Friday, April 20, 2007

The Best ESL Dictionary

Many ESL students start with a bilingual dictionary. Starting with a bilingual dictionary is probably essential for beginning and even intermediate learners of English as a Second Language, especially when they are doing homework or studying English on their own. However, for advanced level ESL students, an English-only dictionary is absolutely essential to master the language.

The problem with many English dictionaries is that they either provide too many definitions (including definitions that are no longer used), in which case the ESL learner may not be able to figure out the best definition, or they are too small and don’t provide enough definitions.

The best English dictionary that I’ve found for English learners is Longman Advanced American Dictionary. Although this isn’t specifically a “best ESL dictionary,” it is the best dictionary I’ve found for second language learners because it provides definitions that are commonly used today. It provides sentences as examples for many words. It tells you when a word is commonly mistaken with another word. It provides lists of spoken phrases, lists many phrasal verbs with definitions, and it has a lot of grammar usage notes to help ESL students with word choice. There’s a separate section with “Language Notes” on prepositions, adjectives, idioms, modal verbs, phrasal verbs, articles, and more.

I believe this English dictionary is a “must-have” for advanced-level English learners and I recommend it to all of my students. Every student I’ve recommended this dictionary to has spoken highly of it.

Longman publishes several dictionaries. Be sure to get the one with the exact title above. It comes with a CD-ROM. You can get it in hardcover or paperback.

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