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Last updated at 11:43 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Dictionaries in the classroom



What do you think the role of dictionaries is in the classroom?

  1. Only a bilingual dictionary is useful in class.
  2. Only an English/English dictionary is useful in class.
  3. Any kind of dictionary is useful in the class (it's up to the student to decide which kind to use).
  4. I don't let my students use dictionaries in the classroom. They should ask me if they have a question.

Total votes: 4908

Figures do not represent public opinion as a whole


How do you use dictionaries in your classroom? Do your students use dictionaries to look up the meanings of words only or do you do other activities based on using dictionaries? Tell us about the activities you do with dictionaries in your classroom.

This topic has now closed. Thanks for all your comments.

Chris, France
A bilingual dictionary is necessary due to the level of the students at the beginning. An english-english one is only used with advanced learners. It is absolutely necessary to use one, very often you first have to teach them how to take advantage of it and take time to work with examples on the different meanings depending on the context

Jabeen, India
A dictionary is a very handy tool to have in the class. I encourage my students to look up the meanings of the words they find difficult and insist on them using those words in their writing. It helps them to better themselves and also leads to an interest in the language. Pronunciations can also be corrected with the use of dictionaries.

Migue, Buenos Aires
It depends on the context, in my opinion it's very important to use dictionaries, especially during an exam that would be more flexible. Although most of the teachers will not agree with me because if someone did not study well enough, they probably would not pass the exam in spite of using a dictionary.

Claire, France
I use a dictionary only as a last resort with my students, I prefer to give them a variety of words to help them understand (synonyms) but if they are blocked and can't move past a word, we will use a dictionary. Myself personally I use the google online translater as its quicker than looking up a word in a dictionary, though I do subscribe to's "word of the day" both to help increase vocabularly and because they give excellent examples of how to use these words in sentences.A bilingual dictionary is good to begin with, but more advanced students will learn more and increase their vocab/comprehension from a monolingual dictionary.

Jeannette, Germany
Bilingual dictionaries are o.k., but I prefer engl/engl.. In our class they use the bil. ones when it has to be quick but it is better to use the engl./engl. ones. It makes us explaining and helping eachother by finding out the right meaning. For spelling is every kind of dictionary rather usefull.

Si Phu Hua, Vietnam
Asking students to make use of dictionaries is very necessary. It depends on what kinds of learners they are, too. If learners are non-major English, they can be guided step by step to use bilingual at the beginning level and monolingual at the intermediate and advanced levels then.If learners are major English ones, learning how to use monolingual dictionaries should be the target in learning in the end. This part of learning will offer them more chances to acquire the target language use in real life situations later.

Mohamed, Somalia
Dictionaries are as good as water to be swallowed with the food you are eating to asimilate, so like english language you won't digest it's ssence, word meaning and the word classes unless you have a very helpfull and well planned dictionary.M.A.O

Susana, Argentina
I prefer my pupils guess the unknown words meanings. When they ask:¨What does it mean? I make some guide questions and they are normally able to find out it. But when they can´t, as a last resource, I give them a dictionary for looking up the meanings. It can be: Spanish-English or English-Spanish, English-English, of Phrasals and others.It has to be suitable for the level and for the specific area.

Shams Ali, Saudi Arabia.
Each teacher has own experiences with dictionaries in the classrooms. For me, I used an e-dictionary that helped me lot especially with kids because it includes many interactive activities. So,using e-dictionary will help children in different useful way.

Ernesto, Mexico
Dictionaries are indispensable for self-learners, the kind of dictionary students use depends on the approach of the subject, that is, Bilingual dictionaries for translation and reading comprehension courses, monolingual for four skill courses.

Inam, Saudi Arabia
In my point of view i think dictionaries are useful for all of us some times we are not familiar with the words that have been used in lectures, speaches, news etc. I mean "brainbird" so to be update with all those words we must should use updated dictionaries.

Huyenpham, Vietnam
I rarely use dictionary in class. I think it is better if using it at home when we have a lot of time. We need focus on lesson in class. What teacher said is easily remember than looking up in dictionary.

Issam, Syria
I guess that using dictionaries is very helpful, but it depends on student's level. however there are a variety of dictionaries wihch might be suitable for a specific study, such as a dictionary of idioms and of common error.

