Introducing Dictionaries to 10-14 Year Olds in the English Classroom

Diploma Thesis, 2005

120 Pages, Grade: 1,00


Table of Contents



1. Different Types of Dictionaries
1.1. Definition
1.2. Monolingual and bilingual dictionaries
1.3. Learner's dictionaries and native speaker´s dictionaries

2. Comparison of Different Dictionaries
2.1. All dictionaries at a glance
2.2. New Student's Dictionary
2.3 Langenscheidt Power Dictionary Englisch
2.4. Langenscheidt Schulwörterbuch Englisch
2.5. Langenscheidt´s Two in One Dictionary of English
2.6. Langenscheidt Universal-Wörterbuch Englisch
2.7. Macmillan Essential Dictionary for Learners of English
2.8. Das Oxford Grundwörterbuch
2.9. Learner´s Wordfinder Dictionary
2.10. Das Oxford Schulwörterbuch
2.11. Pons Basiswörterbuch
2.12. Pons Globalwörterbuch
2.13. Pons Smile Wörterbuch

3. Online Dictionaries
3.1. LEO (URL:
3.2. PONSline (URL:
3.3. ( (URL:
3.4. Word Central (URL:

4. Curriculum References to Dictionary Use
4.1. The Austrian curriculum
4.2. Dictionaries among the government financed books

5. Dictionary Features and Required Skills
5.1. Information in the dictionary
5.2. Skills needed to extract certain information
5.3. Deliberations on Dictionary Training and Teaching

6. Introduction to Dictionary Use in the English Classroom
6.1. Subject Matter
6.2. Teaching and Learning Conditions
6.3. Media
6.4. Questionnaire I
6.5. Lessons
6.6. Questionnaire II
6.7. Personal Reflexion

7. Conclusions

Register of Illustrations



Online Dictionaries

Other Literature

Lesson Plan 1
Lesson Plan 2
Lesson Plan 3
Lesson Plan 4
Lesson Plan 5
Lesson Plan 6
Lesson Plan 7
Lesson Plan 8


Dictionaries have always been an essential tool in my personal language learning process, for I soon discovered that the words I was taught at school were not sufficient in order to express myself adequately. Besides, my parents, who had been a valuable source of information in first and second form, frequently began to refer me to the dictionary whenever I asked them for a particular word they could not recall themselves at that moment. However, my teacher seemed rather sceptical about me using a dictionary.

I still remember very well a piece of homework we had to do in third form: The task was to describe several words given on a list in English, and as I did not quite know what to write in English in order to explain the word "park", I consulted a monolingual dictionary which provided a short definition. Of course, I had changed the dictionary entry according to my writing style before submitting my paper, nonetheless, my teacher noticed that I had not done this exercise entirely on my own. Therefore she graded this homework as "good" instead of "very good", although my definitions were totally right. She justified her decision by telling me that she did not want her students to look up words in the dictionary because they did not know how to use a dictionary properly, especially with respect to how to choose a word appropriate to the topic they are writing about.

Years passed by until we finally received two bulky dictionaries together with the other school books in the sixth form. From then on we were allowed to use them during tests and our teacher suddenly assumed that we knew how to use our dictionaries, even though no one had ever taught us. Naturally I did benefit from the use of my dictionary during tests, whereas most of my classmates rarely had a look into theirs, because they had never learned how helpful a dictionary might be for the reader.

Based on my experiences as a student, I assume, that what my former English teacher stated also reflects the attitude of other English teachers towards dictionaries: Most of them are aware of the importance of dictionaries in language learning, yet they consider their use too problematic for young learners. I do certainly agree with the fact that dictionaries are not easy to deal with, because they contain so much information one would never think of finding there - but this is exactly the reason why I regard it as necessary to teach students how to use them efficiently. Though, before improving learners' dictionary skills, teachers first have to explore the dictionary resource themselves which I am determined to do by writing this paper. lt shall not only give guidance on how to promote and integrate dictionary use in the classroom, but at the same time provide background information on dictionaries that may be of importance for teachers thinking about introducing dictionaries to their students.

