Using a Kindle E-Reader to Learn Spanish (and other languages)

June 13, 2019

One of the most important tools I’ve used in learning Spanish is the Kindle E-reader. The reason for that is Kindle makes reading more efficient. You can look up words faster and get through material that would otherwise be too onerous to work through if you didn’t have that efficient wway of looking up words. Now, what that means is you can personalize your learning experience by involving reading that is material that is particularly of interest to you.

You can read the kinds of novels that you like to read, and the kind of history that you like to read, or whatever the case may be. Instead of reading material that is sort of tailor-made and generic for language learners, you can get into authentic content sooner. That will accelerate and improve your language-learning experience. The basic functionality of Kindle is really simple. When you’re reading, you touch your finger to a word, and up pops a definition. You can use whatever dictionary you choose, and therefore you can work with a Spanish-English dictionary. The Oxford Spanish-English dictionary comes with Kindle. You can download it to your device and use that any time you want. So in this case, I’ve looked up the word “luchaba.” Up pops the definition in the Oxford dictionary for “luchar,” and I understand what that word means; I can move on.

The other thing you can do is look up names of places, names of people and be taken to Wikipedia for an explanation of those things. So, in this example, I’ve looked up “Santillana”, which is a place in Spain, and I get that information from Wikipedia. This is another really nice feature that helps you work through material. A third core feature is the highlighting feature. Here, I’ve got a turn of phrase was particularly elegant or interesting, and I decided to highlight that. There’s a system for going back to your highlighted material. It’s very easy to return and review something that you’ve highlighted. So, if you encounter a difficult passage, you can quickly highlight it and come back to it at a later stage. Now, let me offer some recommendations about using Kindle. The first thing is you really do want to get a Kindle e-reader and not rely on the apps that are available for Android and for iPhone. The e-readers deliver better functionality, a more efficient reading experience. That’s what gives you the edge, that’s what enables you to get into authentic content earlier than you would be able to do otherwise.

I love having the Android app, I do use my Android app. But the Kindle e-reader is really the thing that delivers the best experience. Amazon currently sells four different e-readers, and you can see them here. They come in at different price points. The most affordable one is available at $79.99. Then, there are other ones that are a bit more expensive, all the way up to the brand new one, which is almost a few hundred dollars. If none of those price points work for you, my advice would be: go to eBay. You can get an e-reader, a touch-screen e-reader, at a very affordable price. I’ve seen some as low as $20, $25 recently. That’s a way to get in at a very affordable price, and you can still get a reliable, fully functional e-reader that’s used. Now, once you have your e-reader, some ideas about getting into content that will work for you: If you are at a, say, early intermediate or intermediate level, and you’re going to be really pushing yourself and challenging yourself by reading novels or history in Spanish, one thing that you can do is select familiar content.

There are tons of works out there that have been translated into Spanish. One thing you can do is select a book that you’ve already read in English, or that you’re familiar with in English, and read the Spanish translation. Or, if you’re into reading history, identify a period of history that you’re already pretty familiar with and read a basic or brief history of that period. That’s a way to lower the bar on the content and get into authentic Spanish-language material a bit more quickly. One of the big advantages in this is that you get to read material that’s particularly of interest to you. You’re not reading generic content that’s prepared for language learners, you’re reading real works of fiction written for lovers of fiction.

Whatever kind of fiction or nonfiction you like to read, that’s what you can find on Amazon. You can do Google searches to find your way to lists of good books. The key to doing those searches is you just do the searches in Spanish. So a search like, “los mejores libros de 2015,” that will get you some great books from 2015. If you search in Amazon, “ficción en español,” you’ll find different works of fiction. Once you get in and start finding things, you will have no trouble finding an enormous array of content that will interest you. One of the features that’s a really nice advantage when you’re using the Kindle system is that once you find a book that interests you, you can send a sample to your device and you can begin reading it without actually purchasing it. I’ve used that a lot, particularly when I was at an earlier stage, to get a feel for whether this particular author wrote in a way that worked for me and was accessible to me. So, I would get samples of many things and then decide whether to read them or not.

That way, you don’t have to take the plunge and buy a bunch of books that you don’t end up reading. I also have some advice about looking up words. You’re going to look up words all the time. You’re going to be looking up hundreds of words maybe every chapter. That’s normal. My advice would be: Don’t worry so much about trying to force yourself to remember words.

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t remember words. I routinely look up a word and I will forget what it meant moments later. If I got interrupted and then reread the same passage, I’d have to look the word up again. You will look up the same word over and over and over again, and you will look up a lot of words. That’s normal. Eventually, as you look them up repeatedly, you come to know the word and then you don’t have to look it up anymore. But it’s definitely a repetitive process. If you spend too much time trying to write down words and put them into flashcard decks or things like that, you’re going to make the process onerous, and the whole idea is to get into the content, to enjoy the content.

As you look things up and as you encounter words that you don’t know, and then you look them up and understand them, that process is a process that will strengthen and broaden your vocabulary. But it doesn’t happen one word at a time, one lookup at a time. It happens over a longer period of time of multiple lookups. So, don’t be frustrated when you have to look so many things up so many times. On the subject of looking up words, I want to recommend a dictionary to you. The reason for that is you get a dictionary with Kindle; it’s the Oxford Spanish Dictionary. It’s a superb dictionary, very detailed, very extensive entries. But its strength is also its weakness; when you’re trying to work through a lot of definitions and looking up a lot of words, to move quickly, it actually helps if you have a more basic dictionary, a dictionary that gives you simpler definitions.

This Hispano Dictionary does just that. It only costs $4.99. You can purchase it on Amazon, you download it to your Kindle device, and then you can designate it as your default dictionary for Spanish-language material. You can always toggle between the Hispano and the Oxford when you need the extra heft of the Oxford entries. But, when you don’t need it, having the Hispano will enable you to move more quickly through lots of word lookups, and that can be a real advantage.

One final recommendation for you is that when you’re reading material on Kindle, read out loud when you’re able to, because by doing so, you’ll be able to reinforce your pronunciation, particularly combinations of words that are very typical and standard. You’ll be able to reinforce that and get the pronunciation right. It also, I think, just helps cement the language in your mind. Whenever I have the opportunity, I read aloud when I’m reading my Kindle. So that’s about it for Kindle. It’s a great resource; I highly recommend it. It will help you accelerate your language learning process, and it will make that process more personalized and enjoyable, because it will get you into content that most interests you.

If you have questions or comments about Kindle, I hope you’ll add them to the comments section below. If you have found this video to be helpful, I hope you’ll subscribe to my channel. That’s all for now. Thanks for watching. .

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