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When studying a new language, a dictionary is an essential tool that can help you build your vocabulary and easily translate new words and phrases as you come across them. These days there are lots of online dictionaries and dictionary apps which are incredibly convenient and come with many more resources than their book equivalents, but with so many options out there, it can be hard to choose the right one for you.
This article is ES Dubai’s guide to the four best online dictionaries to help you in your learning journey.
Word Reference is a fantastic resource. Created in 1999, the site has now grown to become one of the most used online dictionaries. It allows translation into English from over 19 common languages and features some of the most in-demand language pairs, such as English-Spanish, English-French, English-Chinese, English-Arabic, English-Russian and English-Japanese.
The dictionary offers translations of words, phrases, idioms and commonly used expressions but perhaps the best feature of Word Reference is its publicly accessible forums where users can ask questions about vocabulary and grammar and get advice from native speakers of both source and target languages. This gives vital context to new words and helps you to learn how you can use them and how you can put them into grammatically correct sentences.
Word reference does a good job of keeping advertising on its site to a minimum, but if you are a frequent user with over 1000 searches per month, you may be asked to pay a small fee of $20 USD per year. This ensures that you get faster page loads and no ads.
Macmillan dictionary is a free online dictionary with over 200 million words collected from written and spoken sources. It provides definitions, meanings, pronunciations, synonyms, collocations and idioms with up-to-date information on how the vocabulary is used in today’s English.
As well as games, quizzes and other helpful resources for teachers and students, one of the things that many students find most useful about Macmillan is that it displays the phonetic of the searched word. This really helps you learn to pronounce new words correctly at times when a teacher isn’t around to help.
The Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary is based on research from the Cambridge English Corpus (a database of over 2 billion words) and as such, is ideal for students planning to take the Cambridge Exams or IELTS. It has all the vocabulary that English learners need for the CEFR levels A2-B2, and students can hear the words spoken in both British and American English.
The dictionary offers clear and easy-to-understand definitions with audio pronunciations and thousands of example sentences to give more context to new words. There is also a thesaurus function that allows you to look up thousands of synonyms and antonyms quickly and a large library of articles that explain in greater detail the differences between words and phrases.
While most online dictionaries provide translations for formal and standard language, sometimes you’ll hear slang words and phrases used by native speakers that some online dictionaries just don’t provide a good translation for. This is where Urban Dictionary comes in.
It’s a dictionary of slang, cultural words, and phrases not typically found in standard English dictionaries or English study books. However, this type of language is used every day by native speakers, so to improve your comprehension and fluency, it’s important to understand it.
The dictionary provides multiple definitions and usage examples of words and phrases, and this really helps to understand not just the meaning of the words but also the contexts they are used in and by which types of people and groups. Overall, this is a unique dictionary that definitely provides something that other dictionaries don’t.
So, there you have it. These are the best online dictionaries we recommend for ESL students studying at any English language school. All of them are great resources that will help you learn English and perfect your communication skills from the convenience of your laptop or mobile phone. Download one now!
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