Struggling to manually edit dictionary definitions

Word reference, Linguee, Collins, Re-verso etc are great dictionaries/tools for reference. If I don’t find the popular definitions useful I will refer to them.

However I have difficulty in transferring this information into LingQ. On word reference for example there are many different definitions of a particular word and it is hard to know what and how to format that information in the definition field. I constantly find myself going back and forth between these tools and LingQ; adding definitions for new words and updating old words with different meanings emerged from new context.

I realize I can’t have every definition of a word or phrase at any given time, but given the changing nature of language learning; I am always changing the definitions to support my understanding of material learnt in context.

How can I approach this better?


Hey, Oz234!

Single words only get concrete meaning(s) (including connotations and associations) when used in contexts. Therefore, I tend to avoid learning such words - at least after the beginner stage. Usually I focus on whole/partial sentences, collocations (= conventional groups of words connected by a weaker idiomatic degree) or idioms (= conventional word groups with a very high idiomatic degree).

If you concentrate on individual words instead and later try to build sentences in your target language, there’s a high probability that your sentences will sound “off / weird” to native speakers.
For example: A German saying is “In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen”. But, the equivalent in English isn’t “In times of need the devil eats flies’”, but rather “beggars can’t be choosers”.
Of course, idioms are particular tricky when learning a foreign languagen. However, that’s also true for tens of thousands of conventional word groups (i.e. “collocations”).

On-/offline dictionaries are often not the right tools for marking and learning such “sentence structures”. AI translation tools, especially if they’re provided with larger text snippets, are better suited for this task. And Deepl is probably the best of these tools at present. But, it’ isn’t perfect: it tends to struggle with collocations, idioms and connotations / associations because it doesn’t process semantics as humans do. It is “only” statistics :slight_smile:

Marking and learning larger sentence structures has the advantage that you don’t have to worry about a multitude of possible meanings of a single word because the concrete co-/contexts select the word meaning for you. And Deepl is amazingly good at this job the more context it gets (for example, an entire page of text)!

In sum:
I’d say the combo “sentence structures + AI translation tool (e.g. Deepl)” is superior to the combination “single words with many possible meanings + off/online dictionaries” for two reasons:

  1. It facilitates learning and remembering based on the information in context.
  2. It leads to better results when it comes to constructing sentences in your target language.

You could just give it a shot (using one tab with LingQ and another one with Deepl in parallel) and see how it goes.
You can also add Deepl to your list of dictionaries in LingQ and remove all other dictionaries. This option is even more efficient.

Hope that helps and

Have a nice day


You are probably are doing this already, but you can add multiple definitions for each word form as well. I wouldn’t delete or change any of the old ones that you used because they could still be correct in whatever context you originally found them.

I tend to only put the definition that fits the context of what I’m currently reading so that I can get back into the text as quickly as possible. The word is less important than the phrase in order to understand a story. While dictionaries and grammar explanations can be great tools to tackle difficult material, remember that your time is usually better spent with more language in context. I find the stuff out of context doesn’t transfer as well to actual language function when you need to understand someone else or speak/write to someone else in real life scenarios. Use the dictionary and grammar stuff to help you understand the text and get that bit of information saved in your LingQ slots for quicker access the next time. I’d say save the minimum amount of info that you need in order to understand the word in context and get back to reading. I know this can get tedious when every form of the word requires a new mark, but I still don’t know a better alternative necessarily.


Hello Peter,

Thanks for getting back to me the other day.

I’ve been thinking about your response;

I’ve been trying out Deepl alongside LingQ and so far it’s working well. I’m currently using it to translate small sentences to acquire a “general” meaning of something; maybe a few times per lesson (don’t want to overdo it!) - using it only when a certain phrase/sentence doesn’t quite make sense. Through doing this more I think I will translate word-for-word less as the meaning will be acquired more naturally in context. I like the alternative meanings features shown below the translated information.

I am saving phrases a lot more now, in addition to single words. Particularly with greetings, exclamations and others that cannot really be translated literally or at all. Definitely am going to look into collocations and connotations more :slight_smile:

I’ve also been thinking a lot about a book i’m reading called “The Beginning Translator Workbook”. Within it; outlines the techniques that translators use to acquire meaning. These are Borrowings, Calques
Literal Translation, Transposition, Modulation, Equivalence and Adaptation.

Of these I am alternating a lot between Literal translation and Equivalence throughout my reading and listening ventures, to acquire meaning for example. Here are some old example sentences from one of the mini-stories;

Catherine a peur de l’eau

Catherine is afraid of water - EQUIVLANT


Catherine has fear of the water - LITERAL/WORD FOR WORD

(Alternating between two types of translations at the same time to acquire meaning. )

Catherine aime-t-elle nager?

Catherine herself likes to swim? - LITERAL/WORD FOR WORD.


Does Catherine like to swim? - EQUIVALENT

Others on that list will be used at some point i’m sure. These seem to be the main two i’m encountering.

In summary, it’s all about meaning. Through time and practice I want to translate less and understand more within the language itself. However; as I am sure you know; I’m having to do this in order to grasp what is being said/written using a language that I understand well, which is part of the problem. But at the same time be able to translate more efficiently and effectively from French-to-English and from English-to-French when need be.

I will follow up with more thoughts on the “Translation process” to acquire meaning at a later stage. This is the current way of thinking and will undoubtedly change in the future.

Thanks again.


Hi, Josh!

Glad my comment was helpful!

I agree the “translation method” is a useful tool for L2 learners, esp. at the beginner stages (A1-B1) and with authentic language learning material (short native speaker dialogs, etc.).

Regarding “Deepl / LingQ”
If you read a text on LingQ, you can choose the “Full text” option. And if you give “Deepl” a larger text snippet, its translation will be even better, since sentences alone can be somewhat arbitrary.

“Through time and practice I want to translate less and understand more within the language itself.”
The more active and passive vocabulary (and I don’t just mean individual words, but sentences, collocations and idioms) you have at your disposal, the less you have to resort to translation.
In short: The larger your “vocabulary search space” becomes, the less you have to translate.

Good luck with your language learning