We’ve all been there, we want to be the good languages students that we try and convince ourselves we are and take all those really useful grammar books with us but the truth is, it just isn’t practical is it? In my first semester I didn’t take anything with me at all, I think the fact that I was going to be studying in French for a semester probably hadn’t really sunk in, funnily enough I was somewhat occupied with the fact I was moving to another country for 5 months! When I got there I discovered everyone else had thought about it, although their choices ranged from huge dictionaries to tiny little pocket ones. I decided that it would be a good idea to have something, so downloaded a monolingual French dictionary to my ereader. This was fine for use in class but when it came to exams it wasn’t allowed so I was left having to borrow one from someone else, not exactly ideal. You’d think I’d learn this time round and take one? Nope. I really had no space left in my case, but I have downloaded a Spanish to English and English to Spanish dictionary which is just like the big one I have at home but obviously significantly lighter. So far so good, but it remains to be seen how I’ll be feeling come exam time.
Pros of ebooks1. Size - One ereader is significantly easier to chuck in your bag wherever you’re going, you’re not going to carry your dictionary wherever you go are you?
2. Weight - The all important “must fit my entire life in 20kgs” moment becomes a lot calmer when you’re not trying to make room for your books.
3. Price - Once you’ve paid your one off price for the ereader (or if you have a tablet or phone that does it you’ve already avoided that) books generally tend to be cheaper in electronic format-bonus!
4. The dictionary function- I have a Kindle and brilliantly I can set the default dictionary on it to whatever I want, so if I’m reading a book in Spanish I can set it to the Spanish to English dictionaryI bought, meaning that if I get stuck on a word I can see the definition there and then without having to close the book.
Cons of ebooks1. It’s not the same - there are some people who find they just have to have the feel of the pages between their fingers, there is no replacing that on an ebook I’m afraid.
2. You probably won’t be allowed it in an exam - being electronic you probably won’t be allowed it for an exam, and as an Erasmus student you’re normally entitled to something.
3. The selection isn’t as good- The selection of books available electronically isn’t the same as print books yet, but it’s getting better all the time.
My verdict?Ebooks come out on top. I love my ereader, it is so much more convenient, and I can take so many books and not compromise the weight limit that is better spent on clothes and other essentials! If you feel the urge for that familiar paper version, you could always buy one whilst you’re away. But I wouldn’t bother.
If you want to give them a try, here's an extensive range of dictionary apps and eBooks for your year abroad.