Dual-language books as a tool to disseminate information

Despite English being commonly spoken by Maltese, there is still deep-rooted objection to English being spoken at an official level

Dual-language books are bilingual books that present the same story or narrative in two different languages. They are regularly used to help individuals learn a second language – however, there is another use which is not regularly discussed within the academic community: the use of dual language books as a tool to disseminate information, especially in a country like Malta, where our relationship with language is so complicated.

For this reason, I chose this topic as the basis of my master’s thesis. The relationship between Maltese and English is complicated in Malta – and while the two coexist within the community, the situation becomes even more complicated when you consider the increase of the foreign population since Malta joined the European Union in 2004.

To this effect, for my master’s thesis, I created two sample chapters from a proposed dual-language interactive eBook on domestic violence entitled Violence No More: A Teaching Guide on Domestic Violence in Malta. The proposed eBook itself contains eight chapters, with the primary side being in English and the secondary side being in Maltese. It is aimed at stakeholders in the field, such as law enforcement, educators, the media, etc. The reason I chose the subject matter is because of the alarming rate of domestic violence and femicide in Malta – while there are other guides for stakeholders, because of the unique inclusion of interactive elements – the artefact I have created is unlike anything that currently exists to my knowledge.

The point of creating the sample chapters is to show the vital role dual language books/material can have in disseminating information and reaching different markets. It also hopes to show the limited resources in the area – and attempts to fill the gap. The proposed sample chapters are joined by a report looking into how the artefact was made and research into the benefits and criticisms of translation.

As I’ve stated previously, the subject of language in Malta is a divisive topic. Despite English being commonly spoken by Maltese, there is still deep-rooted objection to English being spoken at an official level. Malta is, in fact, not the only country to have received backlash from the public; while stakeholders agree that translation of educational material is necessary for multicultural societies, there has been backlash over the years, with many questioning whether it is required.

In the UK, there was an uproar about the amount of money spent on translation services, leading to a policy review and recommendations that local authorities consider carefully whether translation is required and that there should be a greater focus on English for Speakers of Other Languages provision. However, research shows that gatekeeping information does not benefit society; if anything, it only leads to mistrust and misinformation, which breeds resentment.


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The last subject I would like to discuss is the benefit of interactive elements within eBooks and how they can increase accessibility. Interactive elements transform eBooks into more than just the digital version of physical books. They usually offer dynamic, engaging and immersive experiences. In my work, I used various interactive elements, including audio dictation. Using AI, both the English and Maltese versions have audio dictation for the entirety of the work.

While some might argue that audiobooks fill in the gaps for this market – I disagree; for starters, research shows that many individuals benefit from using audio and visual stimulants simultaneously. One of the most significant advantages of reading and listening simultaneously is its substantial boost to reading comprehension. When you follow along with an audiobook or spoken content while reading the written text, you simultaneously engage multiple parts of your brain.

It is also beneficial for those living with learning disabilities such as dyslexia – listening to a text while following along can help bridge the gap between decoding words and assigning meaning.

The second reason audiobooks don’t fill this gap is that one still has to buy the audiobook separately, forcing the potential reader to pay two fees – we should strive to make books as accessible as possible to anyone who wishes to read them. Having the audio dictation within the eBook, through interactive elements, removes the burden for the reader to purchase both the audiobook and the eBook and makes the process far more accessible.   

I would like to thank the TESS Scholarships and the Malta government for funding my master's at Oxford Brookes University in the UK and making it possible for me to conduct this research.