Answered By: Darcy Gervasio
Last Updated: Feb 03, 2020     Views: 974

The Library has books in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Hausa, Italian, and Spanish. You can browse literature written in these languages by going to specific call number ranges in the Main Stacks on the Lower Level of the Library. For example, most romance language language literature (novels and poetry) are located iin the PQ section. For a list of call number ranges to browse, see the table on the Languages and Linguistics guide.

Because of how the Library of Congress call number system works, you may find foreign-language books on the shelf next to the same book translated into English.

How to search for foreign language books

The best way to find a specific foreign-language book is to look up the title or author in the Library Discovery Search (catalog). Try both the original title and its English translation.

  1. Go to the Library Discovery Search
  2. Click "Advanced Search"
  3. Select "Books/Media @ Purchase" 
  4. Enter the title, author, or a keyword.* (Make the appropriate selection under "Any field").
  5. Under "Language," choose the language you desire
  6. Under "Material Type," choose "Books." (This eliminates CDs, scores, and DVDs from your results.)
  7. Click "Search" to view your results. 

screenshot of language search filter in discovery advanced search


*Pro Tip: Discovery Search requires you to add at least one keyword to run a search. If you don't have a specific author or book in mind and wish to browse our foreign language collections online, keep your keyword very simple. Use a subject term or genre in your target language. For example, if you want a list of novels written in French, search for the word "roman" (which means "novel"). This helps eliminate most non-literature results. This will not show you every French novel in our collection--only those who have the word "roman" in their title-- but this could be a good way to browse if you're not looking for something specific. The same technique can work with words for "novel" or "poetry" in other languages. 

screenshot of advanced search with books, language selected and roman as keyword


How to check which language a book is written in 

If you are viewing a record in the Discovery Search and wish to determine if the work is written in English or in a foreign language, do the following:

  1. Click on the title of the book in your Discovery Search results to view the full record
  2. Click "Details"
    1. If the title and publisher are both in the original language/original country of publication, it is very likely this book is written in a foreign language (but not foolproof!) 
    2. If you see any additional authors or the terms translation, translated, or trans. anywhere in the record, that means it is an English translation. 
  3. If the information from "details" is not helpful, scroll to the bottom of the record and click "Display Source Record."
  4. In the source record, you will see a three-letter language code, usually in the fourth line. The code indicates which language a book is written in. The language code for Spanish is "spa," French is "fre," German is "ger," and so forth.

screenshot of source code with a language code for french of FRE

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