- a bilingual dictionary that lets see the definition in English. (To my knowledge, there are no good free bilingual dictionaries. This will be an extra cost--usually under $10.)
- a monolingual dictionary that gives you the definition in the same language as the book you're reading. (These typically come for free.)
The reason you need both is that the monolingual dictionary by itself is too difficult for an intermediate student to use, but the bilingual dictionary is limited in size and won't have the most difficult words in it. Over time, you'll move to using the monolingual dictionary more and more--especially if the device lets you use the bilingual to look up unknown words that appear in the monolingual's definitions. When you don't need the bilingual anymore, you won't be an intermediate anymore either.
At this point, I know of only four devices that are able to support multiple dictionaries in this way. I'll discuss their pros and cons and then mention some other devices that are known not to work.
Kindle E-Readers and Apps
I have already written at length about how to read a foreign novel on a Kindle e-reader. All three of the current models seem to be running the exact same software as far as foreign-language support is concerned. Whenever you download a foreign-language book, Amazon automatically downloads the appropriate monolingual dictionary for free.
Basic KindleThis is the cheapest Kindle that will do the job. It doesn't have the built-in light the other Kindles have, it's heavier than the Voyage, and it has lower screen resolution, but it's half the price of a Paperwhite and only a third the price of a Voyage. Otherwise, they all have about the same features. If price matters, this is the Kindle to get. Caveat: this is a model I haven't ever used personally.
I see that Amazon is offering Kindles on sale for National Reading Month. I don't get a kickback, but I know that many people have wanted to try reading a foreign novel with a Kindle but been unable to do so. At $59 ($20 off the regular price), this is probably the cheapest anyone can get into the game.
Kindle PaperwhiteThe light is nice, and the improved resolution is helpful for reading languages with lots of accent marks. (E.g. French.) It's actually very slightly heavier than the Basic Kindle for some reason. It's $119, and I've usually thought of this one as the best value (I used one for a long time and loved it), but, during the sale this month at least, the Basic Kindle seems like the better deal. Caveat: some people like the light so much that they consider it a must-have. (I wonder how they ever managed with paper books.)
If $200 doesn't seem like a lot, and you want the best, this is the one to get. I was pleased with the weight reduction when I switched from a Paperwhite, and I appreciated the resolution improvement too--especially for reading the accent marks on French letters. Even the little page-turn strips on the side are nice, once you get used to them.
Here are Amazon's specifications for all three devices:
Kindle App on iOS
Apple's iPad and iPhone host a Kindle app that appears to have all of the foreign-dictionary support that the Amazon e-readers have. If you already have an iPhone or iPad, that would obviously be the cheapest alternative--hands down.The screen shot from André Klein's web site clearly shows that you can press on a word, read the definition, decide that you want to see that in a different dictionary, and select one without closing the dialog.
|From How To Add a German-English Dictionary To Kindle on Your iPad or iPhone (iOS) by André Klein|
Older KindlesThe Paperwhite I and the Kindle Touch also support multiple dictionaries, although not as conveniently. My original post on how to read a foreign novel on a Kindle describes the extra hoops you had to jump through to make those work.
Prior to the Kindle Touch, Amazon's devices didn't have touch-sensitive screens. However, a determined reader could move the cursor next to a target word and get a definition anyway. Readers have told me that the same instructions for installing a bilingual dictionary which worked for the Touch will also work for the older Kindles.
At present, I know of no other devices that have multidictionary support. I would be very happy to get information from more people who use a variety of devices. In particular, I can't figure out whether it does or does not work on a Kobo e-reader. The documentation suggests that you can install and remove dictionaries, but it doesn't say how you change the default dictionary for a given book.
Here are a few that are known to not work.