Why Kindle Unlimited is my (current) favourite language learning tool

Hi, guys! Hope your Mondays went well! I spent mine exploring London (I just moved here yesterday) and applying for a bunch of jobs, so it’s been… productive.

Okay, so the post. I spent today mulling over what I could write about – what with the move and everything, I didn’t get much done at the weekend or last week – and then it struck me: I just decided to pay for Kindle Unlimited after enjoying a free trial, and in my opinion, it’s great for language learning.

A Quick Caveat…

Obviously, for many people, their main aim with language learning is to gain the ability to speak at a certain level. Reading isn’t important for everyone and I do agree that if you learn to speak and have a basic reading competence, then you can get almost anything done in your target language.

However, we all know that I love reading and I am definitely one of the people who places more emphasis on that than on speaking – especially now that I’m going back to university. Therefore, this post is going to help you if that’s a skill you want to learn or improve upon. If you’re just interested in learning to speak, then you’ll maybe want to go somewhere else. Try this post, or this one. They’re both fun. 😉

What is Kindle Unlimited?


Okay, so first things first, what am I even talking about?

For those of you who don’t know: Kindle Unlimited is a subscription-based programme from Amazon. You pay £7.99 a month (or €9.99) and then you have access to all the books within that programme – including, for example, the Harry Potter series. You can have up to ten of these books at a time; it works a little like a library in that you don’t own the books, though if you like one, you could always buy it.

The reason I like Kindle Unlimited more than my actual (free) local library for e-books is two-fold: one, Kindle Unlimited has a better selection of e-books, and two, I don’t have to wait for anyone else to return a book I want. (For physical paperback books, I still hit up my library, though not as often as I used to.)

What’s this got to do with language learning?

I got a gift voucher when I left Austria, from my colleagues – an Amazon gift voucher, to be precise. The fun way that Amazon works meant that I had to activate my .co.uk account as a .de account to spend the money and, because I wanted to spend it on Kindle books, I had to change my country.

While I was doing that, I had a little poke around at Kindle Unlimited and realised I could do a 30-day trial. Great, I thought, and set it up.

It was amazing. A little difficult to navigate at first, but because I was on the .de site, I suddenly had access to all these German books. I could look at the bestseller lists for books that German speakers were actually buying (as opposed to the foreign language books in the .co.uk store, which have more books aimed at learners as bestsellers) and choose things that a native speaker would enjoy. (And they weren’t costing as much as German e-books usually do…)

So, I had access to all these German books for free. So what?

Well, there are plenty of other countries and authors involved in Kindle Unlimited, too. Using Harry Potter as an example, you can get all seven books in German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Japanese (!), Dutch, and Danish.

Alright, but you don’t want to read Harry Potter. What then?

Well, you can try typing (language) edition in and seeing what comes up. (These are the results when I type in French edition, as an example.) You can also look through the bestseller lists for a particular category. (Here’s the French bestseller list, too.)

However, the easiest way by far (unless you want the things geared towards language-learners, which are especially helpful if you don’t feel up to a full novel yet) is to go onto a country-specific website and search there. When you find a book you like the look of, you can borrow it from your regular Amazon site.

If you’ve been looking for a cheap and easy way to read books in your target language, then this is a route I would highly recommend. It’s one of the few expenses I’ve allowed myself in the past few months because I know it’s going to be helpful in the long term.

Let me know if you’ve tried out Kindle Unlimited – or any other subscription-based service that helps you with your language learning. I’d love something similar for TV/films (Netflix doesn’t have as many languages as I’d like), so if you have recommendations, throw them my way!

Getting Back into Language Learning

Hi, guys! Happy Monday – I hope you’re all having fun (especially any US readers; enjoy Labor Day!).

So, I talked a little on Thursday about my goals for September, and my main aim is to ease myself back into language learning. It’s something I’ve neglected this summer but, obviously, I don’t want that to continue.

So what can I do?

Well, I read this post by Shannon at Eurolinguiste: How to Pick up a Language After a Long Break, and I think there are a lot of good points, though it’s geared more towards how to re-learn a language you once knew more of, as opposed to getting back into the habit.

And, of course, there are plenty of posts out there about how to get back into a habit.

So, instead, I decided to think up some strategies. I mostly want to work on German, which is my strongest language (so though it feels rusty, I haven’t totally destroyed my skills) and due to various factors, I don’t have all the time in the world to dedicate.

What’s key here?

Time is a big one: I need smart strategies – I don’t want to be wasting the time I have. I also am on a kind of deadline; I want to have my German more up to scratch by the time I begin my master’s course, though I will still be working on it after.

I also need strategies that won’t heavily intrude on my current day-to-day life. That means that sitting down with a grammar book for two hours a day is out; I already know that I won’t stick to that because I haven’t been doing it for the past two months and there’s not enough incentive for me to keep at it now. I need interesting activities that relate to what I’m doing.

What strategies will I use?

