For learners of a foreign language, developing vocabulary and using words correctly are absolutely necessary if one is to gain mastery of the target language. Therefore, the method of learning a new word is very important. One day, while I was explaining a new vocabulary to my students using English language as usual; one of them who always like discussing with me said: “Please teacher get rid of using English to explain new words. English-Arabic dictionary will help us to know the meaning of the word directly. Why do you make all these efforts to explain one single word? Now we have electronic English–Arabic dictionary that gives the meaning in seconds”.
In order to stress the importance learning a language in the language itself, I started discussing with him and his classmates how using an English-English Dictionary to learn new vocabulary will help. In this regard, I mentioned to them some benefits of using an English-English Dictionary:
First of all, looking for words in dictionaries needs effort; so when you make effort to look for any English word, that will make you almost not forget. This is not the case with Electronic dictionary which will gives you the meaning of words in seconds and you might forget it very easily, because as the saying goes: “easy to come, easy to go”.
Secondly, it helps students to stop translating and thinking in their mothers’ tongue. Actually, it will make them think in English.
Thirdly, if students keep using multilingual dictionary such as English-Arabic Dictionary, at the end of the day, they will have for each Arabic word many English words with the same meaning. But they may not know how to use them appropriately. But if they use English–English Dictionary, this will help them to understand how to use the new words in a correctly.
Fourthly, when students look for the definition of new words, they will learn many things as following
a) Students can learn how to pronounce words.
b) They will learn the exact definition of the word.
c) They will know how to classify this word grammatically.
d) Each word in a dictionary has a sentence as an example for how to use this word in daily life situations.
At the end of discussion one of students asks me: “How can we deal with the situation if we don’t know the meaning of the words which describe the given word?”
I ask them to give me enough time to look for a solution .When I browsed the web site called (Using English), I found a person called Alex Case who is a teacher and teacher trainer in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, Italy, the UK and now Japan. He has also published English teaching books, articles .
He tried to answer the question my students asked in one of his article. He said: ” Many students are worried that when they look for one difficult English word in the dictionary, they will just find it explained with another difficult word they also don’t know .This will rarely happen with the right dictionary and if this happens all the time you should probably be using an easier one such as an Elementary Learners’ Dictionary “.
Any comments will be received gratefully.