Ebru Erdem / Turkey
Before using a dictionary , I try to get the learners to guess the meanings of the words intuitively by the help of some techniques. However, students may wanna learn many extra things sometimes. At that point, I never tell anything to them and want them to look at their dictionaries. Outside the class, I give them some interesting words which should be searched by using dictionaries. I like students' touching some kind of book like a dictionary...

Alireza, iran
With all due respect,I think a dictionary specially the English to English on is not only icing on the cake but also fundamental kinda .

Jo, France
I always make sure there is at least one dictionary for each lesson. As soon as the students are fluent enough in English I will definitely push for an English/English dictionary and provide them with one, but I've noticed most students revert to bilingual dictionaries, probably because they feel more comfortable using these.Being able to look for words yourself without the help of a teacher is a skill I put lots of emphasis on, so I always encourage dictionary use.

Isabel Cristina, Brazil
I have worked with intermediate level students in private classes or with very small groups, most of them executives with an urgent need of learning the language and in spite of my great passion for English/English dictionaries, in class I only use them as a last resort. It seems to me that a pause to find a word in the dictionary during the class breaks the flow. However, I am constantly stimulating my students to make use of them when doing their homework or when reading magazines or work related materials.English/English and Thesaurus of course, in order to improve vocabulary.

Tam, Thailand
I think it's very important for using a dictionary in the class because if we want to look up a meaning of some words at that time we can do immediately. Sometimes, it helps us get understood more in whole lecture!

Stephen, Russia
I think, the best variant of learning languages is to use monolingual dictionaries. Many bilingual dictionaries have too much definitions of one word and they are often old-fashioned. In EE dictionaries we can find the most exact definition of the word from the point of view of its use. Moreover, when you read an entry in explanatory dictionary you expand you vocabulary :-)

Praised, UK
Using English Dictionary can be invasive to allow students to learn the key words, which are the highlight contexts prescribed in the classroom, especially during exams. When it comes to evaluation, the word in the key, the value it has.

Sheetal, India
I don't allow dictionaries in class room, rather give it as an exercise to the students to look out for the meanings on their own using dictionaries as home work but, not during the class room sessions.

Jacqueline, France
I think it is essential to be able to use a dictionary well in order to expand vocabulary, especially in everyday situations. I don't like students looking things up continually, but we look up new words together sometimes & discuss meanings & pronunciation useing the phonetic spellings.

Christine, Tunisia
Teaching students to use dictionaries is teaching them autonomy. For young lerners and older beginners, picture dictionaries can be useful. Judicious use of bilingual dictionaries, often in cnjunction with a good learners' English-English dictionary teaches a lot about vocabulary, pronunciation, collocation and usage.There should be times in class when the use of dictionaries is not permitted, or limited, in order to allow students to work out the meanings of words for themselves from the context, or by thinking of word families etc.

Elena, Russia
In my opinion only english-english dictionary is acceptable. In S.Petersburg where we've been still deprived of British Council office level of English is deteriorating.

Carlos, Brazil
One of the first thing I do with my students is to teach them how to use a dictionary so I begin by teaching them the phonetic symbols and how to identify where the stress on the word is and so on and so forth. I do this ´cos I believe that one of the most challenging aspects of learning a language is having a good pronunciation and being aware of the subtleties in order to avoid misunderstandings. In addition when you teach them to interpret all the symbols in a dictionary this will help them to learn new words and to broader their vocabulary and build their confidence.

Samson , saxonia
It debends on youur level achieving in english .If you are as beginner english/english dictionaries will confuse you on the other hand if you are good at language and you can understand very well what you read and what you hear , it is more usefull to take english/english dictionary.

Hector, Chile
Normally, I'm not very interested in using the dictionary right now in the classroom, because it usually causes the student be diverted from the specific issue. However, a bilingual dictionary could be useful for understand a specific meaning of a word and an English to English dictionary to learn how the word are explained as well.

Marina, Russia
I believe that ability to use a dictionary is a real must...So to teach students using one in an appropriate way is one of a priority teaching language overall.Because you provide then with an essential tool to get highly effective in communication if even there is no teacher around to help you.It's important to show them the advantage of using an English-English dictionary as a source of extra practice of English as well.

