Saturday, January 14, 2006

E-Dictionaries - why they should be melted down and used as door stops

The one thing that I really hate about teaching English is those little electronic dictionaries. All of our students, you see, have these nifty little electronic dictionaries that they are all completely addicted to. It's a nasty little habit that means many of them can't sit through an entire lesson without tappity-tapping the little gizmos. But that sounds great you say! If they don't know what a word means, they look it up, how keen you say!

Well, it's not. It sucks. Firstly, the quality of the language and meanings that they are looking up is dubious at best. Secondly, the meaning of a word is often totally dependent on the context in which it is used. And thirdly, they don't need to look up every other damn word - they should be learning to infer the meaning from the context. Reading in a second language is like riding a bike. If you keep stopping the reading process every 2 seconds to look things up, you get the wobbles and fall off the damn bike.

Don't get me wrong - sometimes e-dictionaries are helpful - like the word sawmill for instance. They all know what a sawmill is, they just don't know the english word for it so an e-dictionary will probably provide an adequate explanation. But try looking up "gold fever" - it won't be there. So they look up gold - that's simple. They look up fever - that's simple. But they are nowhere near understanding what "gold fever" means.

Now I just tell them to put the damn things back in the bags and ask if they don't know what something means. At least we have decent English/English dictionaries to refer to.


Anonymous The Fat Bald Married Guy said...

Well, LG, Aussie friend of the Boogersphere, it sound to me as if you need to also teach them when to use and when NOT to use it. Your point is an excellent point and one that should be put across to them. It's YOUR course, so teach it girl!

2:27 am  

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