Dictionaries are extremely useful when writing in “Academic English” yet at first, they are difficult to use effectively and efficiently. According to Nation (2001, p. 284), the skills needed to use a dictionary effectively and efficiently will also depend on purpose. Is it to better understand a listening script or a written text? Or is to produce language (speaking and writing)?
Developing your dictionary skills
It is important to remember that the dictionary can never know the exact context in which the word is being used, so you will have to use your knowledge of the language as well. You will need to:
- Use your knowledge of the language to get information about the grammar of the word you want look up;
- Guess the general meaning of the word in the context;
- Decide if it is necessary to look up the word – can you understand the sentence without it?
- Find the word in the dictionary;
- Choose the correct entry in the dictionary;
- Check the meaning given by the dictionary to see if it fits in the context.
Wordnik is a useful website which aim is to help anyone and everyone better understand any given word (e.g. in addition to the definition/s and meaning/s and spelling, it provides information on the number of syllables, pronunciation and related vocabulary.
Dictionary Skills Worksheets &c.
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–01
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–02
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–03
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–04
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–05
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–06
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–07
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–08
Academic English OUP–Academic-English–09
WordPower Arabic/English Worksheet–01
WordPower Arabic/English Worksheet–02
WordPower Arabic/English Worksheet–03
WordPower Arabic/English Worksheet–04
WordPower Arabic/English Worksheet–05
WordPower Arabic/English Worksheet–06
WordPower Arabic/English Worksheet–07
WordPower Arabic/English Answer Key
This online version of the Cambridge University Press dictionary is aimed primarily at learners of English. As such it, “Concentrates on describing and reflecting as accurately as possible common contemporary English usage.” It therefore excludes particularly uncommon words or words whose use is restricted to a particular field of activity.
The Macmillan Dictionary seeks to, “Make every definition as clear and easy to understand as possible.” It is regularly updated, and includes a thesaurus, fully integrated into each of the entries.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is the world’s best-selling advanced learner’s dictionary, used by over 35 million learners of English worldwide.
The online version of the Longman dictionary contains over 207,000 words, phrases, and meanings including 7,000 references to people, places, events and organizations.
Thesauruses explain the differences between similar words in written and spoken English. Typically they group words into near synonyms. Each synonym in a given group would them be clearly explained in terms of meaning, grammar, and register plus an example sentence showing how it is used.
Macmillan English Dictionary. (2007). Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners (2nd ed.). Macmillan ELT: London.
Nation, P. (2001). Learning Vocabulary in another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English. (2010). Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Oxford Learner’s Thesaurus. (2010). Oxford Learner’s Thesaurus: A dictionary of synonyms. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Oxford Wordpower. (2013). Oxford Wordpower Dictionary for Arabic-speaking learners of English (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press: Oxford.