Has Google KILLED the hand held DICTIONARY?


(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1jgPjaJ)

Come on be honest, how many of you actually own a dictionary these days? It’s just way too easy to just google the word and it will not only tell you the meaning but give you a nice audio of the correct pronunciation.

But right now if you are an ESL teacher or student, the whole dictionary question is still left out in the open. These days fortunately there are a range of different types of dictionaries at different levels. For example here are just a few different samples:

  • Advanced dictionary
  • Basic ESL dictionary
  • Standard dictionary
  • Picture dictionary
  • Children’s dictionary
  • Language-language dictionary (e.g. English-Arabic)

Just to name a few.

So if you are going to look up a word (which you have seen somewhere) and wanted to know what it meant, if you looked the word up on google, it would simply give you the standard dictionary response – and yes with some nice audio pronunciation. But if you wanted to know the Arabic equivalent, or if you wanted it explained with more examples, or with added sentences to show different meanings, the whole thing starts to get a lot more complicated. In other words, you would need to find other sites to give you what you need. This all takes time.

With a hand held dictionary, you know where you are starting from the kick off. For example, as an ESL student you may wish to buy yourself a Basic ESL dictionary. This way you can be sure that the word that you look up will give you a meaning and example at a level of English that is basic and clear for you.

Same goes for if you are looking for the Arabic meaning. You will definitely be more likely to jump to that dictionary from the start to help you.

So at this point I would say dictionaries are still important but only really if you are a ‘specialised’ reader, or if you want a very comprehensive understanding of the word at hand.

Dictionaries do have a rather tough job ahead of them though, and so in response, have gone very tech also, which is very wise.

Google is really for the proficient English speakers in every way you look at it, and right now we don’t have complete competence around the world, so for the time being – it looks like dictionaries are here to stay, but the distant future? Who knows…..

7 thoughts on “Has Google KILLED the hand held DICTIONARY?

  1. This is why I think a paper dictionary (as opposed to an electronic one) is VITAL for second language learners:
    It’s called the three dots technique,and it is especially useful for bilingual dictionaries. When you look up a word E.g. ‘connected’ in your bilingual dictionary, you put a dot by the side of the word. If you see there is already a dot there, it means you have looked up ‘connected. before, so you should make an effort to remember it this time. If you see there are already two or three dots next to the word you are looking up, it means that this is a very frequent word and you must learn how to use it.
    Until Google or other online dictionaries come up with a similar way of remembering previous look ups, there will always be a place for paper dictionaries for ESL learners. I love paper dictionaries, but I’m also a fan of online ones too. Read about my favourite dictionaries here: http://languagespider.com/2015/01/04/ltl-dictionaries-resembling-snow/

  2. Hello Aiyshah,

    Thank you for this blog-post

    This is a topic that has become very much a part of my work-life as a TOEFL specialist, an on-line language coach for business people of all levels of English, as well as in my own development, since words and their usage have always been a great interest of mine.

    I have ultimately come to the conclusion that dictionaries are not what they used to be. I have seen a terrible trend in the way that dictionaries present their information (and maybe it has always been this way.) That trend being that the writers/editors of the dictionary, instead of explaining the actually meaning of the words, will simply explain how they are commonly used. Thus repeating the mistakes of those who may have never actually used a dictionary before and most-likely could not even tell you the actual definition of the words which they use on a daily basis. That, as I see it, has a great deal (if not everything) to do with the way the world is now.

    If a word has more than one definition, the actual meaning of the word in the dictionary will most likely be the last definition given. And the way the word is used (which is most-often in-correct and contra-“dictory” to the actual meaning) will most-likely be the first definition. And of course, people usually only search for the meaning which fits their situation or comprehension whether it is correct or not. Thus repeating the cycles of mistakes. Most people do not actually want to be “correct”, they want to be validated.

    So why is it important to correct these mistakes? Because language is: magic / science / art / chemistry / math / etc.. With it, we construct the realities that each of us experiences. So if two people have a different comprehension of a word, then when one person speaks it to the other, what is meant and what is comprehended are two different things… And aren’t all conflicts due to a lack of clear comprehension? (I do not use the word “understanding” because that word, in particular, is one of the worst [or best, depending on how you view it] examples of all.)

    So… here is the “solution” which works for me in my instruction and in my own learning. I post it not as a way of “tooting my horn”, but because I can imagine that other teachers and students read this blog, and hopefully I can pass on something helpful to both.

    I use the Google dictionary app in my toolbar (on the Chrome browser) only to quickly check a word when I am pretty sure of the meaning and only need to confirm it… it doesn’t always work. I assume that most dictionary apps are of similar quality.

    If I need to explain a word more in-depth, or if I wish to comprehend a word more fully myself, I use wiktionary.com – as a language coach it is open in my browser nearly all of the time. The reason that I love this site is that it not only lists the current common usage, but also the so-called “obsolete” definitions (which usually give a great clue as to why certain words are used as they are.) And to go even deeper – and I think that this is vitally important for teachers / instructors / coaches / and anyone who wishes to make an impact on the world – the page for each word also lists the etymology of the word; something which seems to be ignored far too often and should be the first thing one learns about a word… (my opinion, of course.)

    The only time that I use the Google browser for a word is when I am unsure of the spelling, as the Google dictionary app, and wiktionary.com do not seem to recognize mistakes in spelling.

    Of course this does not tackle the problem of cross-referencing words in other languages, but with a clear comprehension of the word which one is wishing to fully apprehend, I can imagine that the case of un-clear translations is greatly minimized.

    I hope this helps.

    Have An Excellent Day,


    • Thanks so much C James for your very in depth and thorough insight into your experience with this, yes the world is changing and sometimes for the better and sometimes simple things as you mention above are missed out or mis-used.

      And you have an excellent day too!!

      Thanks again.

  3. Currently, I am teaching some advanced students. I did a lesson which showed them some alternate information they weren’t getting from their dictionaries–namely collocations. They then proceeded to show me that android users could download the same collocation dictionary for free–iPhone users had to pay (and there were different prices for different countries….but that’s another story). I am a believer in dictionaries and make my students use them….when I can.

    • Great to hear, I always like the handheld dictionary in class because it also helps the student with alphabetical order skills as well as understanding meaning. At the same time for myself personally I will always go to google for my own words…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s