Children’s books play an important role in children’s literacy development because they offer opportunities to broaden their horizons, to develop their vocabulary and to help them become fluent in the target language. At the same time, reading literature increases cultural awareness, improves the cultural sensitivity of children by making them aware of the great diversity in today’s multicultural environment. In this context, reading parallel texts can lead to cross-cultural understandings while increasing empathy and giving rise to new perspectives on their cognitive development.
Bearing all these in mind, I decided to experience reading parallel texts with elementary students this year with the aim of keeping them engaged and interested in learning the English language. As I had already tried to encourage them to read classical stories adapted to suit their needs (Graded Readers series accompanied by activity books), I knew that they were interested in reading, but unfortunately, this activity did not appeal to all of them, as some were not interested enough to approach a text in English for fear they might fail in their attempt.
Consequently, to encourage them and facilitate their understanding I suggested the bilingual texts as a means of enriching their vocabulary without getting them frustrated by the need to look up a lot of words… the translation in Romanian could be seen on the opposing pages. The idea was to stimulate their curiosity and interest in English, not to confuse the them. This way, most of my students started reading in English, as at the end of the activity I was to use alternative assessment to help all students reach their potential. The choice was between writing a summary of the book or solve the tasks on each chapter from the activity books.
The experience proved to be interesting, challenging and finally rewarding: not only did the students’ English vocabulary and fluency grew exponentially, but they also proved to enjoy the tasks!
Benefits of using parallel texts
1. The co-occurrence of the target language and the L1 version on the same page facilitates the process of ‘noticing’ in an ‘authentic’ linguistic context. According to ‘The Noticing Hypothesis’, input does not become intake for language learning unless it is noticed, that is, consciously registered. The learning of a foreign language grammar structure cannot occur unless the learner ‘notices’ the gap between the way the respective structure is used in the target language and their own language. (Schmidt, 2010).
2. Students can learn vocabulary in context as parallel texts enable them to ‘pick up’ new vocabulary items without being fully aware of this process (‘inductive learning’).
3. Less confident readers are encouraged to approach reading in the foreign language, as their anxiety level is lowered by the fact that there is a translation available they can rely on when having difficulties with the text. It is worth emphasizing the importance of looking at the translation only to double-check meaning when they feel confused by the original text.
Schmidt, Richard. ‘‘Attention, awareness, and individual differences in language learning”. (2010). nflrc.hawaii.edu. Web. 1 June 2018.