The Advent of the Semi-Bilingual
Historically, the monolingual learner's
dictionary was the outcome of the Direct Method in foreign language
teaching. This meant total immersion in the target language without
the use of the mother tongue, i.e. without any translation.
Given the fact that learners do not
have an extensive vocabulary in the target language, learner's
dictionaries employ a limited, basic vocabulary (usually 2,000-3,000
words) in order to explain meanings and to give example sentences
or phrases showing how the word is normally used. Some learner's
dictionaries also point out particular problems pertaining to
the grammatical use of a word, its spelling, or its pronunciation.
While many professionals recognize the
superiority of the Direct Method over the Indirect or Translation
Method, they have also observed that monolingual dictionaries
are not frequently used by learners.
Apparently bilingual dictionaries remain the choice of most learners
(if given a choice) despite their drawbacks, such as misleading
It is now acknowledged that the vital element in the acquisition
of a new language is associated with one's native tongue. Thus,
the semi-bilingual dictionary was a natural progression in dictionary
development. It contains the advantages of the monolingual learner's
dictionary, combined with the native tongue translation found
in the bilingual dictionary. The ambiguity of the bilingual dictionary
is thus automatically eliminated. Learners are encouraged to
read the definitions and examples of usage in English, since
only the headwords are translated.
Eight years after its first appearance, it is clear that the
semi-bilingual dictionary was indeed a step in the right direction.
Bi-directional adaptationsSemi-bilingual dictionaries
can be made bi-directional by having the computer retrieve all
the translations, arrange them alphabetically and provide their
English equivalents. The list must then be edited to exclude
those translations which are not suitable as dictionary entries.
The remaining list does not contain all the headwords one would
normally find in a dictionary, since the translators do not necessarily
make use of all the words in their translations. Therefore, some
headwords must be added. Otherwise, the resulting list would
be merely an index of the translated words, which could have
important words missing.
Such indexes, however, have been included by publishers of the
Bulgarian, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Slovenian editions, with several more currently in preparation.
It should be taken into account that the addition of an index
increases the size of the dictionary by about one sixth.
British vs. local settingsThe English-English core
of Password dictionaries is British oriented. But it is possible
to make changes in the basic dictionary text, in order to make
it suited to other geographical or cultural areas.
Publishers may delete certain words, expressions, definitions
or examples which they find are unnecessary for users in their
countries, or which are culturally unsuitable for their target
populations. On the other hand, it is also possible to add material
to suit local requirements, as was done in the case of the Finnish, French and Hebrew editions.
WorkbooksAn important feature of
the semi-bilingual dictionary is its simplicity of design and
format which eliminates the need to explain how to use it. Nevertheless,
some publishers have prepared additional material for teachers
and/or pupils, which provides extra classroom or home practice
in dictionary skills.
Workbooks or worksheets were produced for the French, Hebrew and Spanish editions, and are provided free of charge.
From the publisher's viewpoint, this is a good way to promote
sales in schools.
Semi-trilingualismAlthough English has become
the de facto international language taught at most schools, many
countries have their own second or minority language. In Israel,
for example, Russian is used by recent immigrants from the former
Soviet Union, and thus last year Kernerman Publishing issued
a Russian version of its semi-bilingual Hebrew elementary edition:
Elementary Dictionary English-English-Hebrew-Russian.
Tri-lingualism is an important issue in former Soviet republics,
whose inhabitants are at times more fluent in Russian than in
their national languages. The issue is also of major concern
in Francophone Africa, where a native tongue is spoken at home,
French (the official language) at school or work, and English
is used as a means of communication with the world at large.
Situations of this sort exist in many countries with multilingual
K Dictionaries Ltd
10 Nahum Street, Tel Aviv 63503 Israel
tel: 972-3-5468102 fax: 972-3-5468103