How to Transform Your Kindle into an English Learning Tool
Ever wish you had a superpower?
Here’s how you can take your reading to the next level.
By taking advantage of features on the Kindle e-reader, you can supercharge your reading with vocabulary building tools, audio resources and book sharing, among others.
So put on your cape and check out the world of secret reading powers just waiting for you in your Kindle.
- Why Learn English with Kindle Books
- How to Learn English With Your Kindle
- And One More Thing...
Why Learn English with Kindle Books
Reading in English is crucial practice for English learners, whether you are using an e-book or a traditional book. However, there are certain advantages to the Kindle format:
- Endless variety: When you are reading from a Kindle with access to Amazon’s Kindle Store, you have an endless variety of books at your fingertips. You could read a fantasy fiction such as the “Harry Potter” series or “The Hobbit,” then choose a completely different nonfiction work like “Grit,” “The Art of Waiting” or “Religion for Atheists.” Your options extend to refreshing short stories, rhythmic poems and educational articles.
- Convenience: Learning English can be quicker on a Kindle than in print. The built-in dictionary saves time on looking up words—we will discuss this more later in this post.
Furthermore, Kindle has all your books in one place. You can switch from one book to another without leaving the sofa. All that spared time can be spent on reading and learning more.
- Constant learning: No matter how many books you download to your Kindle, it will never get any heavier. That means you can carry all the books you want wherever you go. It also means you can always pick up a book suitable to your mood and start with the first chapter on the train on the way to meet a friend.
The convenience of digital books can result in more English reading practice, and the more you practice, the quicker you will reach fluency.
How to Learn English With Your Kindle
1. Use the Vocabulary-building Features
With Kindle, you can look up new words quickly and easily with the built-in dictionary. When you encounter a word you do not know in the text you are reading, just press and hold and the dictionary window will pop up to explain it. If there is no entry for it in the dictionary, you have an option to search online instead.
Kindle users and language learners can also use the More Options feature in the built-in dictionary to highlight a phrase worth remembering, add a personal note or translate a word into another language that they know. It is a 3-D vocabulary-building experience, all without closing the book you are reading!
Kindle’s Vocabulary Builder is another great feature for English learners. The Vocabulary Builder contains the list of words you have looked up while reading. If you click on an entry, you will see a pop-up window reminding you of its meaning. The Usage tab gives you the sentence in the book where you saw the word. Ultimately, this feature ensures that you remember the words you have looked up, so that you are actively building your vocabulary as you read.
Vocabulary Builder comes with a cool Flashcards option that allows you to quiz yourself on words you have looked up. You will see individual words and example sentences, and you will have to guess the definition that is on the other side of the card. It allows you to turn your English reading into an active vocabulary memorization exercise.
- How to access Vocabulary Builder:
If you are new to Kindle, Vocabulary Builder can be found on the home screen, using the menu on the top right corner.
2. Read More Advanced Books with Word Wise
Reading with a Kindle is not just useful for learning individual vocabulary words. Your Kindle can also make it possible to read books that would be too challenging on paper.
This is because of Kindle’s Word Wise feature, which was designed to help readers understand challenging books. Word Wise will automatically provide simple definitions for difficult or unusual words without the reader having to tap anything. As you progress, you can choose to reduce the number of Word Wise tips.
Why is this feature good for language learners? Well, it means you have a stepping stone to a higher English comprehension level. It is like training wheels for English reading. Plus, you will get exposure to new books that would otherwise be inaccessible—maybe you will discover your new favorite English author and be motivated to keep reading and learning!
- How to access Word Wise:
The Word Wise tab is accessible on the drop-down menu on the top right corner of the home screen. Click Settings, Reading Options and Language Learning, then click to turn on Word Wise. Once turned on, Word Wise will always appear in the bottom right corner while you read. You can tap on it at any point to adjust the level to your liking.
If you cannot find Word Wise on the menu, check to make sure you have the latest software version.
3. Pair Reading and Listening Practice
As more and more Kindle books come with audiobook companions, you have a great resource to pair your reading and listening practice. Listening comprehension is often more challenging than reading, because you cannot control the speaker’s speed, and without punctuation it can be difficult to know when one sentence stops and another begins.
Besides, unlike many languages, the way English words are written is often different from the way they sound. That means if you cannot guess correctly how to spell an unfamiliar word, you will not be able to look it up in the dictionary.
Conveniently, Kindle’s Whispersync for Voice eliminates this problem. This feature is available through the Kindle app and on some Kindle tablets. You can quickly switch from audio to text and go back to look for the words that you did not understand.
Not only will this help build your vocabulary, you will also learn how new words are pronounced from the audiobook component.
- How to toggle (switch) between text and audio versions of a book
On an Android Kindle app, a user can switch between two modes (i.e., Listen and Read) using the Headphone and the Book icons in the bottom left corner of any screen when reading. Note that you will need to first download the audible file by tapping on the blue download arrow when you open a Kindle book (whose audio companion you have already bought from Amazon).
For iPhone and iPad users, switching between the two can be done with the iOS Kindle app and Audible app.
Meanwhile, if you fall in love with listening to audiobooks, here is the ultimate guide to learning English with them!
4. Take Advantage of Social Learning
Reading has a reputation for being a non-social activity, but that is not always true. Have you heard of book clubs, where people meet up periodically to discuss a book that they all read?
Aside from being a fun way to meet new people, book clubs can also help you improve your English speaking and listening skills as everyone discusses the shared reading. Further, listening to the discussion can help you know how much of the book you understood and whether there were any sections you should re-read.
Luckily, the Kindle makes it possible to have this book club feel and encourage social learning right from the device. You can take advantage of the Household and Family Library feature to share books with others for group reading!
You do not have to jump right into a big book club with lots of people. You can start by sharing an e-book with just one person—maybe a good friend, or ideally, another English learning partner. Then, you can discuss difficult sections together, compare new vocabulary and help each other out with comprehension questions. As you get more comfortable, you can start reading in a more social environment like a real book club.
- How to set up the Household and Family Library
Go to Settings on the top right drop-down menu, and look for the Household and Family Library option. Select it and follow the instructions. Your learning partner will need to provide his or her Amazon account details before your libraries are merged.
The Kindle is not just an e-reader; it is also a fantastic tool for learning English. After all, it makes reading entire books a lot more convenient and less scary. The more books you read in your target language, the closer to fluency you’ll get–and it’ll spill over to your listening and speaking too.
Aside from books, diving into other media in your target language will help you improve a lot. Just like the Kindle, there are plenty of language learning tools that can help turn other English content into language lessons.
Whether you are building your vocabulary, becoming a more advanced reader or just enjoying a book with a friend, this device will get your English skills growing, fast!
One tool is the language learning program FluentU. It teaches with English videos and has similar vocabulary building-features as the Kindle.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Whether you’re building your vocabulary or looking for entertainment, taking advantage of tech tools will get your English skills growing, fast!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)