Gada Warid, the Netherlands
I usually recommend that students switch to a monolingual dictionary after some time because a bilingual dictionary just doesn't give enough detail or show how to use it in a sentence. Depending on the context the choice of word may differ and a bilingual dictionary just lists possibilties but not necessarily the correct ones. I've made it a habit to always have a small notepad handy for when I come across an interesting word and I always encourage and remind students to keep one too. I suggest they put a mark in their dictionary so they can keep track of how often they've looked up a particular word. By the time they've had to look up the same word 3 times it's about time they remember it by themselves.

Diana, USA
I like the tool of a personal dictionary, in the form of an alphabetized personal telephone book or small notebook. The student enters the new words s/he encounters in reading with a sentence from the reading context and the meaning, in the native language and English. Later, when the student encounters the new word again, s/he can just access the personal dictionary and cement the concept in his/her memory.

Cyrus, Hong Kong
Teaching is a sort of farming and planting; Learning is just like a seed waiting for germinating. Why use a bilingual dictionary? We, teachers, ought to maximise language learning environment for students, who grow by themselves, not by us. But we do need to provide the most usefull material for them and bilingual dictionary is simply not the one. When learning L2/FL, it is thought that students should encounter more genuine material but not the ones in their mother tongue. Though students can acquire/learn English naturally by reading sth in their mother tongue, teachers in this circumstances are not taking the responsibility as a farmer who use the best material for their plants.

I let my students to use dictionary for activities other than learning new meanings.I insist on using a 'good' dictionary to know the right way of pronunciation.If they are still not clear about the way to pronounce,they would rely on me.

Alexander, Russia
Our teacher allows any dictionary... why not. But during classlessons we realy do not have time to look up. I can easier ask teacher 'What do your mean?' or something like this and get dedinition... in English of course :-). I guess it's more convinient than i get distructed for looking up in dictionary.

Ines, Uruguay
Actually I'm not a teacher but I want to do the TTC(English teaching course) and I took the CAE exam. I've found that English English dictionaries are much more useful even for intermediate level students not only Advanced. I remember 2 years before taking the FCE the teacher recommended us to buy an english english dictionary at least to start looking at it and getting used to it. At first i was kind of scared but then it turned out to be better than the bilingual.. you have more phrasal verbs, idioms, etc.. i love learning english and i love English english dictionaries.. when i become a teacher i'm going to recommend for my intermediate level students the use of english english dictionaries.

Valdir, Brazil
I often set a range of activities based on dictionaries, for example a game that the student have to find words related to a specific subject like "house remodeling" and the exercise consists in make a list of materials and it takes the vocabulary enhancing. It is most used at my instrumental classes, focused on a specific area: engineering, Laws, IT etc..

Iss, Mexico
Everytime i assigned my students tasks to be completed mostly outside the class, common homework such as typing histories up to 200 words, they were free to look up in their dictionaries either English-english or bilingual dictionaries, cause it really assists them to build on their new vocabulary. It really works!!

Daniella Giordano
For beginner students such as Primary students of English, a bilingual dictionary is ideal...English/English dictionaries are lovely for those of an advanced level of English language. A very useful idea is to make children or youths to create their own dictionaries with all the new words the learn, so that they can value and treasure the role of a dictionary not only in the classroom but also anytime and anywhere. And also a dictionary should be an excellent gift for the "Student of the Month".

Alexandra, Greece
Mostly I make my students use dictionaries for checking. Either for spell check orfor checking dependent prepositions, or grammatical patterns of verbs.

In fact, I believe that dictionaries are indispensable tools for vocabulary learning and teaching. We cannot underestimate the importance of both bilingual and English to English dictionaries. In my courses , I do not only student- based dicitionary studies both also some teacher- guided activites.For example; I always ask my students to look up new words of reading passages in their dicitonaries before the courses and It is up to them to use any of the dicitionaries. . On the other hand , I strongly recommend my students to use English to Englis Dictionariesm throughout the courses.I usually get my students to find new words while brainstorming a topic; askinng synonyms and opposites of words. In additoin to them, I ask them to use the monolingual dictionaries for pronounciation studies.

