Using Bilingual Literature

Let's take as an example our latest published title. This short story, originally written in Italian and translated into English, is now part of our first bilingual literature collection, aimed at those who are learning either English, Italian, or French, or simply wish to practice their bilingualism. Equilibrium/L’equilibrio by Massimiliano Bellavista (Vice Versa Publishing 2022) is a good example of a book as an excellent reading aid for familiarising the reader with the style and expressions of a foreign language in full context. The story: inspired by true events, this short story brings together an elderly man who has just found out he has a terminal illness, a young couple who have spent most of their time apart, and their “little creature” (as the semi-permanent elderly population of this tranquil seaside Italian town call their child). But the characters who leave an indelible mark in this story appear towards the end, and they are not so fictional. They are an uncountable number of nameless, invisible, remote people scattered around the globe, who silently but vividly hook the reader’s attention, perhaps because

of their uncanny resemblance to the readers themselves or someone they know. Teaching foreign languages Bilingual books, for children and adult, have been around for a long time, although it seems their effective employment in teaching a foreign language has been quite neglected. It is also true that not always bilingual books are produced keeping into account certain small but essential details that would make them more attractive and useful for their purpose. In fact, the basic objective of a bilingual text is to as an aid to accompany the learning of a foreign language. The real added value to a bilingual story is to ease the reader into the immediate understanding in context of another language, avoiding that sort of mental strain that can be encountered when reading the sole foreign text. The “mirror” aspect of a bilingual book increases rather than diminishing, the opportunity to understand and “absorb” terms and expressions in real time. A bilingual book is not meant to be a teaching tool, it is simply a literary field where to enjoy the discovering and familiarising of another language. For such a reason, translations for bilingual books need to be as faithful as possible, avoiding any stretching of the language as well as any adaptations (even if for the better) that stray too far from the original text. Another important factor in a bilingual book is the text layout. Each sentence, phrase, paragraph must have a logical correspondence (i.e. match) with the other language, in order to be found immediately. For example, if we read:

“I could say now that they had sinned of arrogance and superficiality like the rich.

The rich in time.

One day, after giving her the last ring, Viktor suddenly went away, and thus he never knew about his child. No one knows why he did that, not even today.

But if there was a reason, this must have been clear to Asja at least, since she showed no reaction, neither rage nor despair, and she was simply buried by his sudden disappearance.”

On the other side we will find:

“Adesso potrei dire che peccavano di superficialità e superbia come i ricchi.

Ricchi di tempo.

Un giorno, dopo averle donato l’ultimo anello, Viktor partì all’improvviso e così non seppe mai di suo figlio. Nessuno sa ancora oggi il perché.

Ma se c’era una ragione doveva essere ben chiara almeno ad Asja se lei non mostrò reazione alcuna, né rabbia né disperazione e rimase solo sepolta da quella improvvisa partenza.”

In easing the comprehension of sentences and expressions, the context becomes easily understood, leaving space for style and type of narration to become more evident to the reader.

We can say that reading bilingual texts does not decrease the capacity to learn and absorb another language. They are a fantastic way to engage with a foreign language and build up confidence. Naturally, the more we master a foreign language the more we will be confident in reading foreign texts. And in the case of bilingualism, what a better way to keep our mind afresh in both our native (or acquired) languages.

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