Paper Dictionary vs. Online Translator

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Should I buy a paper dictionary or can I use an online translator?

Paper Dictionary vs. Online Translator

Online dictionaries and translators can be helpful on a word by word translation basis. However, it is vital that you actually know how to use and read a dictionary properly, thus ascertaining if you're getting the right word for what you look up. (This is true for print dictionaries as well.) The biggest problem with online dictionaries and translators is that people plug in sentences or even whole paragraphs and get a word for word translation completely out of context. A favorite example of mine is when a student once tried to translate the sentence "I can fly." into Spanish. The translation came back "yo lata mosca." Which means: the word I, the word for a tin can, and the word for "fly" the insect. "I tin-can small insect with wings." Classic. It is imperative when using any dictionary to take note of what part of speech you are looking up. N. means noun. Adj. means adjective. V. means verb. Adv. means adverb. Etc. Otherwise, you end up with nonsense. So, take whatever any dictionary gives you with a grain of salt. And also, never forget context, use, and idiomatic expressions. Idiomatic expressions (ex: It's raining cats and dogs) rarely translate directly into another language. Some dictionaries, however, have a "phrase book" which can be useful for looking up those kinds of expressions.



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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.