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Unread Dec 7th, 2007, 11:27 pm
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Default Re: Electronic Dictionaries in ESL/EFL Learning

Using Dictionaries to find out meaning do have valid weaknesses. I teach Koreans and their dictionaries often do not give the exact definition the student needs. Not only that, I noticed that the definition does not fit the part of speech the word presents. The word "confuse," it is a can be a verb or an adjective -in past participle form-, but the dictionary will only define it as a verb; as a result students get a general idea what the word is about, but they don't know exactly its meaning according to the part of speech it is playing. As a result when my students are confused, they say, " I am confusing," instead of saying "I am confused."

But still using dictionaries to check for definitions is still the best option for me, at least at the beginning. Some words like justice, mercy, accuse universe, flood, can hardly be defined by word collocations, and word maps alone. This is especially true for beginner and intermediate students.

I believe it would be better to give a vague meaning of a word by the use of a dictionary, rather than frustrating my student with numerous efforts which won't make sense to him at all. Remember that beginner students, especially kids, do not associate words as fast and as logical as adults do. Even adults get frustrated and give up when a teacher defines a word to them with words they also don't understand.

By using a dictionary, the student and I can at least agree on the same general definition; then I will start using word collocations, and word maps to give a clearer and more distinct definition of the word.

Dictionaries are the first step to encourage students to understand words; while word defining techniques of the teacher add to the definition given by the dictionary.
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