Sick of running into roadblocks while you read?
It’s exciting to start a book in your target language, but every new word or strange expression can halt you in your tracks.
If you have to flip through a dictionary or browse through online translators every time it happens, reading in your target language will quickly become a chore that you avoid.
We’re here to make things easier.
By reading on a Kindle with an integrated foreign language dictionary, you can just tap your way through confusing passages. You’ll learn new words in context while you read, making it both more fun and more effective.
Ready for some smoother roads?
Why Bother with a Dictionary?
But wait, you may be asking, why get a new dictionary when I could just use Google Translate?
While Google Translate and other services like it are getting better, they still have a tendency to translate word-by-word instead of grasping the “big picture.” And even if you’re only asking it to translate an individual word, it might not give you every meaning that word carries.
These types of tools are great for a situation that calls for a speedy translation, like when you’re in a grocery store and need to buy milk or eggs in another country, but cannot be depended on for consistent accuracy when you’re reading on your Kindle.
By contrast, a good dictionary provides much more useful information as you’re reading. Along with the definition, it tells you what part of speech a word is (noun, verb, adverb, adjective, etc.) and maybe has a picture to go along with it. It can also tell you how a word is used and provide example sentences.
That way, you’ll quickly understand what the word means in the context of your e-book, plus how to use it yourself in your own target language communication.
Best of all, Kindle foreign language dictionaries are just as portable and convenient as the Kindle itself. Many of us have e-readers and tablets these days, and their appeal to a language learner lies in the fact that they’re lightweight and easily transportable. Provided you remember to charge it up, a Kindle is much easier to carry around than a traditional paperback book and dictionary.
And as we’ll show you below, you don’t even have to flip between your dictionary and e-book—the Kindle makes it possible to integrate dictionary definitions with what you’re reading. You can even load multiple dictionaries onto your Kindle, either different editions so you can decide which one you like best or different languages.
What Foreign Language Dictionaries Are Available on Kindle?
We language learners are fortunate, because there is a multitude of Kindle foreign language dictionaries available for download. Here’s just a sampling for some common languages:
- Spanish: HarperCollins’ Spanish-English Kindle dictionary
- Chinese: Tuttle Learner’s Chinese-English dictionary
- German: HarperColling German-English dictionary
- French: Merriam-Webster’s French-English dictionary
- Italian: Merriam-Webster’s Italian-English dictionary
If you’re a beginner learner and are reading books in a foreign language for the first time, a translation dictionary like the ones listed above is the best tool to have on hand. It’ll help you learn new words without getting lost or overwhelmed.
How to Supercharge Your Reading with a Kindle Foreign Language Dictionary
There are a few steps involved but it’s quite a simple process.
1. Download the Dictionary
First, you’re going to need to be connected to Wi-Fi and enter the Kindle bookshop. Search for a dictionary in the foreign language you’re learning. You can search in English (this will likely bring up bilingual dictionaries, for the most part) or you can search in your target language—for example, dictionnaire français (French dictionary) to find authentic French Kindle dictionaries.
You can also browse through the Amazon Best Sellers Kindle Default Dictionaries page. (More on default dictionaries below.)
If you’re feeling brave, you can even simply change your Kindle device language, and a keyboard and default dictionary for that language will automatically be downloaded. Plus, you’ll get some great practice navigating your Kindle in your target language!
Once you’ve found your dictionary, you’ll need to purchase it and it’ll take a minute or two to download onto your Kindle. Another great thing about Kindle is that their e-books are usually cheaper than a paper or hardback version of the same book.
Alternatively, you can browse and download a dictionary from your computer, and then sync your Kindle to your computer to access the dictionary that way, using the cable provided with your Kindle. Here’s Amazon’s guide to transferring books from the computer to Kindle.
2. Change the Default Dictionary
In order to use your dictionary while you’re reading, you’ll need to update your Kindle’s “default dictionary.” The exact process depends somewhat on which Kindle device you have, but essentially you’ll need to:
- Go to your device’s Settings
- Select the Language and Dictionaries option
- Select your new foreign language dictionary from the list of downloaded dictionaries
3. Get Your Bookworm On!
Now that your default dictionary has been updated, you’re ready to start using it while you read!
Open up a foreign-language e-book on your Kindle. Whenever you encounter a word you don’t recognize, just tap it.
A summary definition from your new foreign language dictionary will appear. You can then click “full definition” for more information.
Here are some tips to get even more out of your Kindle and Kindle dictionary while reading in your target language:
- Enlarge for readability: You can alter the font size on the Kindle “pages,” enlarging it to make reading easier. This is easily done from the Kindle menu. Simply scroll down and select “change letter size.” A variety of sizes are available, so choose the best one for your eyesight.
- Supplement your reading with FluentU: This app works just like a Kindle dictionary, by providing instant definitions to your foreign language entertainment—but for video!
Just click any word in a video’s interactive captions and you’ll get an instant definition, translation and you’ll even hear a native pronunciation. FluentU will also show you other videos the word appears in, so you understand how to use it in any context. FluentU then provides flashcards and exercises to make sure you remember the new vocabulary after you’re done watching.
Check out a free trial on your next reading break to keep the fun learning going.
- Use bookmarks to boost your vocabulary: Tap the bookmark icon on the upper right corner of the screen to save a page for later. This is great for keeping track of new words you want to review later.
- Make a vocabulary list: You can also use the Notes tool to keep track of new vocabulary, jot down language questions or leave study reminders for yourself. Press and hold a word or phrase, then hit More and Add Note.
When learning a new skill, like a language, it’s crucial to get the right tools to make the job easier.
You know a carpenter will have all the tools they need to create a beautiful wooden cabinet, so shouldn’t you equip yourself with all the tools you need to learn a language?
With Kindle, using a dictionary is quick and easy for the technology enthusiast and language learner alike.
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of 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 get 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.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.