For my future teaching career I have decided to make the dictionary a permanent companion for my students so they notice from the first moment on that there are other and - bearing in mind that not even teachers are capable of knowing everything - possibly more dependable sources of information than the teacher. That is because I think that the art of teaching is not only the conveying of facts about a subject, e.g. English. Furthermore it involves teaching how to learn vocabulary needed for the particular subject, which should promote a far higher level of understanding. Dictionaries can provide a foundation for developing a richer means of expression and can also help to achieve the aim of independent learning.

Bianca Lehner


The first thing most adults do when they start to learn a new language is to buy a dictionary, because this seems to be the first step to successful language acquisition to them. This might be true for some people who really know how to appropriate the multifarious information provided by their dictionaries. As emerges from my survey on dictionary use, which shall be discussed later on, reality proves to be different: The majority of dictionary owners are not aware of the huge source of knowledge they could have access to if they had learned how to use a dictionary properly and therefore actually will not profit from their purchase.

This paper aims at raising the reader's awareness for the complexity of dictionaries and is meant to convey lots of additional information on dictionaries as such and also on how to use them, especially with young learners of English in the classroom.

I will begin by clarifying what a dictionary is and give insight into dictionary classification in the first chapter. Here I will also describe differences and similarities of dictionary types such as monolingual or bilingual dictionaries and learner's or native speaker's dictionaries.

A comparison of various learner's dictionaries is apparent in chapter two. These are analysed according to functional aspects, concerning the contents and user­friendliness especially with younger students.

In chapter three I will present several online dictionaries which students might use at home, if they have access to the internet or during computer lessons at school. This will follow the same guidelines as previously with paperback dictionaries and accentuate pros and cons in their use.

The references to dictionary use at school which are in the Austrian curriculum for the "Hauptschule" are mentioned in chapter four. Also the dictionaries on the list of school books financed by the government are stated.

Chapter five deals with what one can expect to find in a dictionary and which skills students require in order to extract the information they need. Apart from that, some major problems will be discussed and possible ways of avoiding or overcoming these will be suggested.

Chapter six is the most applicatory chapter, as it documents the way I introduced dictionary use to a second form "Hauptschule" and provides activities for classroom implementation as well as evaluation statements from students, whether they liked it or not.

In the last chapter I will then draw my conclusions from the whole paper and discuss future perspectives on dictionaries and their use at school.

Last but not least I would like to thank Mr. Klaus Pfister for allowing me to carry out the practical parts of this work in his class and Mr. Wolfgang Worsch from Langenscheidt Publishers for providing me with lots of useful materials. Of course, my further thanks go to Mag.a Marianne Traum and Mag. Dr. Erwin Gierlinger, who supported this work with their professional knowledge and experience.

1. Different Types of Dictionaries

This chapter defines what a dictionary is and delves into various possibilities of dictionary categorization. lt informs about the differences between monolingual and bilingual dictionaries as well as what distinguishes learner's dictionaries from native speaker's dictionaries.

In general, dictionaries can be prescriptive or descriptive. While prescriptive dictionaries say how the language should be used, descriptive dictionaries record the language exactly as it is used (cf. L. Murphy, p.4). In this work, however, I would like to focus on the prescriptive function of dictionaries, which is the one most important for learners.

1.1. Definition

A basic requirement when talking about dictionaries is to understand what a dictionary is. We use terms such as "dictionary" or "glossary" in order to refer to lists of words providing the reader with either explanations of meanings, however, these words are not synonymous. In the following I will explore the difference between these items by viewing their definitions.

- Dictionary

"1 a book that gives a list of words in alphabetical order and explains their meanings in the same language, or another language [...] 2 a book that explains the words and phrases used in a particular subject" (Longman 2003, p.432)

"a book in which words are listed alphabetically and their meanings, either in the same language or in another language, and other information about them, are given [...] A dictionary can also be a book which gives information about a particular subject, in which the entries are given in alphabetical order" (Cambridge 1995, p.381)

- Glossary

"a list of special words and explanations of their meanings, often at the end of a book" (Longman 2003, p.687)

"an alphabetical list, with meanings, of the words or phrases in a text that are difficult to understand" (Cambridge 1995, p.601)

From the statements above we may deduce that the main difference between a dictionary and a glossary is that a dictionary is a whole book for itself providing definitions of vocabulary in general or of words that are specific to a certain subject, while a glossary is attached to a piece of writing, it can only be part of a book, and explains difficult terms present in the preceding text.

