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English-English dictionaries.. No exceptions

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For the past few years I have required all of my students to bring an English-English dictionary to class. Not all dictionaries are made with ESL/EFL students in mind, thus I recommend or require English-English learners’ dictionaries including the following criteria:

#1 size - the book should be appropriate in size so that the students will not be discouraged to carry it if in the case of it being too large.

#2 paper - the paper should be of a long lasting and clear reading quality.

#3 font - multicolored print is many times easier to read. The size of the font should be appropriate for reading under various types of light.

#4 sample sentences - sample sentences help learners more than native speakers. A definition including a sample sentence can be understood by a learner and reproduced with better accuracy than one without a sample sentence.

#5 price - A fair price would be something close to the price of a class text.

#6 pronunciation - a standard pronunciation key and explanatory notes is many times useful.

#7 pictures - a good sample of explanatory diagrams and pictures helps to emphasis definitions.

I strongly feel that language learning should be done as much as possible with exposure to the target language as a focus. Using an English-English dictionary is a basic precursor to being able to explain words. And words are the simplest form of communication, thus without an ability to explain the words we have no ability to communicate.

For those reasons I do not allow bilingual dictionaries or in fact any type of translation in my classes. I prefer the students to go about struggling and learning in a slow fashion then expediency through translation, which results in a lack of the ability to explain words.

Good luck.

John T. Denny
[email protected]

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