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World Language Learning: Books & Media

A guide to resources at the Boston Public Library and online that can help you learn another language.

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To request In-Library Use items from the research collections, please visit the Delivery Desk on the 2nd floor of the McKim Building. See map for location

Call the Delivery Desk to request items in advance at 617-859-2244.

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The Boston Public Library has 25 neighborhood branches throughout the city. Visit our location map and hours & directions pages to find the location nearest you.

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Featured Books & Media @BPL

The Boston Public Library has an extensive collection of books and media that can help you achieve your language learning goals. Resources include introductory texts; grammar and vocabulary guides; phrase books; dictionaries; language-learning CDs; dual language texts; and the world language collections which "may include books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, and newspapers for adults, children, and teens."

Browse all the Pimsleur Language Program CDs @Boston Public Library.

Dual-language or parallel-text books have the material in the original language on one page and the translation on the facing page.  These type of texts are a great way to build your reading skills.  To locate titles, do a keyword search with the name of your target language and the words "dual" or "parallel". Some examples of this kind of material are listed below.

The Boston Public Library has an extensive collection of world language books. The collections contain both fiction and nonfiction works, classics written in the language, and translated material. Materials are available for adults, teens, and children. Books for children are especially suited to beginning learners. Books for teens, and short story collections, are good choices for intermediate learners. To find books in your target language, you can search by author, title, keyword, or subject and limit your search results by language.You can further refine your search by limiting the results by format, circulating status, content, form/genre, audience, and more.

Languages include:
Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and more.
Some featured titles are listed below.

Link to the World Languages section on the Boston Public Library website for additional information.

You can use films to gain exposure to both a country's language and culture. The Boston Public Library has an extensive collection of foreign-language films. Languages include: Albanian, Bengali, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Norwegian, Panjabi, Persian, Polish, Portuguese. Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Thai and Vietnamese.   Most DVDs have an option for English language subtitles, which makes them accessible for beginning and intermediate students. To find films in your target language, use subject headings such as "Feature films" or "Foreign films," and limit by language. To find documentaries, search by subject and then limit by language.

The Boston Public Library has music CDs in many different languages. Listening to music in your target language is a great way to learn the rhythm of the language, increase your vocabulary, improve your pronunciation, and experience a little of the culture of the country. If you are just a beginner, search Google for the lyrics of popular songs in both the original language and in translation to use as an aid.  Some featured titles are below but you can locate additional material by using search terms such as "Popular Music,"  "World Music," and "Songs" and limiting the results by format, audience, region, form/genre, language, and more.

Browse by Library of Congress Classification Number

Use Library of Congress classification numbers to find language-learning materials for these widely-spoken languages:

  • Arabic Language - PJ6001-8517
  • Bengali Language - PK1651-1799
  • Chinese Language - PL1001-1960
  • French Language - PC2001-3761
  • German Language - PF3001-5999
  • Hindi Language - PK1931-1970
  • Italian Language - PC1001-1977
  • Japanese Language - PL501-699
  • Persian Language - PK6201-6399
  • Portuguese Language - PC5001-5498
  • Russian Language - PG2001-2826
  • Spanish Language - PC4001-4977