Massoud, Iran
Dictionary for learning a language is just like a car to reach your destination.An English-English Dictionary with pronunciation, examples and collocations definitely helps.A bilingual dictionary can be useful only if it is used rarely.

Tarun Patel, India
In every session, I enter the classroom with 10 new words. I write those words on the blackboard and ask the students to lookup for the meaning of those words. They are free to use any form of dictionary i.e. mobile dictionary, dictionary in their laptop of the printed version of it.It works well in my classrooms! :)

Melis, Turkey
I say to them 'I am not your dictionary.' when they insist on the translation of the word. I try to make them elicit the meaning and usages of a word.

Taku, Japan
In Japan, most learners use English-Japanese dictionaries. This is because they don't know how useful English-English dictionaries are. Using English-English dictionaries is learning the language from professional English teachers IN PLAIN ENGLISH. They can learn what plain English is like as well as what the words they are looking up mean. As a Japanese teacher of English, I encourage my students of intermediate or advanced level to use English-English dictionaries.

Stuart, France
I encourage the use of dictionaries in class and teach them how to use them by explaining the different abbreviations that are used and with work on the phonetic symbols and 'stress' indications. However, I d not encourage the systematic use of bilingual dictionaries as I consider that they will remember 'seeing' a certain English word but only because they remember the French. I prefer giving all English explanations with blackboard support. I always explain that "just as a carpenter needs a hammer, their dictionary is the best tool for the job they are trying to do."

AmooVahid, Iran
My students should be dictionary-oriented!Whatever i do in my classes somehow is related to a dictionary. the meaning of a word or correct pronunciation of a word or anything like that should be checked by my students in my classes.also i ask my students to write an example to show how an especial word is used in real put it in a nutshell, a dictionary can be the best teacher for English learners if they know the right way of using it.

Chido, Nigeria
Besides looking up the meaning of words, I taught my students to read phonetic symbols so that they also look up the pronunciation of words in addition to the stress pattern of the words as well. My students also use a dictionary to find the meaning of idioms.

Pia, Germany
During my schooltime (35 years ago) we were not allowed to use a dictionary in the classroom. It was seen as a sign of weakness. I always thought I had to know everything by my own. This was ridiculous! It took so long for me to accept a dictionary as a normal tool for my conversation.

Nhan, Vietnam
I often use dictionaries to look up the meaning,using and pronunciation of words.Looking up may be take me a lot of time but it's help me spell the words well. Sometime I can get some interesting information from appendices such as how to write a letter, an email or the structure of airplane and so on.

Kathe, Canada
We use dictionaries to examine other parts of root words and to check spellings thereof.

Susana Del Buono, Argentina
I think any good dictionary is useful in class. Lower level students prefer a bilingual dictionary but when they reach an intermediate level I make them use an English-English one. I think that Advanced Students must use and have their own English-English dictionary to find the words in context and learn how to use them.

Angela, Brazil
I encourage my students to use dictinaries to develop their autonomy in the learning process and their searching skills as well. Dictionaries can be really helpful.

Gak, Pakistan
no i do not use dictionaries in class i try to give them correct meaning myself and try to clear with living example and try to find out around the student and trying to clear vision.

Willi, Germany
In my opinion it depends on the level of the student.Up to lower indermitate they should use a bilingual dictionary.

Sunny, China
I use lots of dictionaries in my classroom,for example, chinese dictionary,english-chinese dictionary,english-english dictionary,in general, I only want to know the meanings of words; but in some time, I have learnt english words by english-chinese dictionary; in some ways I have leant the origin of words or deeper meanings of words by english-english words.

Vero, Madagascar
I'm not a teacher but when I was student, dictionaries used to be helpful for me. I think pupils in primary schools don't really need dictionaries. After primary school, dictionaries can help both students and teachers to discuss about a topic. Dictionary hasn't to be used systematically in a classroom, the teachers can organise the use of this interesting tool.

D.C., Malaysia
I always ask my students to bring a dictionary and use it during the lesson. I won't explain much especially for vocab.

Cristina, Chile
I use it to get further information about a particular entry (pronunciation, expressions, or the like) also to look for synonyms, and prepositions which are more commonly used with verbs. I don't usually use bilingual dictionaries.

