Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reading "Zorro"

Today I finished my preview of Isabelle Allende's "El Zorro".  I am not a native Spanish speaker, so this is s significant accomplishment for me -- I've read roughly 10% of the book.

I have always been a fan of swashbuckling tales, and I wanted to develop my Spanish, so this book was an obvious choice.  I bought a paper version of the book 7 years ago, shortly after it came out.  As of this last Christmas, I had made it through about 4 pages with a supreme amount of effort.  It is not that the story was not engaging, but my Spanish was simply not up to the task.  With a thick Spanish-English dictionary in hand, it would take me roughly an hour a paragraph.

So what changed?  Did I suddenly move to Mexico?  Spanish immersion classes perhaps?  Nope.  I got a Kindle for Christmas.

I bought a Spanish-English dictionary for the Kindle, and with that in hand, looking up a word just involves a click of a button.  It has made more of a difference than I ever expected.  Starting from the beginning again, I had passed up my old position in an evening, and completed the first chapter in a weekend.  I have not read every day or even every week, but nonetheless after 3 and a half months, I have finished my sample.

I have now purchased the book, and I am expecting to speed up even more.  Previously, the dictionary lacked several words, and the translation option was disabled for a book sample.  I ended up losing time trying to deduce an unknown word by context.  Now I can translate whole paragraphs with just a couple of clicks.

I wonder what this will mean for the future of foreign language eduction.  Will a Kindle (or equivalent) become a requirement for every serious language student?