Cats and Dogs - a blog for English learners

Occasional tips and tricks to help you learn more than the useless phrase "it's raining cats and dogs", brought to you by Craig Meulen, an English teacher in Germany. (Blog discontinued.)

September 21, 2008

A wonderful talk about dictionaries

As language learners, you need your dictionaries. With today's blog post I want to inspire you to use your dictionary in a much better way. So here is a question:

Is your dictionary like a police officer? Do you just want it to tell you if words are 'right or wrong'?

In fact, a language is a very human thing and humans are not 'black and white'. There are no absolutely 'wrong' words - there are words that you use in the wrong place, perhaps. But these words might be 'right' in another situation or if you are talking to another person - CONTEXT is the key. A good dictionary should help you find more words that are similar to the one you look up. So you can use the best word for your context.

This morning I watched a talk from the TED series - this is a great series of talks from experts in many fields.

The talk was from a woman who is one of the editors of a top American dictionary. She says she is not a 'traffic cop' - directing the bad words out of the dictionary. She is more like a 'fisherwoman' - fishing in the huge ocean of words to find the ones she hasn't seen yet.

I have linked the talk below. If she talks too fast for you and you can't understand everything, then go to this page and you will find the transcript of the talk. Print it out and then you can read it while you are listening.



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