Hi guys! Welcome back to English with Max.
In this video I’m going to talk about monolingual and bilingual dictionaries
and which type you should be using if you are learning English, or in fact any
foreign language. If you’d like to see more videos from me, remember that I also
post short videos on Instagram and Facebook. If you’d like to receive a
discount on my course on common mistakes, the link is in the description.
Now to the question of bilingual and monolingual dictionaries. In case you
don’t know what I’m talking about, a bilingual dictionary has two languages.
For example, it might have French and English. So if you look up a word in
French, it will give you the English equivalent, or several equivalents
depending on the word. A monolingual dictionary just has one language and it
has definitions. The first thing I’ll say is that I’m probably not going to say
what you expect me to say. It seems that it’s become trendy for English teachers
to say that once you’re no longer a beginner, you should start to use
monolingual dictionaries. The idea is that if you use monolingual dictionaries,
you’ll start thinking more in English and stop translating so much.
I say “trendy” because it honestly just seems like a popular thing to say. Maybe
teachers are copying one another, or maybe they used that method when they
were learning a language themselves and because it worked for them, they think it
must work for everybody. But in reality, it’s not that black and white. In short, I
think you should use whichever dictionaries you find the most helpful.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know that
I have quite a lot of experience learning foreign languages. Most of the
time I use bilingual dictionaries. Even in the languages that I’m very fluent in.
For example, in French and German I reached a C2 level. I normally use
bilingual dictionaries because I find it faster. I normally only use monolingual
dictionaries if after looking the word up in a bilingual dictionary, I’m still
unsure of the meaning. Maybe because the dictionary didn’t list all the possible
meanings, or maybe the word was used in a slightly strange context. That being said,
I know that not everybody is the same as me. I have a friend who’s very good at
languages – he’s a translator and interpreter – and most of the time he uses
monolingual dictionaries. However, even he sometimes uses bilingual dictionaries
for things that are very concrete, like parts of a car or animals.
Because it’s simpler. Let’s pretend that I’m a French speaker and I’d like to know the meaning of this. A large grey and white African bird kept for its eggs and meat. Okay, so
now I know that it’s a bird and there’s a picture, which is… which is nice, but I’m
not a bird expert, and I mean, that could be a turkey for all I know. So let’s try
a bilingual dictionary. Guinea fowl. Oh okay, it’s a “pintade”. When I was studying conference
interpreting, our teachers never asked us what dictionaries we were
using. They didn’t care. It was a non-issue. The most important thing was that you
understood what was being said and that you expressed yourself accurately. What’s
important is often not what dictionary you use, but how you use it. For example, some
people, when they hear or read a new word, will look it up in a dictionary and just
read the first definition or meaning. But as I’m sure you know, lots of words have
several meanings, so you need to look at the context. I’ll also say that not all
dictionaries are created equal. Some are better than others.
Google Translate, for example, has its limitations. I’m not saying it’s complete
rubbish. For some languages it’s good if you want to hear how something is
pronounced, and it also can be handy if you see a sentence or a paragraph online
in a foreign language, and you want a rough idea of the meaning. But it’s not
ideal for individual words or expressions. Let’s look at the word “pool”.
I typed it into Google Translate, I selected French and it gave me “bassin”.
Yes, there are several other translations, but it’s not clear when you
should use them. However, if you look it up on WordReference, you get several
translations with short explanations and example sentences. In other words, there’s
a lot more information. I’m not saying that WordReference is perfect. There are
sometimes mistakes, but I’ve also seen mistakes in online monolingual
dictionaries. For certain languages such as French and Spanish, I think it’s pretty
good. It’s also normally easier to find a decent bilingual dictionary, at least
online, if your native language is widely spoken. If only a few million
people speak your native language, it might be more difficult. In that case, it
could be a good idea to use a monolingual dictionary as soon as your
language skills are good enough. So don’t worry about the dictionary you are using.
Normally when we look up a word in a dictionary, we don’t look at it for very
long, so it’s not going to stop you from thinking in English. Or if it does, it
won’t be for very long. And you don’t need to be thinking in English a hundred
percent of the time to be able to understand it and speak it well. Honestly,
the type of dictionary that you use is not going to make a big difference.
Remember that there’s more than one way to learn a language. If you watch videos
on YouTube made by polyglots, you will see that they all have different methods.
So in conclusion, use whichever dictionaries suit you.
Just make sure you use them well. Thanks for watching, guys.
I’ll see you next time! Shit. … handy…bleh bleh bleh bleh… (coughs) Remem… … about…