
  • Printing off the books could be costly for some.
  • Currently only available as an eBook, it would be great to have printed books too!
  • Lazy behaviors could develop due to the translations being directly below words in the target language! It’s easy to gaze down more often than necessary instead of using your own understanding of the vocabulary!
  • For approximately 200 pages of an eBook $29.99 may seem a little pricey for some.

The Verdict

 

I felt that the products from Interlinear books are of very high quality and fantastic for A2 and above levels in languages. It isn’t suitable to learn languages on its own, but it makes an excellent addition to a language learning routine.

For more information or to purchase a book check out Interlinear Book OR for the latest news visit their blog Interlinear Books Blog.

Have you read an Interlinear Book? OR Are you going to purchase one?

Let me know what your views in the comments section below.

5 thoughts on “Interlinear Book Review: Reading Between the Lines…literally

  1. Thank you for the review! I wished they made books for Korean. But word order would be tricky I guess. I’ve recently discovered Readlang, which helps translate words from any page you like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve looked into Turkish and Korean, but word order is indeed tricky. We do have a few tricks up our sleeves, though, and my experiment with them.

      However, this is only likely to be possible in future stages of the project.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Trisha for the nice and extensive review!

    I, as the founder of Interlinear Books, thought I’d comment on a couple of points in the review.

    Limited selection of books: Indeed, Trisha is right that we’ll be publishing new books soon.

    The books are not for complete beginners: I think this is also spot on. While we may publish some easier books later, I think it partially is a limitation of the Interlinear method: it works a lot better for intermediate language learners than for beginners.

    Kindle: We probably should have made this clear on the website, but the books are readable on Kindles too. One can just use the EPUB format, and, either transfer it directly or have it converted to MOBI through free software like Calibre (that should be just a click away) and read it on a Kindle.

    Printed books: We’re working on it. 🙂 We already are selling printed copies in French, and might start selling them in German and Spanish too.

    Lazy behaviors could develop due to the translations being directly below words: That’s a very real risk. There’s one thing in the Interlinear method that acts as a disincentive for this, though. The English translation below, if read in whole sentences, sounds a bit unnatural and awkward. Thus, if you rely too much on the English and read it in more than just words or expressions, the reading experience becomes less pleasant, encouraging you to go back to the original instead.

    If anyone has any questions, do shoot them my way. 🙂

    Like

    1. Excellent, Thank you for your feedback Linas. It is much appreciated. Do let the Language Learners Journal Community know when the printed books or any new titles for German and Spanish become available. German is my next language and as part of the 10,000 words a day challenge this book will be most useful.

      Like

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