Glossaries can also be of great importance for foreign language learners when reading but as a matter of fact they are not intended to help students with the productive use of the words they contain, whereas a dictionary does. Furthermore they offer only a selected list of words, which is in some cases not sufficient for readers in order to understand the whole text, so they still need a dictionary to look up other unknown vocabulary.

1.2. Monolingual and bilingual dictionaries

A first way of classifying dictionaries is to distinguish between monolingual and bilingual dictionaries.

Whereas in a monolingual dictionary English words are not translated but defined in the target language, bilingual dictionaries offer the German equival ent of an English word and vice versa.

Studies show that beginners of English tend to work with bilingual dictionaries and more advanced students increasingly use monolingual dictionaries (cf. A. Bruton and A. Broca 2004, p.17). This allows the assumption that working with bilingual dictionaries requires less thought and concentration and they seem to be easier to handle in contrast to monolingual dictionaries, which require more effort from their readers.

For translation tasks, of course, bilingual dictionary use is more effective, however it does not result in the most effective vocabulary learning. Permanent use of bilingual dictionaries may lead to what is called the 'bilingual reflex': "the belief that one can and should match every word in one's native language with a corresponding term in the language one is learning" (H. Nesi 2000, p.7). Other shortcomings of bilingual dictionaries are their failure to explain slightest differences in meaning between words which are listed as equivalents, which often leads to errors with student usage, and their failure to include words with opposite meanings to their entries. Besides, they do not indicate the frequency words are used in written and spoken language and only rarely contain collocations and connotations of words. In smaller bilingual dictionaries the demands of space result in drastic simplification, so there sometimes is even no guidance about the pronunciation of a word or the grammatical patterns it operates in. Linguists and teachers also blame bilingual dictionaries for "leading to behaviours like the individual word syndrome" (J. Carduner 2003, p.70), meaning that students encode or decode word-by-word without considering the text as a whole. Another reproach is that bilingual dictionaries encourage students to translate rather than to think in the target language.

Vocabulary learning is undeniably supported by monolingual dictionaries, but these do as well have their weaknesses. First of all, most of them are not written with a particular first language in mind, and therefore do not address the problem of 'false friends'. Hence they also do not compare words and concepts in the foreign language with those of the mother tongue, which sometimes is a helpful feature for learners. They, in many cases, h ave to provi de long and difficult English definitions where a translation of the word would be simpler, and last but not least, a major problem is that learners cannot look up words which they do not already know.

1.3. Learner's dictionaries and native speaker´s dictionaries

Another distinction between dictionaries can be made according to their target group: They are either intended for native speakers or for foreign learners of the language.

According to Thomas Arthur, a learner's dictionary is intended for the use of foreign and second language learners and printed entirely in English (cf. W. Worsch 2004).

Monolingual dictionaries designed for native speakers reflect the culture and history of the language and give information about when and where each word was first coined, its etymology as well as literary examples of use. Often they contain words which are no longer used in spoken or written language. Hence, the most important differences between learner's and native speaker's dictionaries are probably in the number of words they set out to explain and define - the headwords. Apart from that, good learner's dictionaries use a reduced defining vocabulary to describe the headwords, have more illustrations and keep the presentation of grammatical information simpler.

Besides, learner's dictionaries "are distinguishable from native-speaker dictionaries by their heavier dependence on examples" (H. Nesi 2000, p.46). This means that dictionaries especially compiled for students with another mother tongue than English contain more example sentences than dictionaries for native speakers in order to show the different contexts in which a word can be used. As a consequence of the increasing number of examples, entries in learner's dictionaries are getting longer compared to those of native speaker's dictionaries.

2. Comparison of Different Dictionaries

In this chapter, twelve different monolingual and bilingual dictionaries (sorted alphabetically by publishers) will be analysed according to their features and their usability for students. A comparison of this kind should help teachers choose the right dictionary appropriate to what they intend it for.

2.1. All dictionaries at a glance

The following three tables provide information on the basic data of the twelve selected dictionaries and tell whether different features which are supposed to be present in a good dictionary because they are helpful for learners are in these dictionaries or not.

