Become Bilingual by Reading – For Beginners

Although we become bilingual primarily through listening; Reading is the secondary avenue.  Listening is king and reading is queen.  Reading will help you understand written and spoken language because it helps you internalize grammar, and increase your vocabulary.

The easiest way to start learning to read is to use a course designed for English speakers, such as the Made Simple book series.  Japanese language learners like the Remembering the Kanji books.   Free apps, like Duolingo are another good resource.

Image result for italian made simple book                                     Image result for duolingo

Courses give us a start in reading – but just a start.  Would we expect a child to be a good reader when the only thing they ever read in their whole life was one book?  What about if they only read on one app?  Did that one textbook in high school make you literate in Spanish?  Alright, so…


Watch shows with subtitles

Neflix is a great resource for language learning!  Netflix Originals usually have several language options.  On Netflix, pick a show, and put your curser on the speech bubble at the bottom of the screen to see the audio and subtitle options.  You may find that a show has both audio and subtitles in the language you want to become bilingual in.  The subtitles do not usually match the audio completely, but the two will be always be synonymous.  For instance, a character might agree to play chess by saying, “Let’s do it.” and the subtitles might say, “Let’s play.”

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At first you wont understand everything and you’re going to have to be okay with it.  Eventually, you’ll learn a lot from reading subtitles.

Please note: It is important to watch programs and movies WITHOUT subtitles as well.  Watching without subtitles hones your listening skills in a way that can’t be done with subtitles on.  Sometimes use subtitles, and sometimes do not.

Music with lyrics

If you don’t know how to spell music and lyrics in the language you’re aiming to learn, use Google Translate and find out. Search for those terms on YouTube.  You’ll get plenty of songs that you can follow along with.  Beware of studying songs with crude or depressing lyrics.  Slow gospel songs and children’s songs are safe choices.  When you get curious about what a song means, Google the name of the song plus English lyrics. It’s faster than looking up each word.

See the source image

lyrics to a good, clean religious song

Free apps for natives

Don’t just look for language course apps.  Download apps intended for people whose native language is what you intend to learn.  They’ve got apps too.

Unfortunately, most of the free apps I’ve tried were not very good and I got bored with them and deleted them.  I did find a good one, though…

The Bible App for Kids has an impressive 36 languages!  After you download it you can change the language in the settings of the app.  It reads Bible stories to you and you can touch the pictures and watch them wiggle.  My three year old thought it was a game.  Adults can enjoy it too.  It’s FREE!  Plenty of people on YouTube posted videos of this app so you can look at it on YouTube if you are undecided about downloading it.  The app is large.  Once you get it, you have to download stories separately.  Then it works offline.

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The Bible App for Kids

Online articles

Pick a topic you’d like to read about even though it is a bit mundane:  Sunburn is bad for you.  Brushing your teeth is good. Give your pet food and water.  Firefighters use firetrucks.  Stuff like that.

Google the key words in the language you wish to learn.  Google, “brush teeth” or “firefighters.”  A nonfiction article about that topic is the perfect thing for you to read.  You already know what it says.  Skim it.  Or just read a part of it.  Be happy when you recognize a word.  Let your eyes skip over the words you don’t know.  If you are genuinely curious about what a word means, look it up. If you don’t want to look up anything, don’t.  Stop reading when you feel like stopping.  If you only want to read one sentence, that’s okay.  Easy does it.

Reading articles online like this is really fun.  keep at it and you’ll see results in your reading ability.


Comic strip books are great because they have a whole lot of pictures and very few words.  If you only read one strip, you’ve accomplished something.   Comic strip books are hard to find, though.

See the source image

Bilingual books are good too.  Bilingual Bibles are easy to find online.  For language learning, you probably don’t want to use old translations with archaic language.  You probably want something like the NIV, not KJV.

Be careful about buying children’s fiction.  Good authors choose unusual ways of saying things and they’ll be too hard for us to understand in a foreign language.  Take this sentence from Ralph S. Mouse, a book for elementary school students.

Night winds, moaning around corners and whistling through cracks, dashed snow against the windows of the Mountain View Inn.

That is the first sentence of the book.  It would be awful to read in a foreign language you are not proficient in yet.


Flash Cards

Some people read flash cards to become bilingual.  They make their flashcards by copying  sentences they want to remember from subtitles, songs, articles and books.  When they review their flashcards, they simply read them aloud.  Anki is a free program for making and reviewing flashcards.

Reading Aloud

Read aloud regularly to get your mouth used to trying to speak the language.  Make it a habit to always read your flash cards aloud.  Read books aloud to yourself sometimes.


  • Take a self study course at home.
  • Find a Netflix show in the language you want to learn that has subtitles.
  • Go to Youtube for music
  • Go to your app store for apps by and for speakers of your target language
  • Find an article to read
  • Find a book to order
  • Make flashcards
  • Read aloud sometimes


To learn how to get kids reading watch this video.



I’d love to hear how it’s going for you.  Drop me a comment.





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