  • Mobile apps. These are going to be a big one, partly because I always have my phone nearby and partly because I can fit in a quick app session between doing other things. I’m taking a bus for half an hour tomorrow, for example, so I know I can learn/revise some German then. [Apps I’ll use: Memrise, Duolingo, Tinycards; my phone is in German so I can also use some games.]
  • Reading. I’m currently enjoying my free month of Kindle Unlimited, which has a whole tonne of books in German, French, Italian, Spanish… (Including the Harry Potter books! 😉 ) I’ve been reading a lot in English, but I can cut down some of this time and read in German instead. [Books I currently have downloaded: Honigsommer by Diana Wintermeer, Lügner küssen besser by Birgit Kluger, Rabenschwester by B. C. Schiller… and so many more…]
  • Targeted Grammar Brush Up. As I said before, I’m not going to spend a couple of hours a day on this, but reading and using apps should show me where my weaknesses are. A brush up can be as simple as re-reading a grammar explanation or doing a small exercise, but the point is to make active progress. If I make progress, then I’ll feel rewarded, and I’ll be more likely to continue doing this. Still, it’s something to do when necessary, otherwise, it’ll feel like a chore. [Resources I’ll use: Schaum’s Outline of German Grammar, grammar websites.]
  • Social Media. This is a good one – it’s an all-rounder and I spend a lot of time on Twitter, so I know I can give it a try. I can use the Twitter accounts I follow to learn more vocabulary or grammar. I can read news articles (or cinema articles) and watch videos. I can chat to other people, or read what they think. Again, it’s on my phone and it’s something I use often, so there’s a low barrier to entry here. [Social networks I’ll use: Twitter, Instagram, maybe Facebook.]

What do these strategies all have in common?

They all hit the criteria I mentioned above: they don’t take up much time and they’re things I can fit into my daily routine. There’s a low barrier to entry in terms of getting started, so I’m more likely to do them.

I’m going to try these things over the next week and see how I’m feeling about juggling other languages by the end of it. I think I burnt out a little at the beginning of the summer, plus re-discovered another time-consuming hobby I love, but I’m confident that if I can renew my interest in German (and the German-speaking world), then I’ll be back on track.

Let me know of any other strategies you think I should try – or that you’ve tried and have worked. I’m happy to add some if you can think of any!

And I’ll be back on Monday; see you all then!

Clear the List: September 2016

Hi, guys! Long time, no see, I know, but I decided to take a little break this summer – both from the blog and (somewhat) from language learning in general.

It’s been a semi-tough couple of months; I didn’t manage to find a job so I’ve been stressed about that and then I’m starting my master’s this month, so of course, I’m stressed about that and moving and everything too.

So yeah, not all bad, but I took some time for myself so that I could come back feeling refreshed and – yay – I’m happy to be back! Wooh.

I thought, then, it would be good to come back with a Clear the List post: a fresh one; I’m not looking back at my goals from July (that I didn’t meet); that helps me look to the month – and year – ahead.

Ready? Let’s go!

Clear the List Sept 2016

Language Related Goals

Mostly I want to focus on German in September because that’s the language I’m using for my master’s degree. So my goals are:

  • Read one chapter a day in German
  • Watch one film a week in German
  • Use Memrise/Anki every day

BONUS: some focus on Mandarin too (I haven’t used it in a while and it is weak). This would mostly involve studying with a textbook/using an app.

University Related Goals

New category! I’m not starting anything until the 26th (almost the end of the month!) but I’d like to go in prepared, so:

  • Finish my pre-reading (I am woefully behind)
  • Translate something every day (even if it’s short)

Non-language Related Goals

I realised I forgot about these in July, but I also have some non-language related goals for the month (since I don’t want to burn out):

  • Write every day (this is the one thing I have kept up this summer, which I think will help me at uni – I wrote 61k in July and 90k in August!)
  • Workout four days a week (I quit the gym, so I’m using Darebee and Blogilates to get me through)
  • Read every day (i.e., non-uni things… I’m enjoying the Wayward Pines trilogy rn)
  • Blog once a week

I think that’s good enough for September – and a great deal shorter than most of my other Clear the List posts have been in the past!

I’m going to try and blog here every Monday from here on out. I might blog more, but I don’t want it to fall less than that; I’d rather be consistent than do what I’ve done in the past (post lots but sporadically).

Also: announcement! I’ve set up another blog to talk all about my translation MA and where that takes me. You can find that here, so if you’re interested in following, please do. I figure that although some of my language-learning readers are interested in translation, it might wear thin if I’m posting about it all the time – so I created a separate space. I’m also planning on blogging there once a week (Thursdays, fortunately). The first post will go live today.

That’s it, I guess. I hope everyone’s ready for autumn – and I’ll be back on Monday!

(And, as ever, if you fancy joining the Clear the List linkup, here are the rules:

Maximize Your Month

1. Share your goal post whether it includes your aspirations for the month or year. Submissions unrelated to the theme or links to your homepage will be deleted.

2. Link back to this post. You can use our button if you wish.

3. Follow the hosts: Esther from Local Adventurer, Lindsay from Lindsay Does LanguagesMariah from Food, Booze & Baggage, and Shannon from Eurolinguiste.

4. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Please visit the site of the person who linked up immediately before you and leave them an encouraging comment! By hosting this linkup, we’re hoping to create a positive community where we can all share our goals. If you do not do this, you will be removed from the linkup.

5. Share on social media using #ClearTheList.)