Kernerman Dictionary News • Number 2 • January 1995


Ilan Kernerman

A number of articles on bilingualised dictionaries appeared in various publications last year. Also, there are plans by publishers to bilingualise existing monolingual EFL dictionaries. Thus, in view of the rising attention towards this genre it was decided to broaden the scope of our newsletter to the wider domain of learner's dictionaries, retitle it, and devote this issue to some of the recent research in bilingualised dictionaries.

First, there was the paper presented by Batya Laufer and Linor Melamed at the EURALEX 1994 Congress in Amsterdam, and published in its Proceedings: Monolingual, Bilingual and 'Bilingualised' Dictionaries: Which are More Effective, for What and for Whom? It compares the effectiveness of these three types of dictionaries in the comprehension and production of new words by EFL learners, as tested on 123 high-school and university students in Israel. "The practical conclusion of the study seems to be that a good 'bilingualised' dictionary is suitable for all types of learners. When the learner is still unskilled in dictionary use, s/he may rely on the bilingual information. With progress in these skills, the monolingual information will gain relevance and importance... Even when the monolingual part of the entry is used to its full potential ... the translation will always be helpful in reassuring and reinforcing the learner's decisions about the meaning [and use] of new words...".

Another paper, Translated! A new breed of bilingual dictionaries, by Mona Baker and Robert Kaplan in the International Journal of Translation babel (40: 1), describes the ongoing bilingualisation program of Collins Cobuild dictionaries. Called bridge bilinguals, their main feature is that the explanations of the monolingual English learner's dictionary are translated into the user's native-tongue. Under preparation are versions for speakers of Brazilian-Portuguese, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Without entering into the debate about the merits of this particular feature, on the whole, it appears that the rationale for inserting L1 translations is being increasingly adopted by educators, lexicographers and publishers of learner's dictionaries worldwide.

Two recent papers by Reinhard Hartmann enhance his studious research on the subject. Bilingualised versions of learners' dictionaries appeared in Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen (FLuL 23), published by Gunter Narr Verlag in Tubingen. It discusses the bilingualised learner's dictionary in terms of four divisions of dictionary research (history, typology, criticism, and use) and in the light of a project carried out at the University of Exeter. The project involved a reading comprehension task that assessed the reaction of 28 informants to seven bilingualised dictionaries intended for Arabic, French, German, Greek, Korean and Spanish learners of English. The paper concludes that combining L2 definitions and L1 translation equivalents is an attractive feature of such dictionaries, especially for decoding activities.

Dr Hartmann's other paper, The Bilingualised Learner's Dictionary (A Transcontinental Trialogue on a Relatively New Genre), was published by the Language Centre of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Division of Foreign Languages of Jilin University of Technology, and presents an entertaining and illuminating discussion on the topic.
Finally, the paper by Kyohei Nakamoto – that was originally published by Iwasaki Linguistic Circle in its annual periodical LEXICON, and which follows here nearly in its entirety. I wish to express our acknowledgement and gratitude to Mr Nakamoto and to the ILC Chairman, Professor Shigeru Takebayashi, for granting us permission to reprint it.

This paper is supplemented by a brief response from Joseph Reif. I hope our work contributes to generating further discussion on learner's dictionaries.

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