Westerly Sun Column | Expand Your Linguistic Horizons at the Library

June 03, 2024

While the majority of us have taken some form of language class in our life, it’s no secret that becoming truly bilingual takes time, patience, and a great deal of practice. I’m certainly aware of this myself; despite taking Spanish classes for a good chunk of my life, I can probably count the number of words I remember without running out of fingers and toes ... and don’t even talk to me about conjugation. It’s a shame, because there are so many benefits to learning a second language, from increased job prospects to improved cognitive ability! Luckily, there are a ton of resources available these days — for free, through your library — to help you learn or refresh your memory of another language.

Our digital libraries have seen a huge increase in users over the last few years, and Westerly has some of the highest usage rates in the state. This could be partially attributed to the rising popularity of audio and eBooks, as well as the convenience of borrowing them with just a few swipes of your finger. Another perk, though, is the large collection of books they offer in languages other than English. In Libby, you can browse thousands of books in a variety of languages, primarily Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese, German, and Italian. I recently wrote a column about how much adults can learn from children’s books, and this is doubly true for children’s books in another language: with simpler/limited vocabulary and illustrations to aid in comprehension, these are great for helping you hone your linguistic abilities!

In addition to what you can find online, we’re excited to share that Westerly Library and Wilcox Park now has a World Languages collection specifically for adults! Located on the second floor of the library, near the entrance to the Hoxie Gallery, you can find fiction and nonfiction books in Spanish, including translations of popular fiction and classics, as well as books originally written and published in Spanish. The collection also includes a limited number of books in other languages, including Chinese and Vietnamese, with more books and languages being added throughout the summer. As we grow out collection, we welcome feedback and suggestions for books and languages, so please send us your input. As always, Rhode Island cardholders also have access to books throughout the state, and many other libraries have books in different languages that you can place on hold.

Books and audiobooks are great, but let’s not underestimate movies and TV, which can be a fantastic option for beginners and more advanced learners alike. If you’re just starting out, watch a film in your own language, but turn on the subtitles to begin learning some key vocabulary. For those looking for more of a challenge, you can watch a foreign series or film in its original language with English subtitles, or without any subtitles as all! You can even get crazy and listen to, say, a Swedish film with Spanish subtitles. The possibilities are endless!

by Cassie Skobrak, Adult Services Librarian

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