Table 1:

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Table 2:

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Table 3:

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I have found out that monolingual learner's dictionaries contain more pictures compared to bilingual learner's dictionaries, whereas the latter provide better explanations on grammar as well as information on culture. However, what I did not like with all dictionaries is that, although they are designed for learners or in particular for students, they use vocabulary in their explanations which is not adequate for this target group. As an example I would like to refer to the list of abbreviations which is present in most dictionaries and provides readers with the information that e.g. n stands for "noun". lt is questionable if students are able to get on with this knowledge, because being aware of n meaning "noun" does not necessarily mean that they know what a noun is. The same also goes for expressions such as "colloquial" or "formal" and many others.

In the following I will give a more detailed description of my personal impression of each of the twelve dictionaries and analyse, from my point of view, their advantages and disadvantages.

2.2. New Student's Dictionary

Although this is a monolingual dictionary, it could unproblematically be used in the English lesson, of course in a higher class only. One of the strengths of this dictionary is, no doubt, the grammar information provided in the middle of the book, because it is designed in a well structured and appealing way and enlivened by drawings (cf. Collins Cobuild 2000, p.R6). There are also other drawings throughout the dictionary (cf. Collins Cobuild 2000, p.311) which could easily be copied on an overhead transparency in order to be shown to the whole class. As a quite unusual feature for monolingual dictionaries, it even explains false friends to its readers in small information boxes (cf. Collins Cobuild 2000, p.8). Another good idea are the dictionary usage exercises at the beginning (cf. Collins Cobuild 2000, p.G4) which are sorted according to certain dictionary features and therefore can be trained separately.

For school use, however, I would have wished a bit more cultural background information as is present in many other dictionaries. Apart from that the abbreviations, despite their thorough explanations (cf. Collins Cobuild 2000, p.VIII), seemed to be a bit confusing, especially for students, and some information is irrelevant for beginners, for example a student does not have to know about vocative nouns in order to use the word properly.

On the left you can see what an entry looks like. Right at the beginning there is a phonetic transcription of the word and by reading the whole paragraph we learn that "sound" can be a noun, a verb or an adjective and that it has lots of different meanings. lt can either be something you hear or describe the way something seems to be. lt can also be used in the sense of being in good condition or even as reliable and sensible. The phrase "to be sound asleep" is mentioned as well as the phrasal verb "to sound out".

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2.3 Langenscheidt Power Dictionary Englisch

This dictionary is my personal favourite for many reasons. lt contains all the important reference tools for students, which are a thumb index, running heads and coloured headwords. In comparison with other dictionaries it has a relatively short and clear list of abbreviations (cf. Langenscheidt 2002, p.8), which students are likely to comprehend and remember, and it is in my eyes the best di ctionary to read an explanation of phonetic symbols and their pronunciation (cf. Langenscheidt 2002, p.10). What I also like with this dictionary are the various info boxes on cultural customs and habits (cf. Langenscheidt 2002, p.289) as well as on useful words and phrases (cf. Langenscheidt 2002, p.723). You can also have a look at maps of the English speaking countries (cf. Langenscheidt 2002, p.293) in this dictionary. Furthermore, false friends are indicated by an attention sign and explained in brackets, e.g. "gymnasium" (cf. Langenscheidt 2002, p.226). The lively drawn pictures (cf. Langenscheidt 2002, p.540) invite you to do picture descriptions with your class and could even be taken as an impulse for a di alogue or similar things.

Unfortunately the Power Dictionary's big disadvantages for school use are its size and weight. There is also the fact that the part of speech a word belongs to (e.g. noun, verb, adjective,...) is not indicated and grammar as a whole could be presented in a more increased and organised way.

Taking a look at the example on the left shows how easy this dictionary is to be used and understood by students. There are separate entries for the word "sound", numbered from one to four, and each with a phonetic transcription. What we find out is that "sound" may mean noise, to ring, healthy, reasonable or thorough. From this we can deduce that it can be a noun, a verb and even an adjective, although it is not directly mentioned in the entries. There are two phrases within the entries, namely "to be sound asleep" (to sleep deeply) and "to be sound as a bell" (to be extremely fit). Apart from that the phrasal verb "to sound out" is stated together with the additional grammatical information that the succeeding preposition should be "about" or "on".

