A few words today about dictionaries – get a good one! Teachers are constantly surprised that students do not make this small investment in their learning. Students (or more accurately their parents) pay thousands of pounds for a course at an overseas university but then are not prepared to pay £18 (about $30) more to improve their chances in doing well on that course! Imagine that you spend thousands of pounds on a lovely new car. Would you spend another £18 on it for insurance? Or to make sure it had the best service? Or to install a high security system so that no one could steal it? Or would you think ‘Well, I’ve spent enough so I’m not going to spend anymore’? I think you would probably spend the extra money to protect your investment and that’s why you should buy a good dictionary.

You probably have a bilingual dictionary already. You also need a good monolingual Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. These dictionaries are big and heavy but you don’t need to carry it around with you all the time, you can leave it on your desk where you study. These dictionaries explain words in English and give example sentences using these words. Very often when I correct an essay I see words that are used wrongly. If I point this out to a student and show them the word in an Advanced Learner’s Dictionary they can see immediately that it was the wrong word to use. Sometimes I even come across words in essays that I have never even seen before because students have used a bilingual dictionary which suggests inappropriate words. Before you use a new word for this first time you should refer to an Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, check the meaning, and look at the example sentence which is given for it. If you can’t find the word at all then this is a warning!

There are lots of good dictionaries out there. Some of them are:

Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Remember – you will have your dictionary for the rest of your life so it’s money well spent. Take a look at this nice little article on dictionaries from antimoon.com for more tips regarding dictionaries.

(Is that a fire engine I can hear? Have my children managed to burn the house down?!)