Few people realize how excellent of a tool the Kindle can be for language learning.
Beyond immersion, you can of course also load language learning books and exercises on it, then take it with you on your travels, to your classes or on public transport.
Who wouldn’t like to squeeze in some Spanish practice on their way to work or other destinations?
Read on to learn how to use your Kindle to the fullest and for some Spanish-learning book recommendations.
- The Kindle Method of Learning Spanish in 4 Steps
- 9 Digital Spanish Learning Resources to Put on Your Kindle
The Kindle Method of Learning Spanish in 4 Steps
1. Get yourself a Kindle
You’ll need a Kindle Paperwhite (second generation or newer), an e-book in Spanish and an e-book dictionary.
The second generation Kindle Paperwhite has been on sale since September 2013 in the US, so it’s one of the more standard models and easy to get, if you don’t have one already.
The reason why this model is great is that it has a touch screen, so you can easily tap on words you aren’t familiar with, and it also has a built-in vocabulary list builder.
2. Set up a dictionary
If you haven’t already, you’ll now need to download a Spanish dictionary to your Kindle. The main thing here is to ensure that you get a dictionary that has been programmed to be recognized by Kindle, so that it works with your books as you tap on unknown words.
You can go to the Kindle Store on Amazon, click on the Reference category and from there go to Foreign Language Study and Reference, then to Dictionaries.
Once you find a recognized Spanish dictionary that’s compatible with your Kindle model, download it and select it as your Kindle’s Spanish-language dictionary. To do this, go through this series of pages on your Kindle: Options → Settings → Device Options → Language and Dictionaries → Dictionaries. You can choose one dictionary per language to be the default there.
In terms of choosing a dictionary, you have the option of either a Spanish-English or a Spanish-Spanish dictionary (with definitions in Spanish). The latter is great for advanced learners—a word holistically defined in its own language is always better understood than a word that’s translated—but the former is a safe bet for those who are starting out.
3. Start reading and tap away!
This bit is pretty straightforward. Choose your Spanish-language book and start reading. When you come across a word that you don’t recognize, and that you can’t work out from its context, just tap and hold to get a definition.
4. Practice with Vocabulary Builder
And this is where the magic comes in. This feature takes all the words you’ve tapped on and lays them out for you to revisit and practice until you know them.
The flashcards show you the words in the sentences you originally tapped on. Once you’ve reviewed the word enough that you know it, you can mark it as “mastered” and the Kindle will take it out of your practicing pile and move it into a mastered pile.
Vocabulary Builder is an app that should already be installed on your Kindle, but if it doesn’t pop up on your home screen after you’ve looked up a few words, you can find it by tapping on Options.
An alternative option is to access your saved words on your computer. They should all be saved in a file called My-Clippings.txt, which you can download onto your computer when you connect your Kindle to it via USB. Once you open My-Clippings.txt, you can use your vocabulary list in Evernote or online self-made quizzes—or you can be more old-school and print it out on actual paper.
Bonus: Take your learning with you, beyond the Kindle
Make sure to mix up your learning methods once in a while and get into another kind of media. For example, try finding the movie version of the book you’re reading to experience the same great story while working on your Spanish listening skills. Put the textbook chapter about food vocabulary down and head to a Mexican restaurant to try out your skills in real life.
You could also try an online immersion program. FluentU, for example, has a large library of authentic Spanish short videos with learning tools like interactive subtitles and personalized review quizzes. There are also downloadable transcripts to reinforce what you heard in a video.
9 Digital Spanish Learning Resources to Put on Your Kindle
One more obvious way to use your Kindle is by loading it with textbooks and practicing the exercises when you can.
Aimed at beginner to intermediate Spanish learners who’d like a comprehensive approach to Spanish, this digital textbook is designed to help you teach yourself over 2,000 words, as well as to speak, read and understand Spanish. It’s meant to be paired with its audio CDs, but there’s a lot you can learn without them.
“Learn Spanish – Word Power 101”
A free e-book available on Amazon, this textbook is also aimed more at beginners, and it includes all the basic vocabulary you need to start speaking Spanish quickly, along with hundreds of sample sentences for that vocabulary. You can also download the supplementary MP3 files for listening practice and pronunciation help with the vocabulary.
This textbook series starts with the most common Spanish words and builds up from there. The idea is that, by the end of this first book, you will have mastered 50% of the Spanish words you’ll need to know. The course comes with mnemonics, visual tools and grammar lessons.
VitalSource is a great online resource to consider for more e-textbook shopping. You can rent or buy books to access on the Bookshelf app, which works with your Kindle and lets you keep all your learning material in one place.
Stories and Novels
Try to find novels, stories or non-fiction books that you’d just love to read, so that you’re motivated to get through them and improve your vocabulary at the same time—if it’s something you’re truly dying to read, then you’ll want to understand everything.
I strongly recommend books that were originally written in Spanish, as they aren’t quite the same when translated from another language to Spanish—and that’s a reason why many of us want to learn Spanish in the first place.
“Spanish Short Stories for Beginners”
These stories come with their own vocabulary lists, multiple choice exercises and summaries.
I know I just advised that you read books that were originally written in Spanish, but at the beginning it’s valuable to choose books you’ve already read before in English. This will help you better understand what you’re reading.
Highly recommended is Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” in Spanish. If you read it as a child—or as an adult!—and remember the story line, that could help as you read it now in Spanish. A fun story, this would be ideal for both beginner and intermediate Spanish learners who want to start expanding their vocabulary beyond the basics.
“The Book of Embraces”
One of my favorites, “El libro de los abrazos” by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano is perfect for Spanish learning because the stories, usually based on fact, tend to be no more than a page long.
Galeano brings Latin American history and culture to life with vignettes about moments that he witnessed or was told about—all written in very accessible Spanish.
Flashcards are great vocabulary-building tools just because of their simplicity, the way they make us focus on a single word (without extra fluff in the background), the instant feedback on if you know the word or not and, of course, the repetition.
You may have know all of that, but I’m betting you didn’t know that you can have flashcards on your Kindle.
One flashcard takes up a whole Kindle page, and you can tap the Kindle to flick through them. You can create your own flashcard sets and load them on your Kindle, or you can download ones that have been made by others.
“1001 Spanish Flash Cards”
At a very affordable price, these flashcards are grouped into different categories and are aimed at getting beginners up and running with core vocabulary.
“English/Spanish Flashcards – Animals”
Can you name 50 different animals in Spanish? These 50 flashcards are beautifully illustrated and include the phonetic pronunciation for each word, as well as the English translation. And this is just one idea for beginners to get started—there are many more themed flashcard decks out there for you to work with.
“1,001+ Spanish Language Flash Cards”
This book includes over a thousand flashcards, each word with their meaning and real-life pronunciation.
Reading is a wonderfully absorbing way to learn a language.
Which book will you read?
Tamara Pearson is a journalist, teacher, and language lover who has lived in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and now Mexico. She is also the author of The Butterfly Prison.