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2.4. Langenscheidt Schulwörterbuch Englisch

Being equipped with means of reference such as a thumb index, running heads and coloured headwords this is a dictionary especially developed for young learners because it is easy to handle. Its size and weight make it suitable for taking it to school and home again. An advantage for students are the info boxes which explain cultural differences and provide useful phrases for various situations (cf. Langenscheidt 2003, p.270). In this context it is important to mention the dictionary's topicality proven by a list of frequently used abbreviations for chatting on the internet (cf. Lan genscheidt 2003, p.420) and the instructions on how to write an e-mail (cf. Langenscheidt 2003, p.504).

What I missed in this dictionary, however, is a more detailed information on grammar apart from what is given within the entries and a list of irregular verbs. Another point of criticism is the tremendously long list of abbreviations which did not at all appeal to me, because I regard it as too complex for students. Furthermore, it would have been desirable to have some of the entries supported by pictures. Especially visual students would profit from this and they could recognise what is meant at a glance without having to read long entries.

Here we have an example taken from this dictionary showing the entry for the word "sound". Readers see a phonetic transcription and are informed that the word can be an adjective meaning "healthy", "sensible" or "stable". In the phrase "to be sound asleep" it is used as an adverb. Apart from that "sound" is a noun in the sense of tone or clangour and it is also a verb synonymous to "percuss" and "cling". The phrase "Not another sound!", which is to say "Be quiet!", is given as an example. Last we see the phrasal verb "to sound out" with its German translation "aushorchen".


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2.5. Langenscheidt´s Two in One Dictionary of English

This dictionary is similar to the "Oxford Grundwörterbuch" which will be discussed later on. lt looks like a compromise between a monolingual and a bilingual dictionary consisting of a comprehensive first part where English headwords are defined in English and a short German - English glossary. Noteworthy with this dictionary are the English example sentences together with a German translation where necessary to cl arify different meanings, e.g. with the word "show" (cf. Langenscheidt 2001, p.327) What is another appealing feature are the coloured boxes which inform on grammatical patterns or on false friends (cf. Langenscheidt 2001, p.337) and explain the differences in German. A further advantage is that it manages without abbreviations which facilitates the use of this dictionary for students.

This book could yet be improved by adding a thumb index as well as by expanding it with more information on English culture, because this is the only dictionary among the twelve I compared where I could not find anything on the customs of English-speaking countries. Apart from these things, this is the dictionary with the fewest headwords from those investigated and I doubt that students at a more advanced level will be satisfied with these 9000 words only.

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Here you find an example taken from the "Two in One Dictionary of English". The word "sound" is listed three times in this dictionary, but the phonetic transcription is provided with the first entry only. In this entry the word is a noun meaning "something you hear", in the second it is a verb in the sense of "to seem" or "to make a sound" and in the third it is an adjective or an adverb standing for "healthy", "not damaged" or "deep". In the blue box the user gets the important grammatical information that the verb "to sound" is followed by an adjective and not an adverb, which is mostly neglected in the other dictionaries. Phrases that are given are "to be as sound as a bell" for being in a very good condition, "to be sound asleep" as a synonym for "being fast asleep" and "safe and sound" meaning "not damaged or lost".

2.6. Langenscheidt Universal-Wörterbuch Englisch

Personally I would consider this dictionary a good one for travelling abroad because it has the right size to fit into almost every handbag. For school use, being honest, I would prefer a more extensive dictionary. Just as you would expect with a traveller's dictionary it provides useful phrases (cf. Langenscheidt 2004, p.631) for various situations in a foreign count ry and it obviously has put its emphasis on the conveyance of cultural information (cf. Langenscheidt 2004, p.244). What is also worth mentioning is that this dictionary is one of the very few providing German example words for sounds in the phonetic key (cf. Langenscheidt 2004, p.642) and it is even the only dictionary to list the most important holidays in Great Britain and in the United States of America (cf. Langenscheidt 2004, p.625). What is more, it proves to be rather topical because it lists words such as "chatroom" (cf. Langenscheidt 2004, p.57) and "PDA" (cf. Langenscheidt 2004, p.228).

Nevertheless, it neglects grammatical information and it contains a long list of abbreviations (cf. Langenscheidt 2004, p.1) which make the entries, despite their shortness, all the more confusing for students. As mentioned before, this is a rather small and thin dictionary which may not contain a sufficient range of words for the more advanced students.

