Summary of CD-ROM dictionary training

The following is a brief description of a teacher training session held on 8 June 2005 to and the reactions and comments of the participants.

The two CD-ROM dictionaries compared below are:

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary: 2nd Edtion

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: up-dated version

The worksheet used can be downloaded here:

Quick cross-referencing

Because the dictionary definitions and example sentences are all written using words listed and defined in the dictionary itself, a user can double click a word in any part of the dictionary and a small window will open giving the definition of that word or its root form. This often helps to overcome objections learners have to using monolingual dictionaries by making it quicker and easier to understand the definitions.

Quickfind
(called web/email POPUP on the Longman)

This is the feature which integrates the dictionary with other text based programs such as Internet Explorer, Word, PowerPoint etc. A small window replaces the main dictionary window. When the user holds the mouse symbol over a word on a webpage or in word processor document, the dictionary automatically looks the word up and displays the definition. The Cambridge dictionary extends this by offering two versions of this feature: one which gives pronunciation information as well as the definition and is intended as a reading tool. The second one gives access to additional features such as word families and verb endings and is designed to help with writing.

Search results

Earlier CD-ROM dictionaries searched for headwords only. The latest versions produce a larger number of results. The Cambridge searches the entire text of the dictionary and displays all headwords, idioms, phrasal verbs (if applicable); where the word is used in definition text; and examples sentences of other words. This can also be achieved on the Longman by using the Dictionary search feature. A search for “money” produces 2046 hits for the Cambridge and 1918 for the Longman.

Advanced search

These offer a range of ways of narrowing a search. The Longman offers a wider range of ways of searching including sound search using phonemic symbols or a multimedia search to find pictures or sound effects. Both dictionaries can narrow a search by category such as words related to food & drink; business; travel etc. Users can also limit their searches based on the frequency of use of words: the Longman had three bands of the 1000/2000/3000 most common words whilst the Cambridge divides the most common words into categories called:Essential/Improver/Advanced.

Sound search

See Advanced search above.

Extra examples

This feature is implemented differently in the two dictionaries. The Cambridge provides an Extra Examples button for all the words in the E/I/A groups of common words. The Longman has an expandable window called the Examples Bank. In this window the sentences can be viewed in a normal way or in Corpus mode in which the sentences are arranged so that the target word in each are lined up. More excitingly the Longman allows the user to click and hear complete example sentences from the main definition text.

Thesaurus/Activator

The Thesaurus is a feature of the Cambridge dictionary while the Activator is incorporated into the Longman. Of the two, my colleagues found the Thesaurus the easiest to use. This may be a result of familiarity with the feature from the earlier version of the Cambridge CD-ROM.

Every word in the dictionary is categorised within the Thesaurus. These categories can be accessed by the click of a button. The resulting lists can be between about 10 and more than 100 words and phrases. An example is the word invest which is listed in the Thesaurus in a category called Investing money and contains 25 words related to that topic.

Looking for the word invest in the Activator brings up the keyword money. Invest is in meaning 15 – to put money into a business, in order to make money where it is listed along with put money into, investor and backer.

In both the Thesaurus and the Activator the words can be seen as part of a list or with a fuller definition. The Activator keywords provide more narrow groupings while the Thesaurus gives more words in one go.

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