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Longman Wordwise Dictionary

An excellent dictionary for language learners that gives support for visual-oriented learners and those looking for focused vocabulary learning.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Jennie Roloff

Are you looking for a dictionary to recommend to your students that is easy to use, colorful and not off-putting to intermediate level learners? Look no further than the Longman Wordwise dictionary. The 2nd edition of the Longman Wordwise dictionary contains 38,000 words defined in simple, accessible English and highlights the 2000 most common words in the English language for easy identification and reference. Colorful, engaging pictures are used judiciously and effectively while showing words clearly, avoiding confusion by drawing lines to different parts of images.

The format of the dictionary allows students to focus on words that occur with great frequency rather than learning as many as possible. The Wordwise 2000 are highlighted in red, and blue text identifies related phrases. This focus ensures that student can have more exposure to the words they need to know. Entries may also include example sentences, key patterns, spelling, and thesaurus or grammar notes in blue boxes that stand out easily and provide support for the learner. Another feature that some words have is a box called “word choice” which is attached to words that are easily confused with others. It provides pointers on the distinctions and how to avoid confusing them. Perhaps the strongest point of the format, though, is the definitions themselves, which are very easy to understand. Even with English as my first language, I find this to be the most accessible dictionary I have ever used.

The dictionary is also chock full of other content that will benefit language learners. One such item is a small picture dictionary of words in categories, such as verbs of movement, fruits and vegetables, sounds, or verbs in the kitchen. What I really like about this part is that the words in the picture dictionary are those that tend to get overlooked in your typical vocabulary book or oral communication class, yet are high usage. For example, kitchen verbs or sounds are things that may be culturally relevant, but also not taught because they’re seen as “common knowledge.” The study pages cover a wide variety of material such as letter writing, telling time or taking messages; but also provide support for common issues like proper word choice or prepositions. The use of color and layout in these sections are very pleasing to the eye. There are maps of the U.S. and the U.K. which are, of course, useful (and it’s a dictionary, not an encyclopedia) but my feeling is that a greater variety of maps is needed to highlight the whole world of English speaking countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada or even India.

The CD-ROM included has a digital version of the paper dictionary as well a thorough picture dictionary, which is excellent and easy to use. In addition, there are Language Trainer activities that allow students to focus on weak points (for example, practicing spelling difficult words with “e” or “a”) and Memory Games, which come in a wide variety and will suit all learner styles. There is also a section that helps students prep for the Cambridge Preliminary English Test (PET) and Key English Test (KET). While less directly applicable to the Japanese context, for those choosing to study in England it is highly relevant and probably could be of value to those preparing for TOEIC or TOEFL. Instructions and labeling on the CD-ROM program are very simple and easy to understand, so even a newer learner would be able to navigate it without difficulty. For a motivated student, this is an invaluable resource for learning independently. As an added bonus, for teachers who may use this for private tutoring or in their classrooms, the CD includes vocabulary quizzes and worksheets in the Teacher’s Corner.

The only drawback I see here for this resource is the sheer amount of information. It would be extremely useful for an intermediate learner and even advanced ones. However, to a true novice learner, I believe much of it would be utterly overwhelming, so I would not recommend this to someone until they have the basic ability to use it to its full functionality. It is, despite this, a great book to have on hand and it is sure to become the first dictionary I go to for definitions and also checking the frequency of the vocabulary I use in my classes.

Reviewed by Jennie Roloff for TEFL.NET November 2009
Jennie Roloff received her BA in International Affairs from The George Washington University and her Masters in TESOL at Teachers College Columbia University Japan (TC Japan). She is currently an instructor at Kanda University of International Studies, located in Chiba, Japan, and co-manager of the TC Japan Writing Center.

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