If you want to learn English,
then an English dictionary should be a very good friend of yours. You
can find out what each new (or "old") word means, how to use this word,
how to pronounce it, what is the plural form, and other useful data.
Without a good
dictionary, learning can be a lot harder.
But there are so many
English dictionaries! How do you start?
What is the Right Dictionary for You?
Do you remember the
story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
In the story, Goldilocks tries different kinds of things, until she
finds just the right one for her. For example, she looks for a bed. She
tries the big bed, it is too hard. She tries the medium bed, it is too
soft. She tried the smallest bed – it is just right!
And so it is with
dictionaries. A dictionary can be too big and complicated for your
level, or it can be too small and limited. The right dictionary would
be one that is easy for you to understand.
Now I will give you the
details, together with some examples. Note that you
do not necessarily have to use those specific English dictionaries.
simply my recommendations after many years of using dictionaries, by
myself, and with other people.
Another reason these dictionaries are
given here is that these are the main simple dictionaries available
So let's get to the point:
If your English is
not very good, an English-English dictionary may be too hard for you.
Start with a good bilingual dictionary, for example English-French (if
you are French!). A rather good and quick bilingual
dictionary software is Babylon.
It is not free, but it
has a free trial.
Next, you can move on to a simple
English-English dictionary, with simple definitions, which are clear to
you. One excellent dictionary of this category is the Oxford
On the next step, you have the really big,
extensive, English dictionaries, Such as Merriam-Webster's
Online Dictionary. These are suitable if your level of
English is really advanced. This article does not cover them.
Important note: although BIG
dictionaries tend to be more thorough, don't try to use an advanced
dictionary if your vocabulary isn't big enough. It will hardly assist
you, and is more likely to confuse you!
What's great about all of the dictionaries
mentioned above is that you can use them FREE online. However, in many
cases, there is no replacement for the real solid thing.
It continues to serve you when you are away from your
traveling, on course or simply offline. Click on the dictionary you
like to purchase it on Amazon.com. As mentioned before, I must admit
that my personal favorite is the Oxford
Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
Dictionary Search - There is an excellent site which lets you
search many different online dictionaries at once. This is a great free
service. You simply type in your word in the search box, and get many
different results (and dictionaries) to choose from. Most of the
dictionaries in this search are medium level and above, though.
In conclusion, like Goldilocks, you need to find
just the right dictionary for you. As your level of English
improves, you may find more good dictionaries for you to use
successfully. And hopefully, unlike Goldilocks, you will be able to do
it without encountering any angry bears and running away…