Bilingual vs. Monolingual Dictionaries

windy city   Wed May 30, 2007 3:23 pm GMT
The Antimoon folks are very big on using monolingual dictionaries. I've found them difficult to use for the languages I've studied. By the time I try to figure out the meaning, I could have gotten a quick idea from a bilingual dictionary.

What is your experience with both types of dictionaries? (With any languages you've studied, and at any level you're at with the language.)
Guest   Wed May 30, 2007 3:43 pm GMT
monolingual dictionaries. Collins, Cambridge, both paper and software for my learning English. It was difficult to understand a definition in my target language(when I was a beginner) but with getting enough input I was able to understand definitions in the long run. I showed a lot of patience on my part. I did not give up using a monolingual dictionary. After that, there was no looking back. There is no more difference between using a bilingual and a monolingual dictionary(atleast for me) for checking a quick meaning of a word. I feel like I am immersed in the language though I have never visited any native speaking country yet.

By using a monolingual dictionary, I was naturally able to pick up the most frequent structures of the language that lexicographers use them to explain definitions for various words.

There are no hard and fast rules on using either type because you pick up the understanding of a word from the real context. So go for any one. In my personal opinion, I'd go for monolingual dictionaries because I would have a chance to read more words and phrases in the target language that way. Different strokes for different people, using "which type is better" is a subjective thing.
furrykef   Thu May 31, 2007 12:32 am GMT
Sometimes a bilingual dictionary is better. If you have a word like "book", the bilingual dictionary might be able to tell you exactly what you need to know in just one word. A monolingual dictionary will likely give a long and confusing description that might or might not suggest the desired meaning, because we don't think of a book as a number of sheets of printed paper bound into a single volume, we think of it as a BOOK. We think of it as an indivisible concept, even though it is actually divisible.

This must be more of a problem for basic vocabulary than it is for advanced vocabulary, because basic vocabulary is seldom readily divisible, but it's an occasional problem nonetheless.

That doesn't mean I prefer bilingual dictionaries (although, with Spanish -- the only other language I currently speak with any proficiency -- I'm still early enough in my vocabulary development to rely on one). But I think at the very least it's good to have one to fall back on.

- Kef
Giovana {Brasil}   Thu May 31, 2007 4:15 pm GMT
''Sometimes a bilingual dictionary is better.''

I agree. The definition of the word ''detour'' in Longman dictionary of American English is long (longman? :0) ) and I didn't get it at all.
It would be better if they just said ''the opposite of a shortcut'' ;)
windy city   Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:11 am GMT
Is there a point where switching over from a bilingual dictionary to a monolingual dictionary makes sense? In languages I don't know well, the monolingual dictionary is frustrating. Example: Definition of word A lists word B as a definition. I look up word B, and it lists word A as a definition! However, I can see that if my level were higher, the monolingual dictionary would be valuable in forcing me to deal with the language itself, even if I have to flip from one page to another figuring out the full definition.
edo   Tue Jun 12, 2007 6:18 pm GMT
I've not done it myself, but I know of people who think that using monolingual dictionaries are the BEST way to learn another language. It forces you to plunge in, and deal with the language itself.
Alexey Kudryavtsev   Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:24 pm GMT
Collins Cobuild is actually the only one monolingual dictionary I've seen that is worth using. They give explanations of words putting them into sentences and this helps to understand when you can use these words.
But if a multilingual dictionary has good examples besides just translating words it can be almost as useful as monolingual dictionary in this respect.

I often use Lingvo: English - Russian and vice versa computer dictionary with a huge number of entries (about a million I guess), but the number of meanings for a word sometimes makes it difficult to find the appropriate one.
Sometime it happens that I find a word in Collins Cobuild and it is not in this computer dictionary with million words many of which I guess are useless for almost everyone.

BTW. I have a Collins Cobuild electronic dictionary which can be used with Lingvo, so if anyone's interested you can email me to missile666 at google mail.
Supra   Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:20 pm GMT
I don't like Colling monolingual dictionaries (I find Oxford, Cambridge and Longman ones better) but they do have nice bilingual dictionaries (Portuguese one is very good)
ozgur   Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:07 pm GMT
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