Diccionarios monolingües

Léxico. Enciclopedias. Lexicografía. Tipología. Comparación # Dictionaries. Monolingual. Bilingual

  • Enviado por: Amaya M
  • Idioma: inglés
  • País: España España
  • 8 páginas


This essay will be concerned with the benefit of using monolingual dictionaries when it comes to studing a foreign language. In this case the language is English. In first place we will define the concept of dictionary. Secondly, we will show that various types of dictionaries exist, each of them with a particular application. After this, we will focus our attention on the bilingual and the monolingual dictionaries, commenting the advantages and disadvantages that we can attribute to each one of them. In the same way, we will see the opinions of some authors on the matter. Finally, we will attempt to prove that the monolingual dictionaries in English for the foreign students are very beneficial, because they help to speak and write fluently in English.

There are several definitions of the term “dictionary”. These are very similar. As is shown by John Sinclair (1999: 455), a dictionary is «a book in which the words and phrases of a language are listed alphabetically, together with their meanings or their translation in another language». Likewise, Judy Pearsall (1998: 512) shows that it is «a book that lists the words of a language in alphabetical order and gives their meaning, or that gives the equivalent words in a different language».

As we have pointed out in the introduction, there are various kinds of dictionaries. These can be dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms, where you find words with the same meaning or words that express opposite ideas respectively; slang dictionaries, where the words are colloquial and vulgar; scientific, these are those which are specialized in a subject, such as, for example, computer science, literature, medicine, and so on. Depending on the language, there are three classes of dictionaries. These are multilingual, bilingual and monolingual.

A multilingual dictionary is the one which can translate into several languages. We can find this type of dictionaries in the modern technology of Internet, where there are a large number of pages that offer the possibility of translating individual words or phrases into the desired language and from any language. Among the pages that we can find are www.allwords.com, www.dictionaries.travlang.com, and many other.

The bilingual dictionaries are those that, as their name indicates, are written in two languages, that usually are the mother tongue of the person that looks the word up in the dictionary, and the foreign language that is studied. These are, for example, Spanish-English/ English-Spanish. We could assure that the main advantage of this kind of dictionaries is the fact that they have a section written in the mother tongue. This is of vital importance when it comes to choosing among one of the dictionaries, because it makes the search of the wanted term easier and reduces the time spent on it.

On the other hand, we can ascribe several disadvantages to this kind of dictionaries. Presumably the main disadvantage is the fact that for the same word various translations can appear. This can confuse someone if s/he does not know very well the word s/he is looking for. Another disadvantage, no less important, is that normally it provides directly the translation of the term that it is looked up, but it does not usually give a definition or additional explanation. Here we can give some examples taken from the Collins Compact Diccionary (CCD) and the Oxford Diccionary (OD). If we look up, for example, “warrior” in the CCD we find:

*warrior [´wr*] n guerrero/a (p. 386).

And in the OD:

*warrior /wrjr "´wr(r)/ n guerrero, ra m,f (p. 1720).

Occasionaly the context appears between brackets, where the word means a certain thing. But this context does not usually consist of more than two words and often it usually appears abridged. To illustrate this we can look up in the CCD (1991):

*línea [´linea] nf (gen, moral, POL etc) line; (talle) figure; (INFORM): en ~ on-line; ... (p. 204).

*import vt [m´pt] importar & n [´mpt] (COMM) importa- ción f; (meaning) significado, sentido & cpd (duty, licence etc) de importación (p. 168)

Not always the meaning of the abbreviations is known and it is necessary to look up repeatedly. As a consequence, we can loose too much time. Jonathan Wright writes about bilingual dictionaries in similar terms:

They can also be a cause of confusion, as demands of space result in drastic simplification. It is quite common for even large bilingual dictionaries to give a list of possible translations for verbs such as go, take, or make, with little information about which meaning applies in which context. Or perhaps the suggest a single translation, which can be even more misleading. Sometimes there is no guidance about the pronuntiation of the word, or the grammatical patterns it operates in, and idiomatic expressions may not feature at all. (www.oup.co.uk/elt/magazine/issue_9/article/article.html).

Furthermore, there are those who defend that «if pupils are allowed or encouraged to rely on simple bilingual dictionaries, they will not get the practise they need in understanding explanations of words and expressions in English» (www.oter.hinesna.no/engelsk/ictell/unit3/monolingual.htm).

