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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?


Review of Language Learning Websites II: Mango Languages, LangMaster, LinguaTV, and Yabla

Six months ago I posted my thoughts on the popular language learning sites Livemocha, Busuu, LingQ and Hello-Hello. Now I would like to review four other language learning websites that I have used recently.  The previous four sites were “communities” where not only can you use their flashcards and exercises, you create a profile and interact with other languages learners on the site via chat or messaging. Mango Languages, LangMaster, LinguaTV, and Yabla are not communities but do offer just as much language input and are just as – and sometimes more – useful even without the social aspect. I am more interested in the actual language provided by the website and its pedagogical implementations rather than ways to get in touch with others. Interacting with native speakers is obviously the best way to learn, but you don’t necessarily need a language community website to find native speakers.

For the purposes of self-study when you cannot or do not have a native speaker to help you, I am looking for the most useful websites with regards to receptive and productive skills involving vocabulary. I am looking for authentic language with plenty of opportunities for active listening and self-testing – criteria that language acquisition research supports, and more importantly, criteria that I know works best in my own language learning experience.

Mango Languages

Previously, I did not review Mango Languages because they only offer one demo lesson, and I didn’t feel as if that was enough to really see how the website works. Mango for Libraries, however, allows me to use all of Mango’s features for free by logging in with my American library card number. Check your library’s website to see if yours has a subscription.

Mango offers 9 foreign languages and 3 ESL courses for individual subscribers (and even more for library patrons – 21 foreign languages and 15 ESL courses) and each of the 100 lessons is based on phrases and dialogs rather than individual words. I like that you have the option of turning off the narrator since a lot of language programs rely too much on instructions in English. There are also keyboard shortcuts for advancing through the lessons, and you can choose the Main Lesson or shorter Vocabulary and Phrasebook Reviews. Grammar and culture notes also appear throughout the lessons but they are not the focus.

The main problem is that the entire program is mostly receptive. You simply listen and repeat as there are no real productive exercises for self-testing. There are often “quizzes/flashcards” in the sense that you are presented with one word or phrase and need to say (not type)  the translation, but that’s not exactly effective self-testing. The recordings are obviously scripted and rehearsed so there is no real authentic language. Nevertheless, I have used it as a refresher for pronunciation and vocabulary but I most likely would not have used it if I didn’t have free access through my library. An individual subscription is $160 for 3 months per course.


I was initially impressed by LangMaster not only because their online lessons are completely free, but also because of the number of exercises and audio files available. For example, the Italian course includes: 125 chapters, 853 interactive exercises, 1,450 pictures and photographs, 117 minutes of sound, and 3,595 audio recordings. Even their software and listening programs are reasonably priced (13-27€) with a 14-day free trial plus Collins dictionary. The free online lessons are available in German, French, English, Italian and Spanish while the software also includes Russian.

There are plenty of opportunities for improving reading, writing, and listening skills and increasing your vocabulary. The lessons are completely in the target language so you may need to keep a dictionary open in another browser. There are cultural notes and grammar notes throughout but they are mostly examples until you get to the last chapter of each lesson, where there is a review explained in English (and which you can skip if you don’t care so much for grammar.) The recordings are mostly scripted but there are also some interviews with more authentic language, and examples of realia from the countries where the language is spoken (photos of signs, menus, brochures, etc.)  Usually the transcripts are provided, whether in the same lesson or later on, so you can check your comprehension.

A few of the disadvantages to LangMaster are that it is only available in the four main foreign languages and the audio is only streaming so you can’t download it. If you like flashcards, there’s no built-in system to review vocabulary, but you could easily create your own Anki decks while working. In spite of these few faults, it is the most complete language program available online for free so I recommend it.


LinguaTV is a German company that offers videos with subtitles in 5 languages: English, German, French, Spanish and Italian. The videos are scripted and rehearsed so they are not quite authentic language, but they are helpful for learning basic vocabulary and phrases for everyday situations. The material is designed for beginners (A1-A2 level) and you can turn off the subtitles if you prefer. Grammar reviews and transcripts can also be downloaded as PDFs for each video, but translations are not provided. The quiz section has a variety of exercises including comprehension questions, crossword puzzles, dictations, fill in the blank, etc.

LinguaTV also has a community website called Lingorilla (in beta) where you can watch the first 9 videos in their Neu in Berlin German series, with transcripts and quizzes. They also have a section on learning languages with music videos but it’s not yet complete. Among their two websites and Youtube channel, quite a few videos are available for free so you can check them out before deciding to pay for a monthly subscription, in the range of 1-10€ depending on the language and course. I am a big supporter of using video and subtitles for teaching and learning languages, but these videos are somewhat limited in that they are not spontaneous, authentic speech.


Yabla is “language immersion through online video” and probably the most useful language website I’ve used so far. The videos come from a variety of sources, whether they are news reports, interviews, or just random scenes filmed in the country to illustrate authentic use of the language. Subtitles and translations appear under the video, which you can turn off if you’d like, and clicking on a word will search for its definition in the dictionary pane to the right.  You can also slow down the play back so the speech is slower, or put it on a loop to repeat a certain word or phrase.  Then you can choose the play game button to start the listening/cloze exercise and type in the missing word.

Currently, there are four languages available: Spanish, French, German and English as a Second Language. They’ve just added a new flashcards feature, and the Spanish & French sites also have blogs of language lessons on grammar and vocabulary. All of the languages have hundreds of videos available, and the French site does have some Quebecois videos as well. Monthly subscriptions are $9.95 a month per course, with discounts for 6 or 12 month subscriptions ($54.95 or $99.95) with a 7 day money-back guarantee.  You can download many of the videos through the website or iTunes as well to take with you instead of watching them all online.

Some of the videos are similar to the authentic/eavesdropping videos provided in the Français interactif & Deutsch im Blick online textbooks from U of Texas-Austin, but the main problem with those videos is that many do not have transcripts available unless you are a language teacher (you must prove your credentials to the university) which means they aren’t exactly useful for those who are learning on their own. The textbooks were designed to be used in the classroom however, and not as self-study materials. The advantage of Yabla, even though it is not free, is that transcripts and translations are available for everyone so it is ideal for self-study.