National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) produces, acquires and offers audio and braille materials in languages other than English to eligible patrons.
Foreign Language Collection
NLS acquires audio and braille titles in many foreign languages from various domestic and foreign producers, as well as from cooperating agencies around the world that serve people who cannot read standard print, primarily through the Marrakesh Treaty. Implemented in 2020, the Marrakesh Treaty provides for the exchange of accessible-format books across international borders by organizations that serve people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. NLS has developed answers to frequently asked questions regarding participation in the Marrakesh Treaty.
New audio titles are made available in the NLS ANSI/NISO Z39.86 “talking book” format and can be accessed via the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service. To register for BARD, please contact your local network library or apply for BARD online. Many talking books are also distributed via cartridge. In addition, older analog titles are converted into digital format on an ongoing basis. Using the Voyager Search interface (instructions below) and BARD, the NLS collections may be searched to find talking books in a variety of languages, including Spanish, French, German, and Russian. Though some languages are represented with only a few titles, the foreign language collections are constantly growing.
Most of NLS’s foreign language braille titles are available in hard copy, although digital braille content will be sourced via the Marrakesh Treaty, as available. The NLS Multistate Center East (MSCE) in Cincinnati, Ohio, houses the majority of foreign language braille collection with more than two thousand print braille books in languages other than English. These foreign language titles can be browsed by following the Voyager search instructions provided below and may be borrowed. For more information, contact your local network library.
Foreign language audio magazines offered by NLS
NLS provides foreign language audio magazines in Spanish, French, and German, as indicated below. These magazines are available through NLS network libraries and issues may be downloaded directly from BARD by registered patrons.
(Note: you must be registered and logged into BARD to access the above links; if you are not logged in, you will be prompted to log into the system before accessing recent issues.)
Spanish language content produced by NLS
In the same way that NLS produces English language audio and braille books, Spanish language titles are produced and distributed through NLS network libraries. Approximately 150 titles are produced each year.
- An alphabetical listing of current Spanish language talking books can be browsed via the NLS Voyager Catalog.
- An alphabetical listing of current Spanish language braille books can be browsed via the NLS Voyager Catalog. Some hard-copy braille titles will need to be borrowed from the NLS Multistate Center East (MSCE) in Cincinnati, which network libraries can facilitate.
Foreign Language Quarterly online
Foreign Language Quarterly lists popular foreign language books recently added to the NLS collection and available through a network of cooperating libraries. Many titles come to NLS from other countries via the Marrakesh Treaty (DBGs), but patrons will also find books produced by NLS (DBs) and converted from cassette tapes (DBFs). All books listed in Foreign Language Quarterly are available for immediate download from NLS BARD. To register for BARD, please contact your local network library or apply for BARD online.
Searching for foreign language titles
Digital talking books in foreign languages can be found on BARD, as detailed in the instructions for using the BARD website. All foreign language titles in the NLS collections, regardless of format, are listed in the NLS Voyager Catalog. To find foreign language materials in the NLS Catalog, follow these steps:
- Select the Voyager Catalog Basic Search.
- Click the “Set Search Limits” button on the bottom right. This takes you to the “Set Search Limits” screen. On this screen, be sure to select the language you wish to search and the medium (sound recording or braille). You do not have to specify the type or location.
- When finished, click the “Set Search Limits” button. This will return you to the “Voyager Basic Search” screen. (The limits will remain in effect until you click the “Clear Search Limits” button.)
- On the “Voyager Basic Search” screen, select “Keyword” as the type of search and type your search text in the search box and click the “Begin Search” button. To see all possible titles, type the language in the search box.
*Please note that none of the search field options on the basic search screen labeled “limits not available” will work with search limits. Keyword, Title, or Command Keyword are allowed.
Sample search for French braille books
- Select the Voyager Catalog Basic Search.
- Click the “Set Search Limits” button on the bottom right. Select “French” from the language list and then select “Braille” from the Medium list.
- Click the “Set Search Limits” button. This will return you to the “Voyager Basic Search” screen. (The limits will remain in effect until you click the “Clear Search Limits” button.)
- On the “Voyager Basic Search” screen, select “Keyword” as the type of search and type “French” in the search box (without quotes). Click the “Begin Search” button.
- Review the list of French braille titles on the next page. You can click the book titles to get more information about the individual books.
Key to Foreign-specific prefixes
BRE: Digital-only braille books in foreign languages and English, primarily obtained from other countries via TIGAR and the Accessible Books Consortium before the Marrakesh Treaty was implemented.
BRF: Hard-copy foreign language braille books held at the MultiState Center-East
BRG: Digital-only braille books in foreign languages and English obtained via the Marrakesh Treaty after implementation in 2020.
BRM: Braille music scores; includes some foreign language materials.
BRT: Braille music scores obtained via the Marrakesh Treaty after implementation in 2020; includes some foreign language materials.
DB: NLS-produced Digital Talking Books; while primarily English content, includes Spanish language books, and soon will include Chinese, Arabic, French, and several other languages.
DBC: Network-produced digital talking books; while primarily English content, includes some Spanish language titles.
DBF: Digital Talking Books in foreign languages and English obtained from other countries via TIGAR and the Accessible Books Consortium before the Marrakesh Treaty was implemented. Some were originally acquired as analog cassette tapes (RCFs), which are being converted to digital versions.
DBG: Digital Talking Books in foreign languages and English obtained via the Marrakesh Treaty after implementation in 2020.
RC: Talking books on analog cassette tapes that include English and Spanish language books and which have mostly been converted to DBs.
RCF: Talking books on analog cassette tapes in foreign languages and English that are being converted to digital talking books (DBFs).
Additional sources for accessible books
Collection of free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers; can be searched by language.
Website offering numerous audio and ebooks for download in English and other languages.
Audiobook subscription service, including foreign language titles, for persons with blindness and dyslexia.
Online source of ebooks available for free download in several languages. Audiobooks also available for download in English and a few other languages.
Multi-stakeholder partnership administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) of publishers and agencies serving people with print disabilities around the world.
Global partnership of organizations committed to accessible publishing.
International body representing libraries serving people with print disabilities.
Organization representing over 285 million people who are blind or have a visual impairment around the globe.
Other international online resources
Braille translation tools and software. Includes contact information for braille producers outside the United States, by country.
Online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages; offers information on links to many websites about languages and language resources, including information on audio learning courses and online radio broadcast schedules.