Interlinear Books Review: Interlinear books are books in foreign languages that offer a translation underneath the main text.
This helps learners of the language to stay engaged in the story without having to look up in a dictionary or the opposite page.
I was contacted by Linus of InterLinear Books, an ambitious company producing bilingual texts for language learners. He asked me if I'd take a look at his product for the blog.
Of course, being the language learning guinea pig I am I accepted.
What is Interlinear Books?
To use InterLinear's own description:
“Interlinear translations are translations for language learners that include the original and an English translation just below in smaller font.”
Linus was kind enough to provide a free copy of their German Product: Frank Kafka's Die Verwandlung (English: The Metamorphosis) for me to go through and base my review on.
As I told him then, all my reviews will be objective and unbiased, which he was happy about.
My Interlinear Books Review: What do they actually look like?
When you open up the book, this is the format that you are presented with:
The design is quite clever.
One of the first steps to reading fluency is to read books that offer the translation at hand, but to my knowledge there are no books that interweaves the translation directly in the text.
This allows a much higher flow of reading, compared to having to go to the opposite page or somewhere else, maybe even Google Translate to translate on the fly.
It's also a big win ‘relatively' early in your language learning process to actually read such complex works and understand them.
This is a big factor for motivation in language learning, that is to say the concept of ‘wins' where you actually achieve some success.
This success motivates you to work harder and soon enough you won't need the interlinear books.
Not for the absolute beginner
While you can definitely read/study these as a complete beginner too I think the strength of InterLinear is developing that working vocabulary and actually practicing your reading skills once you are past the initial stage of learning.
The translation is also of high quality.
It's very easy to see that it's not simply a Google Translation job, but some human has actually sat down and worked his way through the book.
This means that the translation is not only word-for-word but it also includes omitted terms check out this example:
Here the translator expands on the fact that “ein” in this sentence, technically contains the english “for” and likewise he adds that although lang directly translates to long, in this sentence its supposed to mean ‘longer.'
This is a nice touch of quality and really helps reading comprehension.
You get the product in PDF and EPUB, which I believe will cover most devices.
The good stuff
- High quality
- Good classic books to choose from
- Great method to get reading early
- Epub and PDF should cover most devices
The Bad Stuff
- Some of the books are a little expensive
- Only 1 book per language and 8 total as of writing this
To be honest, there are very few negatives for Interlinear Books.
I do have ONE major problem with the formatting and that's, although the translation is in smaller font, my eyes still INSIST on going to the translation as a default. I think the translation needs to be in a lighter colour, maybe grey it out slightly so your eye is drawn to the next line of native text, instead of going straight to the translation.
Update: Apparently the colour was dimmed slightly in later updates
The assortment of Books is limited at the moment, but as they are a new company this is to be expected.
They currently provide a book each in German, Russian, Swedish and Lithuanian.
Update 2: They recently added French, Portuguese, Greek, and Spanish to their lineup.
I hope they expand their library in the future, hopefully also laterally (that is to say varying difficulties) this could help people in earlier stages of their language learning if they made an interlinear out of a children's book or similar level.
As a new language learning start-up, I feel that InterLinear Books is overall a quality product that fits perfectly into most people's language learning.
It has a few edges, particularly the way the translation is written and the limited selection holds them back from a perfect score.
There is a pricing problem though. Although I think that $12.99 and $14.99 is a good price for these books (Russian and Lithuanian) I think that $19.99 and $29.99 for the German and Swedish version respectively is a bit too high.
I'm sure it has something to do with the length, but I think if InterLinear wants to hit the broad market they need to be priced at less than $20 for the big works and maybe around $10 for the smaller.
Maybe they could make a book club where one can sign up and receive a new book in the chosen language every month and then obtain a significant discount.
That would make the price easier to swallow, as I'm sure there's a LOT of work involved with translating these word by word.
Go check them out today -> InterLinear Books
That's the end of my Interlinear Books review – have you tried them?
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.