To summarise, we can take the words of Geoff Thompson (1987: 282), who considers that:

The drawbacks of bilingual dictionaries have often been pointed out: it is said that they reinforce the learner´s tendency to translate from the native language instead of trying to think directly in the foreign language; that they also reinforce the belief in a one-to-one relationship at word level between two languages; that they “have in general failed to describe adequately the syntactic behaviour of words”; that they often base the ordering of meanings on, for example, historical developement rather than on principles such as frequency or wide range of use which are of more help to the learner; and so on.

Let us now turn to those dictionaries known as monolingual dictionaries. These are written only in one language. Jonathan Wright may be correct when he divides this type of dictionaries in two sub-classes: «monolingual dictionary designed for native speakers» and «monolingual dictionaries for foreign students, often called learner´s dictionaries» (www.oup.co.uk/elt/magazine/issue_9/article/article.html). Our interest is centered on the last type, because they are directed at people who study that language. The same as bilingual dictionaries, we can attribute them several advantages and disadvantages.

In this occasion, we are going to begin with the disadvantages, that have been very well setted out by Geoff Thompson (1987: 283): «1 The monolingual dictionary has headwords in the foreign language. 2 The monolingual dictionary defines words in the foreign language». The main problem, as Thompson shows, is that this kind of dictionaries are written only in the foreign language. For this reason, it is said that if the student does not have a good level of English, s/he is not able to find what s/he wants, or, in the case that s/he finds it, s/he does not understand the definition of the term and, therefore, the meaning of this either.

After seeing the disadvantages now we can turn to the advantages. Generally, the words are usually defined with straigtforward terminology. As can be seen in John Sinclair (1999: xviii), «Whenever possible, words are explained using simpler and more common words» and Randolph Quirk (1995: ix),

With every definition expressed within a vocabulary of around two thousand basic and familiar words, all learners -even those with as yet only a modest command of English, can readily understand all the meanings of the many thousands of headwords in the dictionary.

This is exemplified by Sinclair (1999) in the following examples:

*aircraft - An aircraft is a vehicle which can fly, for example an aeroplane or a helicopter. (p. 39)

*formative - A formative period of time or experience is one that has an important and lasting influence on a person´s character and attitudes. (p. 666)

*readily - If you do something readily, you do it in a way which shows that you are very willing to do it. (p. 1368)

*tickle - When you tickle someone, you move your fingers lightly over a sensitive part of their body, often in order to make them laugh. (p. 1749)

Another advantage is that the examples that are given with each term regularly appear in the most common structures, those used in daily life. John Sinclair (1999: xxii) explains that:

The examples given in this dictionary have been carefully chosen to show typical contexts in which the word, is used. (...) This makes the dictionary a valuable resource for both students and teachers, showing how the words have been used in books, newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, and conversation.

Amorey Gethin and Erik V. Gunnemark (1996) are presumably correct when they write that monolingual dictionaries «make students think in the foreign language instead of immediately turning the foreign words into equivalents in their own language». This is thought by Philip Scholfield:

Then there is the familiar argument that learners need to get into the habit of “thinking in the target language”, they will not be efficient comprehenders and users of English if they operate always via an extra step of translating into their first language (www.etni.org.il/monodict.htm).

An advantage, no less significant, is that:

If learners use them regularly, they will become accustomed to understanding explanations in English and, therefore, prepared to understand explanations when given by native English language speakers. (...) It is also reasonable to suppose that learners who are used to using monolingual dictionaries will be better prepared to explain what they mean in English, when they are “stuck for words” (www.oter.hinesna.no/engelsk/ictell/unit3/ dictionaries_for_learners.htm).

In similar fashion, we can agree with Randall Martin when he writes that the monolingual dictionaries help the students to improve their way of writing in English (www.iteslj.org/Articles/Martin_Dictionaries.html).

To conclude, we can assure, according to the information offered, that the use of the monolingual dictionaries is of great help when someone wants to study a language, which is not the mother tongue, because they help us to write better English with common structures, to express oneself property thinking directly in English, to understand explanations in English and to speak fluently in this language. Consequently, a greater use of these dictionaries should be promoted, so that the student comes into contact with English from the first page.