As this is a rather small dictionary, the entries are kept quite short, as can be seen from the example aside. Yet, the most important facts are given. "Sound" is an adjective meaning "healthy", "safe" and "reasonable" as well as a noun for "tone" and it can be a verb, too. The phrase "to be sound asleep" is present in this dictionary and apart from that even words like "soundcard", which is important in terms of computing, and the adjective "soundproof" are contained in this entry.

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2.7. Macmillan Essential Dictionary for Learners of English

Being one of the few monolingual dictionaries in this selection, Macmillan's Essential Dictionary is according to my opinion a suitable dictionary for more advanced learners in the English classes. lt offers easy definitions of words and example sentences in English and underlines its explanations with lots of pictures (cf. Macmillan 2003, p.438). Another useful device are the study pages in the middle of the book, which give clues on pronunciation (cf. Macmillan 2003, p.LS14) as well as on word formation (cf. Macmillan 2003, p.LS18) and other important references. Apart from that it offers colourful picture pages (cf. Macmillan 2003, p.C4) which will certainly help visual learners when memorizing vocabulary. In order to enhance students' vocabulary, there are so-called vocabulary building boxes. They are highlighted and offer words of the same word family, frequent collocations and synonyms (cf. Macmillan 2003, p.366). Besides there are grammar boxes (cf. Macmillan 2003, p.661), however, they do not occur very often and are probably too difficult to understand for students because of the technical terms used. Talking about grammar I also have to mention that this dictionary does not provide a list of irregular verbs.

Yet another point with this book is that it is an English only dictionary and may therefore cause problems of understanding for some students. Furthermore it may even lead to misinterpretations because it does not warn readers of false friends and does not contrast the different languages whereas a bilingual dictionary does.

From the entry copied we can notice that the "Essential Dicti onary for Learners of English" provides very precise information on the words you are looking for. Four separate entries are dedicated to the word "sound", each of them beginning with a phonetic transcription of the word. As a noun it is described as "something that you hear" or "the loudness of something" and different types of sound are listed in the red box. The verb "to sound" can mean "to seem", "to produce a sound" or "to express a particular attitude" and the phrasal verb "to sound somebody out" stands for "trying to find out somebody's opinion". The third entry occupies with "sound" as adjective and gives all different meanings and contexts in which the word may be used in a red box at the beginning. These are: "effective/reliable", "thorough", "healthy", "in good condition" and "about sleep". When we continue reading we learn that the opposite of "sound" is "unsound".

In another red box we find words often used with the word "sound", which are "advice", "approach", "decision", "judgment" and "principle". Last but not least there is an entry on "sound" being used as an adverb in the phrase "to be sound asleep", which is explained as "sleeping very well". Compared with other dictionaries this is quite a long entry, however, it misses out on phrases such as "to be as sound as a bell" or "safe and sound", but it indicates "sounds good/great etc." as a phrase.


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2.8. Das Oxford Grundwörterbuch

Due to its handy format this dictionary is a smart choice for students. What distinguishes this dictionary from others is that it provides only a short glossary with translations from German to English, but students will find more thorough explanations of the words together with English example sentences in the other part of the dictionary. The morphological information this dictionary provides (cf. Oxford 2001, p.326) is remarkable because no other diction ary has yet recognised the importance of morphology in language learning.

In case you require cultural information, this is not a good dictionary as it only informs very briefly about the school system (cf. Oxford 2001, p.251) and not in a very detailed way about national holidays and customs. Furthermore, it contains neither a thumb index nor running heads, which both are helpful reference tools in order to locate words in a dictionary.

In order to provide an example, the entry of "sound" is shown below. As is obvi ous, there are three separate headwords, which are numbered and provide phonetic transcription as well as information on the word, each time used as a different part of speech. In the first entry "sound" is an adverb, e.g. in the phrase "to be sound asleep". The second entry treats the word as a noun standing for what you hear and also makes a difference between the words "sound" and "noise". The last thing mentioned is "sound" as a verb, which means "to make you hear it in a certain way" or "to seem". Unfortunately this definition does not account for the word being an adjective and signifyi ng "healthy", "sensible" or other meanings and apart from that it fails to explain the phrasal verb "to sound out".


