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Dictionary Skills

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Dictionary Skills

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Make the Most of your Dictionaries

Using a variety of online resources, this page shows you how you can use dictionaries to learn and use vocabulary effectively.

 

Be creative!

The guides to the Longman and Cambridge give you a step-by-step approach to using these two excellent online resources.

 

This page discusses the kind of information you might want from a dictionary, and where to find it. It's a creative process that will take you some fantastic websites. Are you ready?

 

 

Pictures, words, translations and sound

The Picture Dictionary at LanguageGuide.org is excellent resource that lets you learn a foreign language with pictures and words. Select your native language and the language you want to learn. Then pick a topic and hover the mouse over a picture to hear the word.

 

Pronunciation

The American online dictionary Merriam-Webster lets you listen to the pronunciation of words.

 

The Longman and Cambridge dictionaries display phonetic symbols (at the Cambridge site, you need to click 'Show phonetics'). You may not be familiar with these symbols, but you can learn them and hear the sounds at the English File website by Oxford University Press. You need Flash for this.

 

Remember that you can easily learn the where to put the stress in a word. The symbol ['] appears before the main stress.

 

Can I use this word in a particular situation?

Many dictionaries, such as the online Longman and Cambridge dictionaries, provide information about whether a word is British or American, formal or informal, and whether it is polite or not?

 

How common is this word?

The online Longman dictionaries tells you whether a word is one of the 3,000 most common words in writing and speaking. This information appears in the top right corner when you look up a word. S1 means it is one of the 1,000 most common words in speaking and W2 means the word is among the 2,000 most frequently-used words in writing.

 

You can see a list of the most commonly-used words (not compiled by Longman) at John's ESL Community by clicking here. The list is conveniently categorised.

 

 

I know the meaning, but how can I use it in my sentence?

In the Longman and Cambridge dictionaries, patterns and collocations (words that go together) are clearly represented in bold, and you can read example sentences. For many entries, the Longman dictionary also has a collocations box.

 

I know the noun, but what is the adjective?

Type in any word, and the Cambridge dictionary will give you the whole word family - nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

 

 

The thing I'm looking for isn't a word!

If you're looking for the name of a person or place, most dictionaries won't have it. The Longman dictionary has some information, but you should check the Okey-Dokey Encyclopaedia page for more information.

 

If you're looking for an abbreviation such as GM or BBC, try the AcronymFinder website to see what it stands for. Type in your search and look at the top of the list for the most common results.

 

If you need specialist vocabulary on a certain topic, go to the Okey-Dokey Glossaries page. We may have exactly what you need!

 

I need help using my paper dictionary

Our guides to the Cambridge and Longman dictionaries should help you, as you will find many features are the same in every dictionary, whether it's a book, CD-ROM, electronic pocket dictionary or website.

 

However, if you need help with finding the right entry in a paper dictionary, the Warwick University website has some useful practice with alphabetical order.

 

Where can I find a dictionary to translate between English and my language?

We have a huge selection in many different languages. Just click here.

 

Related Pages

Also on Okey-Dokey:

Writing - Develop your skills further

Reading - Find a wide range of useful texts

Vocabulary: Word Power - Build knowledge and sort out any confusion!

 

 

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