Multilingual books for learning several languages together

Comparative and Multilingual Books for Learning Several Languages Together [UPDATED JULY 2016]

Interested in buying multilingual books?

I’ve updated the list of multilingual sites for learning multiple languages together, but if you’re interested in multilingual books (some as PDFs) rather than websites, these are the resources I have:

A Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Spanish and Italian by O. W. Heatwole (1949) You may be able to buy this awesome book as either a hardcover or paperback from third-party sellers on Amazon, but the prices tend to be ridiculously high (hundreds of dollars!).

One of the most useful multilingual books: A Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Spanish and Italian

This book was edited by Mario Pei and in the foreword, he explains why a book of this kind is needed:

“But how wonderful would it be if there were only a comparative grammar of the main Romance languages, that would enable me to compare at a glance a rule in the language with which I am most familiar with the corresponding rule in the language I know least!”

This work is an answer to the conscious and unconscious needs of these students and teacher of Romance languages. It is a book the necessity of which has long been felt, but somehow no one has ever taken the trouble to supply it.

There is some inconsistency in the fact that Departments of Romance Languages are far more common in our system of higher education than separate Departments of French, Spanish and Italian, yet nowhere are the Romance Languages taught as a unit from the comparative angle that would permit the learner to avoid major confusions and major pitfalls. Learning three related languages at once should certainly prove no more difficult than learning them separately.

 

Comparative Grammar of French, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese Languages by Edwin A. Notley (1868) is a similar book though it is much older. The obvious advantage over Heatwole’s book is the inclusion of Portuguese but since it is so old, there are a few spelling differences (Spanish mujer is muger) and probably other features that have changed in the past 144 years! The good news about this book is that it is in the public domain, and I have scanned my copy so you can download it as a PDF (or flip through it online). Some copies show up on Amazon.com every once in a while, but at an outrageous price ($1,500!)

One of my multilingual books: Comparative Grammar of the French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Languages

 

The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages by Frederick Bodmer (1944) is where my love of comparative linguistics began. Not only does it explain grammatical differences, it also includes vocabulary lists in English, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, German and English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian – however, some of the language is quite dated. I reviewed this book a while ago, and it is still one of my favorite multilingual books, despite its age. You can buy it through Amazon for $5-20 or access it online via archive.org

One of my multilingual books: The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages

 

EuRom5 (2011) is the most recent multilingual book I’ve seen yet. It focuses on learning to read and comprehend five Romance languages. The book is written in French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese (so it is designed for native/advanced users of any of those languages) with texts and audio files available on the website. You can buy it from dicoland.com or hoepli.it for under 30€. Amazon.fr also sells it for 30-40€ and a few copies are available on amazon.com. This book is not quite as “comparative” as the other books in the list since it offers 20 articles in one language with some words glossed in the other 4 languages (i.e. the entire articles are not translated in the other languages). You can read my summary/review of it here.

One of my multilingual books: EuRom5 - Read and Understand Five Romance Languages

 

Comprendre les langues romanes by Paul Teyssier (2004) is obviously written in French for French-speakers to learn to comprehend Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian. A new edition came out in 2012, but I don’t know if/how it is different from the 2004 edition, which is what I bought. Both editions are available via amazon.com or amazon.fr or you can order it from Librairie Portugaise & Brésilienne in Paris for 29€, and they do ship worldwide. I believe translations of this book in the other languages exist, but I’m not sure where to buy them.

One of my multilingual books: Comprendre les langues romanes - Understand the Romance languages

 

6000 Wierder op Lëtzebuergesch by Jacqui Zimmer (2003) is a dictionary of Luxembourgish words (with IPA symbols and a CD-ROM for pronunciaton) presented in a comparative format with translations in French, German and English on the left page and Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish on the right page. I just bought the only copy available at amazon.com, so it may not be available again for a while. The newer edition with 9000 words is available at amazon.fr, but it’s quite expensive.

6000 Words in Luxembourgish multilingual dictionary with French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian translations

 

EuroComRom – The Seven Sieves: How to read all the Romance languages right away by McCann, Klein & Stegmann (2003) is a European initiative to encourage EU citizens to learn each other’s languages. This book includes Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian and French and can be bought via amazon.com. You can also buy it as a PDF for only 6€ or as a paperback for 24,50€ through Shaker Verlag (site in German). The EuroCom website currently includes audio files in Italian, Romanian, and Spanish, but beware that there are a lot of dead links. There is also a German translation of the book that can be downloaded for free.

 

EuroCom has produced other multilingual books, such as Die siebe Sieben – Germanische Sprachen lesen lernen by Hufeisen and Marx (2007) that includes Dutch, Frisian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Icelandic but it is only written in German. Unfortunately, Shaker Verlag does not seem to be selling it anymore, and the EuroCom website is a nightmare to navigate. It is also currently unavailable at both amazon.com and amazon.de so I do not know where you can buy it anymore.

 

Exploring French, German, and Spanish by Jacob Steigerwald (1987) is a neat PDF explaining the similarities of the three most commonly taught languages in the US. Download the full text for free from eric.ed.gov.

 

The Traveller’s Manual by Karl Baedeker (1840) is another book from the 19th century that includes vocabulary and traveller’s phrases for English, German, French and Italian. It also includes some Dutch vocabulary. You can read it online through Google Books.

 

Lastly, I’ve found one book for Slavic languages, Slavische Interkomprehension: Eine Einführung by Karin Tafel (2009), which you can buy at narr.de or amazon.de. Obviously it is written in German, and it includes Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian/Montenegrin, Polish, Czech, Russian, and Ukrainian. I haven’t purchased it yet, but I plan to.

 

Anyone know of other comparative multilingual books that teach more than one language at a time?

 

  • This is something brilliant I never would’ve thought of.

    “But how wonderful would it be if there were only a comparative
    grammar of the main Romance languages, that would enable me to compare
    at a glance a rule in the language with which I am most familiar with
    the corresponding rule in the language I know least!”

    Precisely! Yes, yes it would be! This particularly interests me as someone who’s already learned quite a bit of one particular Romance language (Spanish) and who very much wants and intends to learn several more romance languages (I’m particularly interested in French, Portuguese, and…yes, Romanian–I know, I’m weird).

    Great list, Jennie.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  • Amandine

    The most thorough and visual pleasing comparative language books, or single language grammar books for that reason, have only been in French bookstores. I’ve always had a soft spot for Bescherelle Language Books, particularly the grammar editions since the conjugation editions in my opinion are no longer valid with the many online conjugation dictionaries and resources available. What do you think of this series?

  • Any chance there’s a version that includes German?

    • I still haven’t found a book that combines Romance and Germanic languages except for The Loom of Language.

  • ɹǝʞɐʇʇıɥʍ ɟɟǝɾ

    You can get the first book (A Comparative Practical Grammar of French, Spanish and Italian) here: http://tinyurl.com/bm9jmco
    Click on Direct HTTP download at the bottom of the screen, wait for SKIP AD button to appear at the top. Download is a djvu file, but you can save it and then convert it to a pdf here: http://www.djvu-pdf.com/

  • Margaret Nahmias

    For those who know Spanish and want to use it to learn Portuguese, I recommend Pois Não by Antonio Simões . If it the udpated version of Com Liença It is a textbook that compares Spanish and Portuguese with recording and readings and excercises. BrazilPod offers a podcast series Ta Falado which compares Spanish and Portuguese pronunaction and grammar.

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