Cliff, Myanmar
As a teacher of English, I encourage my students to use dictionaries. I also tell them to look for synonyms rather than meaning. In stead of asking everything from a teacher, I have convinced them to be autonomous.

Lini, Australia
I teach literacy to adults. The following activities have been useful in my classroom:1) Give them a list of spelling of familiar words where they have to find out whether it is right or wrong.2) Divide the group in two and have a competition in locating words in alphabetical order form the given list.3) Work on homonyms and homophones to form contextual understanding for the text read in class.4) Mark spelling mistakes from each other's drafts of writing and suggest the correct spelling.

Fred Silva, Brazil
I've been learning English for 2 years and one thing I've noticed is that students who use an English-English dictionary usually develop faster than the others.

Robson, Brazil
For me, the use of an English/English dictionary is quite beneficial in my classes, especially to stimulate their capacity of helping theirselves. One of the reasons I use a dictionary in class is due to the fact that my pupils can look for the IPA of a word they don't know how to pronounce when they are at home.

Taha, Iran
Hi I am a pre-univesity student in Iran - Tehran . I blieve that if the students don`t have any dictionaries at the class they never learn English well , because I think that so many skills of speaking explained in them . I`m so sorry for teachers that don`t let the student use them at class and I shoul add that their class hasn`t any effect on the students and their learning and I think he or she wastes their time .

Ilias, Morocco
I think that dictinaries are extremly important for students,In fact our teacher asks us to bring our dictionaries and personally, he is right because learning a new language requires a dictionary.

I seldem use dictionaries in my classroom.But I think English dictionaries are useful for me.Because I am preparing for the Ielts Test.I have to read lots of words and sentences,use dictionaries will made me become more efficient and know many meanings I don't understand.

Vincent, South of Korea
A dictionary is essential item for students who are learning foreign languages. I have used it to understand the meaning of word which I don't understand in the text. I have made a mini-note that I wrote the spell and meaning of words which I didn't know. So whenever I go out I take and read in the subway, bus and so on.

Mukhtiar, Pakistan
Students are asked to bring their English to English Dictionaries in the class.I select words before hand and write them on the board;then ask them to look up their meaning and pronunciation and tell me the meaning in their mother tongue.If the meaning or pronunciation is wrong I tell them.In this way their vocabulary and pronunciation improves over the time.

Alfiya, Russia
It's withouth doubt that we should use dictionaries during classroom activies. The problem is our college I work at doesn't have proper dictionaries for the students studying law, finance, IT technology and other special subjects. As they should know peculiar vocabulary not only in Russian but English as well they should consult the books that could be helpful for understanding and translating those texts we study. Unfortunately, specific dictionaries cost a fortune expecially bilingual ones. To sum it up, we use only small dictionaries, and the most important words in the texts I explain to my students by myself.

gina, australia
using dictionaries saves time and allows students to learn new vocabs and apply them on the spot thus helping students remember them better. i fully encourage students to use dictionaries in class!

To prepare the final exam my trainees are able to used any technical dictionaries to understand the meaning of a new technical word.But the D day must be done without any aids.

Simona, Italy
I teach English as a 2nd language (14 to 19-year-old students, from level A2 to B2 of European Framework of Reference). Vocabulary learning is vital for improving, so I do dictionary sessions, and, based on the level and age-group, I choose topics or articles and let students work on them. It makes them curious, and becomes sort of "addictive", in the sense that they continue looking up words for their homework. I also choose dictionary resources on the Web for them to use.

Meg, China
fewer and fewer students use dictionary in class, they would rather use cellphone to look for information

ZLL, China
Honestly, a dictionary won't help too much unless you use it agilely and effectively. And students can't learn well when they spent most of time looking up meanings of words in dictionary. The best way, in my opinion, is to ask your teachers.

Dennis Ludena, Japan
Well at class we use dictionaries (English-English, in books or electronic). The main reason is that the dictionary doesn't only have the meaning or transaltion of a specific unknown word. But also it has the correct pronunciation with the phonetic characters that we beleive is really important for the class. We believe the student must pronounce correctly the words, so it will be easy for them to interact with so called native english speakers.

Hui, China
I am using a English-English,English-Chinese Oxford 2 in 1 dictionary in the classroom, I also encourage my student to use this kind of dictionary, they look at English explanation first, then they look at Chinese explanation only when they hardly understand the english explanation.

