Friday, April 4, 2014


The dictionary is one of the most useful tools for language teachers and learners, so it’s well worth
spending some time familiarizing yourself with the different types of dictionaries that are available.

In choosing the right dictionary for each class, the first consideration is whether you want a bilingual (English – Greek) or monolingual (English – English) dictionary. Learners at lower levels may find bilingual dictionaries easier to use, but they may still encounter problems, so it’s important to choose the dictionary carefully and train learners to use it effectively. The results of my research into the problems that young learners of English have using bilingual dictionaries are available here.

Another basic distinction is the choice between electronic dictionaries and those published in book form. For elementary students, there are still more options available in book form including dictionaries for young learners. At advanced level, the major dictionaries each exist both in book form and online, but this is starting to change. For example, Macmillan announced last year that they are ceasing production of their paper dictionary. However, the online version has exactly the same content as the paper one and is free.

Free access is just one of the many advantages of online dictionaries. They are easy to search, can be updated frequently, and as they aren’t subject to restrictions of space, they can give lots of examples, which are especially useful in the case of corpus-based dictionaries such as COBUILD. You can also hear the word pronounced simply by clicking on it, doing away with the need to learn phonemic symbols.

However, just like paper dictionaries, online dictionaries vary in quality, as well as in their suitability for various types of learners. Check out our collection of links as a starting point for your explorations to find which dictionaries are best for you and your students.

 Peter Beech -

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