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Bilingual Dictionaries 
Published 2006/3/17
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A bilingual dictionary as the name suggests is a dictionary that uses two languages. Each of the entries or words has a corresponding translated entry in the second language. For example in an English-Hindi dictionary, the word phone would have a corresponding Hindi word, doorbhash. A bilingual dictionary that uses a language (apart from English) which non-roman script can be sorted either in the native order of alphabets in that language or in the Roman alphabetical order. Bilingual dictionaries are generally useful for translation, since the basic usage of the dictionary is for the purpose of translation. These dictionaries are either mono or bi directional. A mono directional bilingual dictionary translates from language A to language B, whereas a bi directional dictionary does vice-versa also. A bi directional dictionary is divided into two parts, each part containing word of one language.

Bilingual dictionaries suffer from multiple meaning confusions. For example in English the word “Ticket” might mean a ticket to a movie, a ticket for a ride on the bus or a ticket for traffic violations and conversely in other languages these meanings might be denoted by different words. This generally results in multiple entries for a single word in either direction of a bilingual dictionary. Bilingual dictionaries are available in various different formats viz. Electronic, printed, online and phrase books. Electronic dictionaries are available in form of CD’s that can run on a computer whereas printed dictionaries are the standard age old classic hard bound book versions. Online bilingual dictionaries are available on the internet for ready reference, some are free and the others can be used with a subscription. Phrase books are not dictionaries in the real sense but useful in translation work to look up a group of words.

Usage of Bilingual Dictionaries

When using a bilingual dictionary it is very important to do reverse lookups i.e. look up a word in language A - language B and again look it up in language B – language A section. This will help in accurately identify the words that you are looking for.

How to buy a Bilingual Dictionary

Irrespective of what dictionary you buy, the following three points should be given the prime importance:

Organization of the dictionary: How does the dictionary list irregular verbs? How are the entries organized? How does it list plural forms?

Reverse Lookup: Once you have looked up a word in the language A - language B section, look it up in the language B – language A section to avoid misunderstanding, using clues to the different senses of the word contained in the dictionary.

Never overuse the dictionary: When you are trying to understand something, look up the words only if you cannot guess them. When you are expressing vocally or write try to express the idea in a way by using the vocabulary you already know prior to looking up a word or expression. Puritan guilt culture may have habitualised you to look up all the words you are unsure of whereas you should feel guilty if you look up everything, because in the process you will learn lesser and lose sight of the bigger picture. Learning a language becomes a chore instead of pleasure in this case.

Size: Big dictionaries are more comprehensive, but less likely to be used, since they become a nuisance to carry around so that you may use it in times of need. The first dictionary you get ideally should be a paperback in the $10-$15 range, with about 100,000 entries. Later, when you can afford, you can buy a bigger dictionary to keep at home


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