Basically, this is what I have in mind:

  1. Step 1: Buy a book in your target language (the language you want to learn).
  2. Step 2: Buy the same book in your source language (likely your native language).
  3. Step 3: Translate paragraphs of the source-language book into the target language.
  4. Step 4: Compare your translation with the target-language translation: what's good and what's bad?

The underlying idea is that you're comparing your translation of a text with a professional translation, and hopefully identifying ways to improve your writing (particularly grammar and word choice).

Question: Is this technique used to improve writing skills?

I've never heard of this before, but I'd guess I'm not the first person to think of this; perhaps it has a technical name.

  • You don't have to buy books: there is plenty of online translated texts. I used cartoons in two languages (Dilbert or Tarzan in Spanish And English), there is much more. Fun approach. Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 19:27
  • @PeterM can you recommend any resources to find these?
    – aesking
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 0:51

2 Answers 2


I've done this from time to time in the past, with American novels and their forward translations.

I can (probably) make myself "intelligible" with my own translations. But I learn a lot from reading "professional" translations. First are my obvious errors such as verb tenses and conjugations, and noun-adjective agreements, etc. But in the target language, there are also "idiomatic" ways of saying things that a non-native speaker is not likely to know at an early stage of learning.


Free online texts in a pair of languages can be found in several ways.

Of course, it depends on the language pair. Good bet would be a famous book in English (L1) translated to your target language (L2), or famous book in L2 translated to L1. If both your languages of interest are non-English, your choice might be more limited. For my searches, even while English is not my L1, I center on it (working on L3), because English has by far most resources.

Children tales and classic literature (Robinson Crusoe, books by Jules Verne, Andersen's tales) for which copyright expired are another good bet. Wikipedia will have articles in both languages, use words from those to improve your google search.

Ways to create bilingual texts:

  • Project Guttenberg has many books. So, find a book translated to both languages. *Use Google Translate to translate term "free download", then google in both languages for something famous.
  • Wikipedia articles in both languages (likely will NOT be in the same level of details though).
  • Bilingual comics - there are many link collections, like this one
  • Make your own: https://dilbert.com/ provides text transcript, which you can feed into Google to get rough translation, or use page translation services/browser plugins like http://lingro.com/

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