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2.9. Learner´s Wordfinder Dictionary

This dictionary is totally different from the eleven others because its emphasis is put on vocabulary development and therefore it leaves out grammar for the biggest part, except for a list of irregular verbs at the end (cf. H. Trappes-Lomax 1997, p.516). Of course the English usage notes are an obstacle for students, but once they have learned how to deal with this book I am sure they will profit. A helpful feature is the list of topic areas (cf. H. Trappes-Lomax 1997, p.XIII) which gives clues on recommendable entries for certain topics. Besides that, the various drawings (cf. H. Trappes-Lomax 1997, p.16) appealed to me, because they could easily be enlarged to be shown on an overhead transparency when teaching new words.

What I missed in this dictionary, however, is pronunciation. Although this is the thing which most easily can be left out as students usually do not care about it anyway, it would be good to have a phonetic transcription, at least of the most important words. In addition to that it would have been helpful if there were a thumb ind ex and coloured headwords or at least running heads.

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Obviously this is the dictionary with the longest entry on the word "sound" and it provides the most holistic view of it, because it offers a collection of many words connected to this topic and not just an explanation of what "sound" is. Straight away in the grey box the reader finds a list of what is to come and is referred to other entries for more detailed information. In the first paragraph we can read what a sound is and what distinguishes a sound from a noise. We also get to know that "sound" is a noun. The second chapter is concerned with the quality of sound and the third chapter lists different kinds of sound, for example "loud sounds", "quiet or short sounds" and "human sounds". Despite the long entry the dictionary misses out on fundamental information on the word as such. lt does not say that it can also be a verb or an adjective and it neglects meanings other than "something that can be heard". What is even more, it does not offer any phrases or collocations with the word "sound" like those the other dictionaries provide and it does not mention the phrasal verb "to sound out".

2.10. Das Oxford Schulwörterbuch

Despite its short usage notes this is a good diction ary for foreign language learners. There are lots of other features which compensate for this, e.g. the study pages in the middle of the dictionary where you can fill in a quiz (cf. Oxford 2004, p.346) and learn how to write formal and informal letters (cf. Oxford 2004, p.352). The dictionary is one of the most up to date ones, because it contains headwords such as ,PDA" (cf. Oxford 2004, p.220), two pages on computer vocabulary (cf. Oxford 2004, p.350-351) and even a list of abbreviations for text messaging (cf. Oxford 2004, p.355). Another good idea was to have phonetic symbols at the bottom of each page, however, I do not regard it as useful to have English examples for those sounds when students do not know how to pronounce these words properly.

What I consider as two of the few disadvantages of this dictionary are its size and its weight. lt would also be advisable to expand the usage notes and add some more helpful explanations for students. A bit more information on grammar would have been desirable.

Taking a look at the example on this page shows that there are three headwords for "sound", each followed by a phonetic transcription. The first entry describes "sound" as a verb which can be used without an object or with an object and has different meanings then In the second entry "sound" is seen as a noun standing for what you can hear. Users also get the grammar hint that there is no plural of the word when it is used in connection with sound waves. In a next step, the word's function as an adjective is explained and meanings such as "healthy", "intact" and "reasonable" are stated. Finally there is a reference to the entry on "safe" in order to read about the phrase "safe and sound".


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2.11. Pons Basiswörterbuch

Not only because of its size, but also because of its clear structure provided by a thumb index, running heads and coloured headwords, this is a recommendable dictionary for school use. Students can look up useful phrases for various situations like asking directions or ordering meals at a restaurant (cf. Pons 2001, p.346) and will also find intercultural tips on friendly behaviour towards people of English-speaking countries (cf. Pons 2001, p.350). Apart from that there is no other cultural information of any kind.

Grammar gets a raw deal in this dictionary as it is merely represented by a list of irregular verbs (cf. Pons 2001, p.327) without any further explanations. Another disadvantage in my eyes is the long list of abbreviations (cf. Pons 2001, p.VI), which students are very unlikely to comprehend and to remember when they need them. In fact, they would have to look up two things for one word then, namely the word itself and the abbreviations occurring in the entry. At last, I want to add that the dictionary would also profit from some pictures which would make it look livelier.

