Which dictionary for advanced learners? Native or target language?

I’m learning Hebrew right now, and I’m just at the beginning. But I wondering the following question. Do learners who started from scratch (as adults) that have reached an advanced level continue to use dictionaries in their native language to learn new words, or do they use the dictionaries in their target language? After all, in general a person is always learning new words in their native language, and of course they look them up in their native language.

Just yesterday I came across a video by a fluently English-speaking Russian girl living in the US with tips for language learning. She strongly recommends using a dictionary instead of translating, and I assume she means a dictionary in the target language. I don’t do so regularly, but the Lingvo Live dictionary available for Russian here on Lingq sometimes provides Russian-language definitions for Russian words. I can see the potential benefit.

The video I referenced is at How To Learn a Language??? RU SUB - YouTube and she repeats some other advice commonly found here – watch movies & shows with subtitles in the target language; keep the level of what you watch and read at a comprehensible level, etc. BTW, her channel is very entertaining, albeit without enough Russian for my uses.

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Yes, English/Target Language dictionary, even at the advanced level.

The only time i would every use a monolingual dictionary just in the target language would when I was either in either of two situations:

A) totally at a loss and couldn’t find it elsewhere (sometimes google images works if even that fails two.


B) Looking some hardcore stuff like Don Quijote where it the langauge is really dated and isn’t in bilingual dictionary. A lot of my definitions that I fed into the LingQ database from that massive project involved doing this.

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I use native-language dictionaries as a source of motivation. I use a bi-lingual dictionary for the first few years, but when I decide to get very serious about a language, I buy a monolingual dictionary and gradually move most of my lookups to that. There’s probably nothing pedagogically sound about the approach, but I’ll never forget the days I bought my first Duden and Le Robert paper dictionaries. Way back when I remember my teachers telling me to get the Deutsch als Fremdsprache dictionary, but I quickly found that it didn’t have enough words for me. The real deal was much more exciting. :slight_smile:

I almost bought a Greek monolingual dictionary last time I was in Athens, but I decided to hold out and continue using my bilingual for a few months or a year. Same for Italian… I’d like to have them, but I want it to be special.


When one is a beginner or low intermediate, I don’t think it would be very fruitful to have a target language dictionary because one would have to then have to look up the words in the definition itself: too tedious.

However, for the last several months I have been at a point in my Russian (middle intermediate) where I often do look at the definition of a new Russian word in Russian. I do it because there are several words that mean something similar and I don’t know which one is commonly used in the way I want to use it.

For example, in English we say to “take” a shower, to “make” a decision yet in Russian the same verb is used [принимать (prinimat)] for both expressions and in fact the verb can even be translated as to “accept” in another context. The Russian dictionary explains these different meanings with examples. Reading about the different meanings helps me to understand how I should use the verb. Moreover, some words are not directly translatable or else have a similar meaning in some respects but not others. A monolingual dictionary will help to clarify where spheres of meaning coincide or diverge.

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After a few years, I switched to TL-TL monolingual dictionaries only. You learn a new word (that you are looking up), plus you reinforce known words that are in the dictionary definition, and you pick up additional new words in the definition that may not be clear. Generally, after a certain level, a good native level dictionary will have simple explanations using words that are already known to you.

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I don’t think- it’s not so important for advanced learners: to use a bilingual dictionary or monolingual dictionary of your target language.
Use such a dictionary what is more comfortable for you.

However, I can recommend only a bilingual dictionary - you just won’t be able to understand comments on the language, which you are only starting to learn, or you understand these comments wrongly.

But what I strongly believe as a teacher - you shouldn’t learn all meanings of the unknown words!..
Remember only such meanings that you’ve found in the context - otherwise, you’ll confuse in a short time and lose all your motivation.

I strongly agree with Evgeny about not trying to learn all of the meanings of new words at once as I too have found that too confusing. Instead, when I read a Russian definition, I only use the definition for the context that fits the current context. I then construct my own sentences, using the same meaning to fix it in my brain. If there’s another expression that I see that I also really want to know and use right then, I will write that down and then construct more sentences with it as well. However, from experience I know that if I’m not going to USE a word, I will probably not remember it so there is not much point to noting additional nuances. Still, I find it useful to make a mental note that the word has several meanings depending on the context. This way, when I encounter it again and yet the meaning I originally found doesn’t seem appropriate, I know that I have to go back to the dictionary to look at other meanings.

When reaching a fairly fluent level, it is better to use a monlingual dictionary.

The reason why, is that there is not always a word for word exchange in the target language and your native language. This becomes an issue with nuances.

It is challenging, but I think it is beneficial if you can make the transition. You will know when it is time to make the switch.

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