How can I best use ebooks (and ebook readers) to learn German and Spanish?
October 24, 2011 3:28 PM   Subscribe

How can I best use ebooks (and ebook readers) to learn German and Spanish? I live in Canada.

I'd like to read fiction and history books in German and Spanish. For fiction, I'd be looking at popular science-fiction and fantasy, and relatively easy-to-read classics, including translations (e.g.: Jane Austen).

I figure using an ebook reader would be the easiest/cheapest way. So...

Which reader? I'm in Canada, so I'm thinking either Kindle or Kobo. Influencing factor: how easy it is to look up a word in a unilingual dictionary, which is my preferred way of understanding words I don't know?

Where do I buy the books? (related to the first one, since I understand that if I go Kobo I can't buy from Amazon) I've looked at the store on the Kobo site, and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of Spanish or German. Would I be able to buy ebooks from German/Spanish/Latin-American stores?
posted by Monday, stony Monday to Technology (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've played with a Kobo, not a kindle but I use my iPad (with the Kobo and kindle apps) as my e-book reader. I sometimes download books from the library (free, and I can request the library purchase specific books including other languages) but the majority of books I read are illegal downloads (yeah, I know...)
posted by saucysault at 5:32 PM on October 24, 2011

I use a Kindle to read Spanish-language books. It's a pain to search the Spanish-only section of the Kindle store, but this link will get you started. The selection isn't huge but it's OK.

You also have the option of downloading free stuff to the Kindle from Project Gutenberg, where you can select books by language.

You might also check at MobileRead for books in other languages and for advice on the best ebook reader.

I don't know if you can look up Spanish words on the Kindle in a Spanish-only dictionary. I use a separate dictionary on my iPhone, because I live in a Spanish-speaking country and want to have a little dictionary with me all the time.
posted by ceiba at 6:16 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

My Kobo appears to have native language support, including dictionaries, for German, Spanish and some other European languages. It also claims to be able to translate words. I only use it for English so have no idea how good it is at these.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:16 PM on October 24, 2011

I'd personally recommend the Penguin Parallel Texts series. You read the (say) German story, but if you get stuck you can read the opposite page to see the English version. I don't think this would work with an e-reader.
posted by devnull at 12:15 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have been reading German books on my Kindle and find it works well. There are lots of German books available on Amazon, plus the free ones on Project Gutenberg (although I find that a lot of the ones I've downloaded from there have rather archaic language that's difficult for the learner).

On the Kindle you can set any dictionary to be the default one, which means looking up a word is as easy as moving the cursor onto it and seeing the translation flash up at the bottom of the screen. I also use it to look up words from paper books.

Here's a unilingual German dictionary for the Kindle. As far as bilingual dictionaries go, I really recommend the ones on this site: I have the German-English and English-German ones and there are lots of other languages available.
posted by daisyk at 4:01 AM on October 25, 2011

Response by poster: Does anyone know if I'd be able to buy the book daisyk linked to? It's on, but not on
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:41 AM on October 25, 2011

Sorry, I should have checked that before linking. I had another look and it seems that Canadians have to get their Kindles and Kindle books from, not Here's that dictionary on the .com site.
posted by daisyk at 7:48 AM on October 25, 2011

Do keep Project Gutenberg in mind for source material. Use the search page to search for books in a particular language.

Many of their books are available in ePub format.

I've also used Calibre to convert articles from German and Spanish news sites into ePub format - works great.

Another great source of source material in German: Deutsche Welle. Some of their programs, like Sprachbar, offer downloadable mp3s and PDF transcripts.
posted by kristi at 10:43 AM on October 26, 2011

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