Here the word "sound" is first explained as an adjective with several meanings. These are "healthy", "intact", "not damaged", "fit", "reliable", "deep" and some more. If we carry on we discover that the word can be a noun and a verb as well and that it stands for some kind of noise or tone and also for "to seem". The words "sound effects" and "soundproof" are contained at the end of this entry, too, however, apart from example sentences there are no collocations and no hints to the phrasal verb "to sound out".


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2.12. Pons Globalwörterbuch

Although this dictionary is the most extensive one among the twelve I have selected, it actually consists of two separate books, it is also the one I like least. Firstly, it is too heavy to be carried in a school bag and secondly, it is too unstructured for students because it has no thumb ind ex and does not use any colours to highlight headwords for example. Thirdly, it does not contain any pictures, which often are helpful for students.

Still, I have to give this dictionary credit for its thorough usage notes in English and in German (cf. Pons 1995, p.VII) as well as the detailed grammar notes (cf. Pons 1995, p.1448). lt is one of the few dictionaries defining parts of speech in a satisfactory way and it is the only dictionary containing a list of English first names (cf. Pons 1995, p.1467). On the one hand the elaborate entries, e.g. "look" (cf. Pons 1995, p.687), can also be emphasised as a positive thing, but on the other hand they often have a deterring effect on students.

On the left we can see an example entry on the word "sound", which contains four numbered headwords in this dictionary. The first one refers to the adjective "sound" and provides the grammatical information that it has a regular comparison. Together with the translations of various meanings we can read phrases such as "to be as sound as a bell" or "to be sound in wind and limb" for being very healthy and "that's sound sense" for being reasonable. Besides that, the use of the word as an adverb in the phrase "to be sound asleep" is stated. Again the comparison is a regular one, as we can read. The following headword treats "sound" as a noun meaning "clangour" or "tone" and offers the phrase "Don 't make a sound!" for "Be quiet!". Furthermore, "sound" is presented as a verb that can stand for "producing a tone" or for "to seem" and gives lots of example sentences. The phrasal verb "to sound off" is explained as going on about something and we learn that it is used with the preposition "about". With the third entry for the word "sound" we learn that it can mean "to fathom", too, and that the phrasal verb "to sound somebody out about or on something" stands for "trying to find out somebody's attitude towards a certain topic". The last entry provides the information that "sound" as a noun can refer to "straits" as well.

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2.13. Pons Smile Wörterbuch

What immediately appealed to me was this dictionary's col ourful cover and I liked its handy format for school use. A good feature are the grammar boxes, which explain grammatical issues in a short and simple way (cf. Pons 2002, p.251). In case you want to add something, students can write it on the notepaper at the end of each part of the dictionary. Apart from that there are boxes which call the students' attention to possible sources of errors, for example false friends or words that are used as plurals only (cf. Pons 2002, p.213) as well as boxes containing cultural information (cf. Pons 2002, p.21). Especially the maps of English speaking and German speaking countries in the middle of the book are worth taking a look at. In addition to that, the dictionary's topicality is remarkable: You can read information on Harry Potter (cf. Pons 2002, p.97) and you will find computer vocabulary on a picture page (cf. Pons 2002, p.110a).

A disadvantage of this dictionary is, as it is with nearly all of them, that the phonetic transcription is explained by English example words only, and if students do not know the word or in particular its pronunciation they will not be able to pronounce the sound correctly. Furthermore, parts of speech are not indicated in the entries, what is in my eyes another weakness, as many students do not recognise whether a word is a noun, a verb or an adjective and as a consequence tend to use the wrong part of speech.

An example shows the clear structure of the dictionary. The three headwords of the word "sound" are numbered and within each entry different meanings are numbered as well. The first headword is obviously supposed to be an adjective, although it does not say so and we can only assume it from the German translations "gesund", "fehlerfrei", "triftig", "vernünftig", "gut" and "tief". The second entry seems to refer to the noun "sound" while the last one is concerned with the verb. Unfortunately these entries mai nly consist of listings of different meanings but do not provide phrases - except for "to be sound asleep" - or phrasal verbs such as "to sound out".


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Introducing Dictionaries to 10-14 Year Olds in the English Classroom
PH Oberoesterreich
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Dictionary, Dictionary Use, Dictionary Work, Dictionary in the Classroom, Dictionary Exercises, Dictionary at School
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Bianca Lehner (Author), 2005, Introducing Dictionaries to 10-14 Year Olds in the English Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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