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Foreign Language Materials


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.

Rows of shelves containing the foreign-language braille collection at the NLS Multistate Center East, in Cincinnati, Ohio
Foreign-language braille collection at the NLS Multistate Center East, in Cincinnati, Ohio

Talking Books

New audio titles are made available in the NLS "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 NLS Catalog 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.

Braille

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. For more information, contact your local network library.

In what languages are books available?

Books are available at NLS in the following languages:

  • Albanian
  • Algonquian languages
  • Amharic
  • Arabic
  • Armenian
  • Basque
  • Bengali
  • Bulgarian
  • Central Khmer
  • Cherokee
  • Chinese
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Greek, Ancient
  • Gujarati
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hmong
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Latvian
  • Lithuanian
  • Navajo
  • Nepali
  • Norwegian
  • Ojibwa
  • Panjabi
  • Persian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Serbo-Croatian
  • Slovak
  • Slovenian
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Telugu
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese
  • Welsh
  • Yiddish

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 750 titles are produced each year.

  • An alphabetical listing of current Spanish language braille books can be browsed via the NLS 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 BARD for foreign language titles

BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service, provides instant access to thousands of books, magazines, and music scores. To register for BARD, please contact your local network library or apply for BARD online. There are three options to find books in particular languages on BARD:

  1. Choose your preferred languages by clicking the “language preference settings” link in the description under Search the Collection on the BARD home page or by going to “Account Settings” under “My BARD.” Click “Select this link to change your language preferences.” Check the boxes next to the language(s) in which you would like to read books. Click the “Update” button. Click “Back to BARD main page” to start searching for books in your preferred languages. NLS recommends this as the most efficient method. You can ask your local braille and talking-book library to update the preferred language setting in your account for you if necessary.
  2. To search by keyword for books in a particular language on BARD, you can enter your search term in the main “Search the collection” edit box, then choose the language from the preferred language dropdown menu/combo box and click “Go” to run the search.
  3. If you haven’t set your preferred languages or would like to find books in a language other than your preferred languages, you can also filter for books in a particular language while browsing, such as while looking at the “Recently added books and magazines” screen. You will find a “Filter by language” dropdown menu/combo box at the top of the screen. If you choose the language you have in mind from that list and click “Go,” you will see a list of applicable books in that language. This option will not appear if the page you are browsing only includes books in one language.

Searching by language in the NLS Catalog

Results can be limited to a particular language on the Keyword and Advanced search screens in the NLS Catalog by entering your search term, clicking the Add Limits button, choosing your desired language from the list under the Language heading, and clicking search.

  • For example, if you were looking for Spanish books by Danielle Steel, you could go to nlscatalog.loc.gov, click Keyword search, enter Steel, Danielle in the search box, choose Author/Narrator as the type of search, then click add limits, choose Spanish from the language list, and click search.

  • For example, if you were looking for the Bridgertons series in French, you could go to nlscatalog.loc.gov, click Advanced search, enter Bridgertons in the search box, choose Series (KSER) as the type of search, then click add limits, choose French from the language list, and click search.

    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

    LibriVox (free service) External

    Collection of free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers; can be searched by language.

    Bookshare.org (fee-based service, free for qualifying students) External

    Website offering numerous audio and ebooks for download in English and other languages.

    Learning Ally (fee-based service) External

    Audiobook subscription service, including foreign language titles, for persons with blindness and dyslexia.

    Project Gutenberg (free service) External

    Online source of ebooks available for free download in several languages. Audiobooks also available for download in English and a few other languages.

    International organizations

    Accessible Book Consortium (ABC) External

    Multi-stakeholder partnership administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) of publishers and agencies serving people with print disabilities around the world.

    Daisy Consortium External

    Global partnership of organizations committed to accessible publishing.

    International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities (LPD) Section External

    International body representing libraries serving people with print disabilities.

    World Blind Union External

    Organization representing over 285 million people who are blind or have a visual impairment around the globe.

    Other international online resources

    Duxbury resource page External

    Braille translation tools and software. Includes contact information for braille producers outside the United States, by country.

    Omniglot External

    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.

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