Why Google is the best dictionary for language learning
Learning a foreign language requires a lot of time, effort and dedication. It also requires committing a lot to memory, including grammatical structures, vocabulary and new concepts.
In 5 hacks to reading better in a foreign language the importance of reading while learning a second language was emphasized. One of the key factors here was learning new vocabulary, which of course will inevitably involve the use of a dictionary.
You may have your own paper dictionary or an online dictionary you prefer. But if you’re at a loss as to which dictionary to use, in this post we’d like to explain to you why we think Google is one of the best go-to resources for language learners.
Google Translate: Statistical probability
Launched back in April 2006, Google Translate was initially created as a Statistical Machine Translation service. This meant it worked on the basis of statistical probability. So if a word was more often than not translated one way, then it would suggest this translation.
That doesn’t mean it was always right! For example, the Spanish word ‘carrera’ is often mistranslated, by humans, as ‘career’, when in fact the better translation is ‘university study’ or ‘course’.
This gave Google Translate a bit of a bad rep at first. But since its early days, the bank of entries has grown exponentially. This means it can now be used as a large database for at least getting a good idea of what a word means.
This is why when you translate a word you get several options. Next to those options you see small grey bars. These represent the statistical probability of the translation being correct. The larger the bar, the higher the chance. That said, as we all know, context plays a very important role, so the more popular translation might not be the right one.
That said, this means you get a very quick overview of all possible translations. What’s more, it’s an app and available online, so access is nice, quick and easy – just what you need when learning a second language!
Google Translate: Defining the meaning
Another great element to Google Translate are the additions that are provided on top of the translation. These include definitions as well as pronunciation.
Staying with the example of ’emphasize’ above, clicking on the initial translation of ‘enfatizar’, you get a list of difference possible translations. Under the English word, there is a definition provided and on the Spanish side, there is the sound button, which lets you hear how the word is pronounced.
Now, while Google might not say the word like a native speaker, it will certainly give you a good idea of how to pronounce it!
Having clicked on ‘recalcar’, what you now see is a definition in Spanish. For lower level learners, this will be a bit challenging, but for higher level learners this is an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with the definition of this word through the language itself!
Google Image: Visualizing a concept
Google Translate is particularly useful when trying to come to grips with more obscure meanings. Words like ‘enjoy’, ‘experience’ and ‘think’ are difficult to visualize, so a translation is often the best way to figure out what they mean.
That said, there are many words which represent concepts. These can be visualized. This includes words like ‘car’, ‘desk’ and ‘pot’.
When you’re reading a text in a second language, like Spanish, and you come across a word like ‘cucharilla’, head to Google Image and see what you get. In this case, it should see something like this:
This makes it nice and clear that ‘cucharilla’ is obviously ‘spoon’ in Spanish.
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A polyglot and international traveller. Anthony speaks 6 languages and loves sharing his passion of language learning through his writing.
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