Longman Business English Dictionary
Linguists and ESL teachers may remember the first decade of the 21st century as the period when dictionaries began to realize their tremendous potential to be both essential reference works and practical teaching tools. The ability of computers to track linguistic patterns, advances in printing technologies, the creation of a sufficient education market, and the emergence of Global English have generated an explosion in first-rate modern dictionaries for English teachers and students. For instance, the latest edition of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3,888 pages in two volumes) recently made headlines by advocating the elimination of hyphens in 18,000 words based on corpus research documenting the actual usage of words on the internet, blogs, and international English publications.
The same innovative research methods have allowed the editors at Longman Dictionary to produce an innovative line of quality niche reference works. The Longman Business English Dictionary, published in 2007, targets the practical language needs of business professionals and MBA students in an engaging yet authoritative manner. This 593-page dictionary, with vocabulary words printed in bright blue ink and definitions in black ink, allows users to quickly scan pages in an efficient manner. The clean layout and logical organization, including a rating of the top 3 thousand words in modern usage, encourages the reader to browse. The $39.95 book also includes a CD-rom so owners can easily access the content on their laptops while leaving the heavy reference book at home.
Designed to help readers easily find words, this modern dictionary uses a “nesting” technique to group a family of words that have a common word together. As the editors explain, “There are, for example, many different types of shares: advancing shares, capital shares, fully paid shares, split shares, etc. “Share” has an entry at its alphabetical place and all the different compound words referring to different types of share are ordered within that main entry.” The technique also creates a primer on the subject of “shares”, saving users time and adding greater nuance and clarity.
The editors have also included both British and American spellings, reflecting the needs of business professionals working around the globe. It also sidesteps an old and pointless debate as an estimated 700 million speakers of English as a second language conduct business in “global English.” Words are marked BrE for British English and AmE for American English. The inclusion of definitions from business publications such as The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist also adds value for MBA students and business managers.
Other impressive features include the listings of meanings by frequency for business professionals, numerous cross-references, and the capitalization of synonyms adds to the dictionary’s considerable practicality for ESL students. Further, the effective use of color for “Word Focus” boxes provides valuable background information. Likewise, the dictionary puts collocations – words that often go together – in bold highlight- “Clean out” and “Clean up” can clearly be seen under the word Clean.
Avoiding the “good mistake” of excessive prescription at the cost of openness to novel expressions from advertising and popular culture, this modern dictionary documents usage patterns and explains current jargon in the modern business world. Take the word “headhunt”. This word is a common expression in corporate lingo, an everyday idiom, and a confusing, often vague word with unclear definition borders. The Longman Business English Dictionary writes “human resources to find a manager with the right skills and experience to do a particular job, often by persuading a suitable person to leave their present job.” Better yet, it also include three sample sentences using “headhunted”, “headhunter” and “headhunting” from the Longman Corpus Network.
Students can also find “Headline”, which is a close, yet slightly different word with vastly different meanings nearby. On that same page, readers will find concise, clear, and memorable definitions for “head”, “headcount”, “headed”, “header”, “headquarters” and “head tax.”
These focused definitions also clarify subtle distinctions for English Language learners that should help them write more accurate and compelling research papers – for school or on the job. The inclusion of words like “hinterland”, “sunset industry”, and “take-or-pay” might also be helpful for people in marketing, living overseas, or developing promotional materials for international target audiences. Unfortunately, the word “subprime” did not appear in the dictionary.
Finally, the inclusion of a 34-page business resources section with sample letters, focused exercises for BEC and BULATS exams, and answer key makes this specialized dictionary almost perfect for students facing standardized professional exams. Some features, however, seem a bit out of place for the target audience, such as the illustration on p.399 at a dry cleaner’s. If a student doesn't know what a “cash register” or “bar code” is, they should save their money and buy a picture dictionary.
Although this business dictionary will probably appeal more to undergraduate students and MBA students, this practical reference work deserves space on the shelves of working business professionals with lingering doubts about their command of English. Many non-business English speakers could also benefit this fine modern dictionary.
Given the rapid changes in communication technologies, popular expressions, and advertising slogans, it might seem problematic to produce a niche dictionary for busy entrepreneurs importing and exporting consumer goods, investors trading stocks over the internet, and MBA students planning new companies. After all, quick marketplace changes can easily date many consumer products as old-fashioned and obsolete. That’s a clear danger that faces this current Longman Business English Dictionary. Perhaps the publishers will have to re-issue a new business dictionary every 3 years.
Yet, for the moment, the Longman Business English Dictionary stands out as an exceptional niche dictionary of considerable value. Entrepreneurs, business students, and salespeople working in English as a second, third, fourth, or fifth language will benefit from adding the Longman Business English Dictionary to their bookshelves and installing the CD-rom. Therefore, language schools and libraries serving those individuals should seriously consider adding LBD to their collections. EFL teachers and Business English tutors can add it to their recommended lists with enthusiasm.
Eric H. Roth teaches ESL and writing composition at the University of Southern California, has taught advanced writing courses in the USC Marshall School of Business, and is co-author of Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics- An Engaging ESL Textbook for Advanced Students.