Foreign Language eLearningI wrote earlier about some data from The Economist which suggests that learning a foreign language can boost your salary by up to 2% per year. I’m not sure that will work in every market; here in officially bilingual Canada, French language skills are treated more like a pre-condition of the job than as a bonus feature which nets you a salary boost.

But it does open up doors, certainly. If you already have some basic language skills, you can use your ebook reader to brush up on the basics and really hone your reading, writing and vocabulary. Here is a progression you can follow for improving your French:

1) Review the basics with a textbook of your choosing. A free one (available under a Creative Commons license) which is used by several colleges is Liberte by Gretchen Angelo.

2) Download one or two short story collections (maybe some fairy tales, which you may have read already in English). You can use the dictionary function to review words you don’t know. Kindle Readers, you lucky ducks, you have the vocabulary builder feature which makes the flashcards for you and quizzes you on any word you look up. Users of other devices can use the highlight and note feature to save vocabulary words for later review.

3) Did you know you can read Wikipedia in French? Look up a few topics which interest you, and use Pocket to save it for off-line reading. Kobo users, you have this functionality built right in and can save from Wikipedia directly onto your device. Kindle e-ink users, you’ll need a plug-in like this one to save articles onto your device.

4) Try your hand at a beginning reader series, I reviewed one by Yves Thibault which has many short volumes, several of them free, all of which chunk the text into sections which are presented first in French, then in English translation. This is useful for a language like French which is so full of compound verb tenses. You can try your luck with the French section, then check your work with the English translation.

5) You should be ready to try real books by now. My public library has a decent selection, which includes the Harry Potter series. Smashwords also has a smattering of French books as well, but they are difficult to find. If you are okay with the classics, then Verne and Dumas are all good reads; you can get free versions at Project Gutenberg and via most web stores.

Happy learning!