Diener, Brazil
In my opinion English-English dictionaries are very useful when students are prepared to fully understand the explanation of a word in English. That is: English word, English explanation. Because of that, I think, only intermediate students should use English-English dictionaries in the class.

Renato Nzuzi, Angola
First let me say that I am not a student. I'm an independent student who learns English online and has communication with many English people through the internet using e-mail, skype, etc.I use the dictionary to look out unknown words, to understand the sense of sentences and citations. If i have to write i often use the dictionary

In my opinion, I want to use dictionary in my class. By this way, I can understand words easily without any help from my teacher and it will help my classmates and my teacher can focus on lesson.

I use both bilingual dictionaries and English/English dictionaries. I encourage my students to use a dictionary often, especially the Eng/Eng as they then get the true meaning of the word and, with a Longman Conteporary they get good explanations and examples, coupled with usage. The students do their own word lists (for articles, other texts, novels) and learn a bit about grammar that way too. Occasionally I do dictionary excersises in class,where we look at particular words, especially false friends so as to be sure that the students understand the diferences of meaning and usage.

Leila, Brasil
I think the students should decide if they use or not the dictionary.

v.Balasubramanian, India
Being a college lecturer myself,I always believe that students must interact with the language more often than not and I ,whenever I seek to teach them new expressions,first let my students guess the meaning through the context and supply them multiple choice synonyms and lead the students to choose the right one by making them go back to the context and make the task an interesting detective work and thereby reduce their dependence on dictionary referring.

Jonathan, Tokyo
In my opinion (primarily as a teacher, but also as a learner of my host country`s language) it depends greatly on the level of the students. At higher levels I will encourage students to use what vocabulary they have to express their opinions rather than reflexively reaching for their electronic dictionary. I can always give them other ways/vocabulary/phrases to express what they want to say. If I do let higher-level students use a dictionary then I`ll encourage them to use an English-English one. It will expose them to more vocabulary and keep their brain in - for want of a better term - `English Mode`, rather than reverting to their native language in the middle of class.In the case of lower-level students I`ve found that dictionaries can be a mixed blessing. They can hold up the class if you let students look up every single word they don`t know (when perhaps some are not so important and can be checked at home or on the train after class) but equally a class can be held up if the students get stuck on an important word and don`t understand the teacher`s (English) explanation. In those situations quickly pulling out the electronic dic` can get the lesson out of a potential rut and moving smoothly again.

Orlando Gutierrez, Italy
I sometimes use them at class for checking the existence of doubtful terms or spelling. Also for teaching how to select the suitable information amongst lots that big ones provide.Phonetics can be learned by reading pronunciation transcriptions so students can check words by their own. If the dictionary is big, they can even find technical meanings teachers may ignore.

Abdallah, Libya
we usually don't use dictionaries in our classrooms not because they are not allowed but 3 or 4 hours of 40min-class a week are not enough to cover many language activities.i'd love to let my students use the dictionary so that we can play word games and improve vocabulay funds

Mrs Entisar, Libya
I think that using dictionaries is beneficial for the students in many ways. I've been teaching writing for many years and I found that when students look up the meanings and the examples provided to show how to use those words to create sentences as well as to search for synonyms and other activities helped my students develop their vocabulary and improve their writing.

Noe, Argentina
I generally allow my students to use English/ English dictionaries to look up words but I also prepare activities on word formation for advanced levels for which a dictionary is extremely useful as sometimes students don't know the different words that can be formed out of a single root.

Nader, Jordan
The use of dictionaries is optional in the classrooms, but those who use it get the privilege of learning new words faster because the process of looking the word up in the book will make it permanent in our brains. e-dictionaries are the new trend that have to be applied in every institute, they are really useful.

In my opinion, using dictionaries inside the classroom is a must. It helps students to check the meaning,the pronounciation and the spelling. More over it gives a student a chance to see the word in examples also see its Synonyms.

Wa'el Al.Wakiel, Qatar
I always ask my sts to keep their monolingual dictionaries with them inside the classroom. I usually ask them to look some difficult words up, find what part of speech they are and provide me with some sentences using these words. sometimes, we play the hangman and I let them consult their dictionaries.

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