For many of us, bilingual books are hard to come by.
Libraries often lack the books we need.
We wish we could say that in Dallas, Texas, one of the nation’s fast-growing cities, bilingual books for kids are in every library, in many languages — at least the more commonly spoken languages. But that’s not the case. Whenever we visit a new library branch in Dallas, we ask where the kids’ foreign language section is. We’re usually met with, “Well, there’s not much of a selection, but…”
The interlibrary loan system is an option, but first, you have to know the exact book you want to borrow, and second, you have to be willing to wait, sometimes up to several weeks, for the book to arrive.
Used or thrift bookstore chains aren’t widespread.
We do have more success at our local Half Price Books stores, and we’ve bought several of our German children’s books from there. Not everyone lives near Half Price Books (or a similar used or thrift bookstore chain), though, so access to these resources is still a problem.
If you choose to buy online and have your books shipped to you, sometimes the shipping costs are as much as the books themselves.
Amazon.com’s bilingual books selection is limited.
Our family is crazy about Amazon Prime. It’s convenient, it’s often (but not always) the cheapest place to find what you need, it offers a cost-effective shipping program, and it gives us additional discounts at Whole Foods. Try Amazon Prime free for 30 days through this affiliate link of ours!
Now you know that we think Amazon is great, let us tell you that Amazon.com’s (note the “.com”) bilingual books selection is limited. Yes, you will find bilingual kids’ books on Amazon.com. With the exception of the Lil’Libros collection of Spanish readers, however, it’s nearly impossible to find those truly beautiful bilingual children’s books without visiting an international Amazon site like Amazon.de (Germany), Amazon.co.uk (the United Kingdom), Amazon.co.jp (Japan), and so forth.
Plus, when you do visit and order from the international Amazon sites, you run into the problem of high shipping costs and long delivery times. Who wants to wait on a book that’s, on average, just 28 pages?
So where does that leave us parents who want to read bilingual books to our kids?
Enter the Unuhi App.
Unuhi, which means “translate” in Hawaiian, provides dual language children’s books, recommended for ages 2 to 10 years old, through its iPad app.
And when we say “dual language,” we don’t just mean English to another language. Unuhi offers bilingual pairings for 20 languages: English, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin (Simplified), Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Thai. I’m no mathematician, but this is the rough equivalent of 200 different language combinations.
Here’s what else we love about the Unuhi App:
1. It’s highly accessible. As long as you have an iPad, you can use the Unuhi App. An Android version is on its way too. Purchase, download, and start using instantly with your children.
2. It’s great for minimalist families raising bilingual kids. When our family downsized from a 2,300 square foot house to a 1,575 square foot house, we had to adopt some minimalist lifestyle habits. We value our print books, but there are only so many we can fit on the bookshelves. Unuhi is one way to enjoy bilingual children’s books while keeping our “stuff” to a minimum.
3. It’s made for the type of screen time that’s typically parent-approved. An understandable concern of many parents is “How much screen time is too much?” Of course, we don’t want our kids’ faces plastered to an iPad or similar screen all day. Digital bilingual books are quality material, though, and something that parents and children can enjoy together. The clean way that the illustrations are laid out on Unuhi make it easy to forget you’re even using an iPad.
4. It’s inclusive. By this, we mean that the company is accepting outside authors and illustrators, so if you have a story to share or a talent for art, get in touch with the Unuhi team and put your skills to work.
Currently, the Unuhi App has four bilingual books available, one of which is free!
The other books are incredibly affordable, ranging from $0.99 to $2.99, cheaper than you’ll find at most any bookstore. Plus, right now, Unuhi is running a limited-time-only special: $3.99 for all four books in the launch collection. You cannot beat that price!
How Unuhi came to be…
We’re always fascinated by the stories of language product creators, so we reached out to CEO Mark Bassett for the backstory on the Unuhi App. Here’s what he said:
I’ve always had a passion for languages and travel. I used to live in Italy in the ’90s and actually taught English at a preschool in Rome for a bit. I was reading bilingual books with my Italian friends’ children here in Oxford, and the idea came into my head about an app whereby you could select any two languages in a bilingual book.
I did a bit of research and found there wasn’t anything quite like it. Together with my friend Simon Greenland, a web designer, and his friend Charles Kozeny-Pelling, an app developer, we set about building Unuhi together. We are all from Oxford, and we all love languages and design.
We are really excited to see what we can achieve with the app. It’s only a first release and we have lots of ideas for Unuhi moving forward. We’d love to get some feedback from users to build on.
We anticipate amazing things in store for the Unuhi App and the team behind it, and we encourage you to download the app and let Mark, Simon, and Charles know what you think. Bonus points if you leave a review in the App Store.