The LIBRARY for LEARNING a LANGUAGE: materials in world languages

shutterstock_167273051The library is by far one of my favorite resources for fostering bilingual education.  First and foremost, it is a free resource (or low cost resource for those who live outside the district). Secondly, it provides an assortment of materials and services important for becoming bilingual.  We encourage you to explore what your local library offers. For this series, we explored the Austin Public Library’s (APL) services for promoting bilingualism and here is what we found:

World Language Books, CD’s and Movies for all ages:

20160211_094032APL provides books, audiobooks, music and movies in a variety of world languages including Spanish, Chinese, French, Vietnamese, German, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Arabic, Russian and Hindi for both children and adults.  Use these resources on a regular basis to practice reading and listening in the preferred language to improve:

  • literacy,
  • vocabulary,
  • and written and verbal communication.                                                                                                               

*Tip: Begin with material that you can be easily understand and find enjoyable.  For adults, it may even mean beginning with material in the children’s section.  Have a good sense of humor with it and work your way up.

Finding the materials in the language and subjects you want:

APL has more than 20 locations across the city.  Each branch carries a variety of materials in world languages depending on the demographics and demand.  However, material from other branches can be easily transferred to a preferred branch for convenient pick up.   This can be done in one of two ways with a valid library card.

  • 1.  You can log into APL’s website at from any computer and search the online catalog.  Once you have found the material you are looking for in the desired language (you can filter by language in the advanced filter on the left), you simply request to place it on Hold by indicating the location you wish to have it transferred to for pick up.   Transfer requests to send material from one location to another usually takes about one week provided that it is currently available.  If the desired material is checked out at the time the hold is placed, the material will be transferred to your desired location once the material has been returned in stock.  Placing a hold on material that is currently checked out will prevent the current user from being able to renew the item for check out until after the user requesting the hold gets to use it.20160211_094408
  • 2.  If you cannot find what you are looking for in the catalog or if you are unsure on how to use the online system, ask a librarian to assist you. Desired resources may be filed under different key words or subject areas. Librarians are always willing to help and if they cannot help directly, they will be happy to get someone who can.

*Tip: Remember transfers make take at least a week or longer and materials requested may be checked out.  It is always best to plan ahead if you are looking for a specific topic or resource.

Accessing E-books and Online Databases:


Much material is available online through APL- from downloadable e-books to  virtual catalogs and databases. Give yourself time to become familiar with the various online options and how they work.  You can also attend a program at APL called Tech Time to learn directly from a technician.  These online resources offer a variety of materials in various world languages, with materials in Spanish being the most common after those in English.

Overdrive Catalog and Dowloadable E-Books:20160215_114009

APL subscribes to a virtual online catalog called Overdrive.  You can view books, audiobooks, music and more from your browser or you can easily download the Overdrive application to search and view material on hand-held devices.  You can also download selected material onto Kindle or into pdf files and other formats.  You can refine your search by a variety of ways including genre, interest level by age, language, and format.  Take time to play around with the various options and learn how you can customize your search to fit your needs.

Databases to Explore:

APL offers a variety of databases in English and Spanish to access news, scholarly research, encyclopedias, magazines, children’s read along books, business data and information, tutoring, how to prepare for civil service exams, how to learn English in 100 days and more.  Because there are many databases, I have highlight just a few.

Mango Languages:20160215_150142

Mango Languages is a great online language learning program that is free through APL.  It is available in both English and Spanish and offers a multitude of world languages to choose from.  It is easy to use and offers voice recording which allows for great audio feedback.  Use it to strengthen a second language or learn a third or fourth. My daughter speaks English and Spanish; however, she wants to also learn French.  In addition to her French class at the Alliance Française d’Austin, she has begun using this program.  She has also had fun exploring basic words in Greek to go along with her study at school on Ancient Greek.

Factiva and Factiva en Español:

Both Factiva and Factiva en Español access the same database of materials.  The Factiva en Español provides general navigational information  in Spanish.  This database gives you access to newspapers and magazines from all over the world for all age ranges.  While most are in English, you can find many in other languages as well.

Biblioteca TumbleBook:

Bibliotecas TumbleBook is a children’s database for read a-long books, audiobooks and some video clips.  I love this for my daughter because she is now reading longer picture books and short chapter books in Spanish.  The choices are great and include some of my daughter’s favorite authors and stories.

Brainfuse en Español:

This database is a free online tutoring service for K-12 and for adults  who are studying exams.  I have only perused this site; but, it looks like a great resource in a time of need.

Centro de Referencia:

Centro de Referencia provides access to encyclopedias online in Spanish for both adults and children.

Océono Escolar:

Océono Escolar provides a virtual library on scholarly information.  It is a great resource for students conducting research in any given area in Spanish.

Important note:  After learning about these databases and exploring them for my family’s own interest, I have discovered that I have had difficulty accessing many of these databases during peak hours in the work day.  In general, I have had better luck accessing them during the early mornings, evenings and on weekends.  This may be because schools and other groups are accessing these databases as well as other connections through the library’s site during the work day, which could slow down streaming.  On the other hand, it could also be that my own broadband is streaming more slowly during that same period.  Whatever the reason, I plan to contact APL to see what can be done, if anything. 

Tell us how you have found the public library to be useful for bilingualism.  Please leave your comments below: