When you’re learning languages, it’s all about words - A.K.A. nouns. These are 12 of our favorite language word books, sometimes available in a variety of languages or in a series.
If you don’t speak the language perfectly yourself (or at all) and you’re unsure about pronunciation (which is the case with one of my son’s needed languages) - check out the Usborne sound book series called 'Listen and Learn' (photographed below, first book, middle row) which is available in English, Spanish, French, Chinese and German. The one drawback: this technology requires a bit of advanced finger dexterity to put cards in a required envelope to activate sound, so most likely requires adult assistance.
We wish all these books could talk! TA-DA! will be bringing such a solution your way this winter. And, hint hint, no difficult cards or adult assistance required. All you do is touch normal-looking paper in a normal-looking book, and TA-DA!…it’s like native speakers are right there in your home with you.
We’ve noted the other language editions we could find. This can, of course, be tricky if you don’t speak the language (and publishers websites are not always up to date or there is more than one different publisher). Be sure to check online in your language in case we’ve missed something!
This is your basic, starter picture book. A few of the pages have flaps which the little ones enjoy, of course.
This is a lovely, modern edition of a picture book that had great success at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair I attended in Italy a couple of years back. Antiquated words are left behind and replaced with age-appropriate ones like satellite and electric toothbrush. The words are thoughtful and well-chosen. Beautiful, child-friendly illustrations abound. And good news for all you design enthusiasts out there: this book is all about designer swivel chairs, Stokke high chairs and Sebra cribs… (There is also an animal version…)
Although a bit older and, thus, with some antiquated words, this picture book uses real photographs, which is super-useful for the younger ones making sense of the world and the words around us!
Another somewhat older picture dictionary, we still appreciate it for its artistic genius: the entire book consists of clay modelings of all words. A sheer delight for the eyes.
(Available in French, German, Spanish, and Chinese.)
We love that this book talks to us, pronouncing all the words. The main drawback is the card system, which my 4-year-old still struggles to manipulate himself. (And being at an age where he desires to do it all himself, I see him putting it aside out of frustration). All the same, the content is nice, and perfect for those families where caregivers may not speak the child’s target language. There are a variety of cards, organized by themes: house, bedtime, food, body, transportation, on the farm, etc. Sixteen words per theme. Slide the card into a pocket, activate by touching go - and then simply touch the images and hear the words being pronounced.
We love Sesame Street in our house. It teaches our son both English and Dutch (A.K.A. Sesamstraat). The delightful gang shares the wonder of numbers and ABCs through a world of words that surround around us in fun, kid-friendly scenes. Many images have words written out on the page next to the item, but not all. But we still find it very useful, even for those families who do not speak the target language.
Another more unique style of artistic drawings, this book highlights one word per page, which also appears in a sentence. Great for word acquisition, syntax and grammar.
8. Luxembourgeois, Portugais, Français, Imagier Trilingue
Although an older book I can no longer find offered for sale (we purchased this at a second-hand bookstore in Europe), this lovely book teaches not only one, or even two, but THREE ways to say each and every word in the picture book. Good news for all you multilinguals out there: more and more multilingual options are creeping up for us! Yay! (And a reminder to not forget the rich resource second-hand bookstores can be!)
Tourbillon (Also available in English.)
One of my son’s absolute fave books of all time, this is a word book taken to the next level. While not all words are written out (just a handful per page), what you get instead are blurbs that explain how a city operates - emergency vehicles, buildings, stores, what goes on underground...pipes, electricity, water processing and more! Complete with flaps and a huge pop up at the end for a rich, three-dimensional view, this book is sure to satisfy the most insatiable (hello toddlers!). Probably challenging for those caregivers who do not speak the target language, I still say it’s well worth giving it a try.
This book is a true work of art. Surely the most artistic of this selection, this word book takes illustration and graphic design to the next level, which I find to be a refreshing change in the unfortunate sea of dumbed-down kid’s books. Many, but not all words are written out. Like Dans la Ville Animée, it also includes informative tidbits to learn about the world around us. This is a great addition to the library of a more mature child and native-speaking parents.
Penguin Random House
We see these as our modern day family encyclopedias. These are jam-packed with vocabulary, real photographs, and are useful for the entire family. (Especially all you multilingual families out there who may be prone to forget basic words from time to time…my husband recently forgot how to say carrot in his first language… this is the first book we turned to in order to clear up the mystery!)
Let it be known that this book has a special place in my heart, and the heart of TA-DA!, for it was the first word book I bought for my son when he was born. But, it’s also the book that gave me that ‘AHA!’ moment when I knew what I needed to create to make language easier for kiddos and their families. You can say this book is the impetus for the birth of TA-DA!
The collection is jam packed with useful vocabulary (x-ray, money, flashlight, outlet, ceiling fan, elevator, computer...), thoughtfully presented, and I personally find the illustrations cute, colorful and playful. But as an added bonus (for non-native speaking parents in particular), Usborne provides links on their website where you can hear native speakers pronounce all the words, all free of charge. The links we included above for all language versions will take you straight to those pages for easy access - and listening. Note: for some reason the Dutch version was not listed on the Usborne website (hence no link to the pronunciation page) - but we know it exists because we own it! Another reminder to check online in your own language, seeking 'word books' or 'picture dictionaries for kids' - and see what pops up!