It is pretty clear that students no longer need to carry around a large and heavy paper dictionary anymore. There are many great dictionary apps that learners with a smartphone can download. These are convenient for looking up words and for building vocabulary. Many of the paid apps have special features to help students learn. Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary Fourth Edition ($25.99) and Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary ($14.99) are good examples. They have a free try before you buy where you can check the full word-list and 50 sample entries from each dictionary before you buy, but I feel they a little too expensive.
However, there are many dictionary apps out there that are free. Here are my top three smartphone dictionary apps. I have chosen them because they are free, all slightly different, and if a learner has these three on their phone, they should never need to consult a paper dictionary for any word they come across.
The first is Dictionary.com Dictionary & Thesaurus. The site has been optimized for the iPhone, iPad, Apple watch, and Android. They claim to have more than 2 million definitions and synonyms. It has some great features too. There is a Word of the Day feature. Learners can also listen to audio pronunciations. In addition, it has a voice search function and a translator that can translate into more than 25 languages. There is an English spelling help feature and search history so learners can customize their recently searched word list. I also like how this can work offline and learners can access definitions whenever they need them. It’s well worth recommending to your learners.
Urban Dictionary is a useful compliment to Dictionary.com. It does have definitions for regular words, but it is most useful for looking up slang or words and phrases that might not appear in a regular dictionary. It is probably more suited to higher level learners, or learners who are going to study or work abroad. Urban Dictionary has been created by users and it contains some rude words and swear words so it’s certainly not for everyone. Users can perform unlimited searches for free, and vote for definitions they like. Definitely worth recommending to more advanced adult learners.
Although not strictly a dictionary, Google Translate is a really useful app. I know many teachers are not keen on their learners using an online translator, but the functions of this app are pretty cool. First, it can translate between 103 languages when you type the text. It can also translate 52 languages when you are offline. What I really like is how you can use your camera to translate text straight away. This can translate between 29 different languages. In the camera mode, you can take pictures of text for translation in 32 languages. Google Translate also supports voice-to-text. They call it conversation mode and it is an instant two-way speech translation in 32 languages. Again, I think it is an app that would benefit any student with a smartphone.
I hope this was useful. Please get in touch if you know any other cool dictionary apps.