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!

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. Here’s another option to add to the list. I’m currently teaching an online course attended by about 55 educators from 13 different countries. The course is on making a special kind of video called a screencast using an app called ScreenFlow. One of the publishing destinations for screencasts is a digital book (ePub 3 or *.ibooks) so making eBooks multilingual or useful in language instruction was a natural topic that came up in our last synchronous session. Following that, I develop an example of how movies can contain multiple subtitle tracks as well as multiple audio tracks enabling one to listed to the language one hopes to learn while reading subtitles in a language one is already conversant in. Here it is:

  2. Some good idea here. The key really is to love what you and do what you love when it comes to learning languages. There is no doubt that in my mind that without following your heart, learning French ( especially! 🙂 ) will be MUCH more difficult…most people just give up! Here are some additonal reason why love is important when it comes to learning a language –

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