In addition to my lifelong, ongoing quest to learn how to play the guitar well, I have been nursing my Spanish along for a the last 30 years. In both cases, though, it just takes practice – which I never seem to be able to sustain for long periods of time. My Spanish is ok, but I would really like to become fluent. And that means broadening my vocabulary and hardening my grammar. And practicing.
I have two Spanish novels on my bookshelf that I have started to read several times over the years, and with my spanish-english dictionary in hand, have made my way through a couple chapters. It is hard work. Not just for my brain, but for the manual back-and-forth effort of putting the book down to pick up the dictionary, then putting it down to pick up where I left off in the book.
So, for the umpteenth time, I picked up one of them again last week, a novel called Nada by Carmen Laforet. I started at the beginning again. After about 2 pages I paused and experienced a moment of inspiration: wouldn’t it be great if I could read this book on an e-reader that would look up a word for me on the fly with the mere touch of a finger? What a great idea, maybe someone has thought of that already! 😉
I have a five year old 1st generation Kindle Fire with a kindle e-reader built in. So I downloaded a sample of the e-book version of Nada for free from Amazon and tried it out. But, alas, the device only has an English dictionary built in. I found a helpful document that explained that, unlike later Kindles, the 1st generation Fire does not support changing the default dictionary. Strike one.
I also have a Kindle e-reader app on my Mac. So I tried the same thing with it. But switching dictionaries was also not possible in that scenario. Strike two.
I understand the kindle e-reader for iPhone and iPad may support what I want to do, but I’m really not interested in reading a book on my phone – too small. Nor buying an iPad – too expensive.
So, then I began to research whether what I wanted to do would even be possible with a new e-reader device, like the Kindle Paperwhite. And it appeared to be. There were two ways I could do it. One requires being connected to wifi to look up each word, by using the built-in “translate” feature, but that was not what I wanted. I don’t want to have to be online to lookup words. The other method requires downloading a Spanish-English translation dictionary to the device, and then making it the default dictionary for spanish e-books. Bingo. Sounded like a plan.
I am typically slow to embrace new technology and gadgets. But when I find a use for them that is important to me, I don’t waste time! So, I splurged and ordered the Kindle Paperwhite, which arrived yesterday. And in a matter of minutes I was in business. As of this morning, I am 10% of the way through the book. And I can almost feel my brain expanding. 🙂 Home run!
By the way, this is the Spanish-English translation dictionary I’m using. Seems to work great for what I want to do. Even better, I downloaded it for free by using the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library perk that comes with my Amazon Prime membership.
I also found a great free app for my iPhone called Duolingo, which seems to be a very decent tool for practicing and learning. I’ve even started trying to learn French and Irish with that app. Now THAT’S going to take a looooong time, but what the heck. Anyway, if you have any interest in learning or polishing your foreign language skills, check it out.