Eng-eng dictionaries

I always look up words in cambridge eng-eng dictionary. Even when I get the general idea behind the meaning of a word often I cannot guess the appropriate word in my own language. And I do the look up again in my language dictionary. It is tedious.
Do you think it is enough to check only english definition of a word and not bother of exact translation?

As for me if eng-eng dictionary annoy you, better is to study native meaning of the new word, and after if you have strong desire - glance in eng-eng dictionary.

I did not mean eng-eng dictionaries annoy me. I wonder if it is necessary to always check for translations or it is enough just to know what something means more or less knowing only English description?

You need to see a word in context quite a few times before you really know what it means and how it is used. Whether you use the Eng-Eng or your own language definition of the word may not matter.

When I study languages I prefer to use a bilingual dictionary into my own language for my first Hint of what a word means and then look forward to seeing it again. At LingQ I review the examples.

I don’t feel really comfortable with the word until I can translate it to my own language. So I prefer the bilingual dictionary too.
Of course, there are some expressions that you simply can’t translate, so all you can do is to learn the context in which they are used. But most words and expressions have reasonable counterparts in our own language, and I find it useful to know them.
By “counterpart” I mean a similar expression, used in similar contexts, even if the literal translation is far different.

Marcin82- When you look in the Cambridge dictionary, it will tell you the different forms of the word. It is really important to know the different forms of speech. I am an native English speaker and am still learning them (because I did not learn it in school) but knowing that you are looking at a verb or a noun or an adjective or an adverb will help you to find the word that you are looking for in your native tongue.

If you start to understand that you are looking at the verb form and that is what makes sense in the sentence, you will start to be able to find a similar verb in your head to translate.

I think that dictionaries can be very useful in learning and whether you find a bilingual or monolingual dictionary more useful depends on how much knowledge you already have of the language you are studying (and some personal preference). For example, I have a monolingual Japanese dictionary but since I can’t read Japanese, I’m afraid that for the moment, while it might be fun to have and look in from time to time, it is of very little use to me in actual vocabulary study.

There is some evidence that definitions are more useful than just example sentences (see Learning about Learning from Dictionaries by Jim Ronald from Hiroshima Shudo University) but I’m still not sure about the difference between monolingual and bilingual dictionaries. However, for me, intuitively, I believe it is good to get away from translating in my head as I find I can speak more fluently when I think in another language as opposed to searching for the foreign/target language equivalent of an English word I would like to use. My mother can speak English and Dutch fluently and is very well spoken in both languages. I have always found it interesting that if I ask her the Dutch word for some English word, she is often at a loss to come up with it and vice versa from Dutch to English! Maybe the facility for translation resides in a different part of the brain than the word/meaning relationships? In any case, I do not plan to become a professional translator so I’m more for monolingual (with all due respect to professional translators and simultaneous interpreters).

Regarding the type of dictionary, I really like electronic pop-up dictionaries when reading electronic text or writing as I can very quickly (almost instantly) look something up. I have one that allows me to also very quickly look up words in the example sentences or the meaning headings which gives my dictionary research more depth as I can see the various nuances behind the keywords. Also, the electronic versions are great for cutting and pasting the search results into my own word lists or study files for later reviews.

Of course, many language “geeks” just like looking up words and I guess I might include myself in that category of poor souls because sometimes, I think it’s just fun to look up words in the big monolingual giants such as the OED in English. There is something about a big fat dictionary that I like to explore in and for that, there is no electronic version that can replace the enjoyment I get from leaning back in my la-z-boy with a magnifier in hand and a 40 pounder dictionary! My wife finds it extremely dull and can’t bear to hear about the wonderful discoveries I make during these lonely quests into the forgotten worlds of long lost words and meanings, but fortunately, we have other common interests. In any case, after almost 30 years of marriage, she finds some solace that my passion for vocabulary is at least less objectionable to her, and usually cheaper, than some other popular pastimes some men may prefer! I’m speaking of course about power tools, boats, recreational vehicles, motor sports, etc. Heh-heh! What were you thinking?!

Anyway, for learners, I think that any of the various monolingual dictionaries for ESL or EFL students such as Oxford, Longman, Cambridge or Collins are very good (I have copies of all of these and then some and I like them all very much, heh-heh!).

Most important, I think, is to try and keep your dictionary research fun and for this, in my case at least, I need to dish it out to myself in small bits and pieces so I don’t get overwhelmed, or worse, bored. I think that’s why I like the online/pop-up dictionaries. Easy in and easy out! And not too heavy either although they’re only as portable as your laptop-notebook computer. I have tried a few palm pilot dictionaries and so far, I have not found anything that I really liked to use. (Now I have since lost my palm and changed to a different non-palm operating system compatible PIM/Cell Phone so all those palm dictionaries I bought are useless now. Too bad, eh!)

So whatever you do, have fun with your studies and try and keep it light. Remember the old Teutonic saying, “Vee grow too soon oldt und too late schmart.” Better to enjoy your learning and maybe you’ll find in the long run, you’ll actually learn more, and retain more, and generally be an all round fun person too!


I have always considered dictionaries as a somewhat unimportant part of language learning. Before LingQ I would rely on language readers with vocabulary lists for each chapter. I would only read these kind of readers, and searched bookstore for them. The problem was always to find interesting language readers at my level, as these were my main resource for language improvement.

I would want any dictionary or vocabulary lists to have translation into my language as this gave me an instant indication of the possible meaning of the word. I knew this would become clearer with additional exposure. In any case I would only remember a small part of what was in the dictionary explanation. Having the explanation only in the language I was learning was simply annoying. Having additional examples of usage, or explanations of different forms of a word, or similar words, or any other details, was of no interest to me. Similarly I would at best skim over any grammatical explanations in my readers, but usually just skip them.

I learned from context. It was the content that I was reading that taught me how to use the word. The more content I could read, and the more interesting the content, and the more contexts I could expose myself to, the better I learned, and the more I got used to the language.

LingQ is largely based on my own experience of learning quite a few languages. We try to provide a lot of content, hopefully more and more. We will be improving how we grade the difficulty of the content. LingQ provides instant access to an online dictionary, and eventually to the dictionary of choice of the learner, a way of keeping track, examples that are meaningful because they come from the listening and reading of the learner, grammar explanations when asked, but not imposed on the learner etc.

This is not the only way to learn languages. It is one way, and it can be a part of the journey for many, we hope. We have many plans to improve the functions, as well as to provide more opportunities for collaboration and exchange among our members.

Please keep coming to the Forum and tell us what you think.