Today I finished my Amazon.com 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?