Bilingual Reading Practice for African Languages

As a language-learner, trying to read in your target language is great practice! For those who already have some basis in the language, it can really help you hone your skills. For those with less experience, it’s a great way to immerse yourself (especially when real-life immersion isn’t possible).

That being said, it’s also really challenging! Sometimes, if you don’t understand what a text is saying, it’s easy to get lost and simply give up. Since Google Translate doesn’t support many African languages (or at least not well), it’s hard to figure out what a confusing sentence means.

That’s why bilingual reading practice (where the passage is available in both your L1 and your L2, both your first and second languages) is so helpful. You can read, and then check that you understood. Read, and then use the translation to figure out what that weird sentence meant. Read, and then deduce some new grammar rules based on the translation.

So, for your language-study needs, here are a few (online, free) bilingual reading resources. Happy reading!

  • Nalibali has MANY stories on their website, available in various South African languages: English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, and Xitsonga. For language-learners, this would be for the intermediate level.
  • Bilingual-Picturebooks has a really cool tool where you can search for books by language, and then generate a book by selecting the two languages you’d like — super cool! As far as African languages, they have books in Luganda, Pulaar, Siswati, and Tigrinya.
  • Global Storybooks has a cool tool where you can select books by country, and then toggle each page between the languages of that country. For example, the Kenya page allows readers to flip back and forth between Swahili and English versions. Plus, it includes audio! Countries/languages include CAR (Sango, Peul, Zandé), Gabon (Fang, Myene, Punu, Nzebi, Mbere, Shira), Ghana (Dagbani, Dagaare, Ewe, Frafra, Ga, Gonja, Hausa), Guinea (Fulani, Maninka, Susu, Kissi, Kpelle), Kenya (Swahili, Ekegusi, Gikuyu, Kikamba, Maa, Ng’aturkana, Olukhayo, Oromo, Samburu, Somali), Madagascar (Malagasy), Mali (Arabic, Bambara, Bomu, Tieyaxo Bozo, Toro so Dogon, Maasina Fulfulde, Mamara Senoufo, Kita Maninkakan, Soninke, Koyraboro Senni, Syenara Senoufo, Tamasheq, Xaasongasango), Mauritius (Kreol), Nigeria (Pidgin, Fulfulde, Hausa, Kanuri, Yoruba, Zarma), South Africa (isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, siSwati, Tshivenda, Ndebele), Sierra Leone (Limba, Mende, Temne), Rwanda (Kinyarwanda, Swahili), Tanzania (Maa, Swahili), Uganda (Swahili, Acholi, Adhola, Alur, Aringa, Ateso, Kakwa, Khayo, Kinyarwanda, Lubukusu, Luganda, Lugbarati, Lukhonzo, Lumasaaba, Lunyole, Lusoga, Ma’di, Runyankore, Rutooro), Zambia (Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, Lozi, Tumbuka), as well as the relevant foreign languages (French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Gujrati, Mandarin, etc.) for each country.

If you know of any other bilingual reading resources, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

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