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Dictionaries are certainly one of the most heavily used online tools.  Most simply head to old-fashioned WordReference.com or something similar.  There may, however, be better options.

  • In the Arthur Vining Davis classroom (room 209 in Bosler), Babylon is probably you’re best option.  Use the scroller on the mouse to click on any word, and the English definition along with any conjugation will pop-up.  Alternatively, you can click on the bubbly blue B in the task bar and enter a word.
  • The WordChamp web reader is a great option for students reading online.  Choose the language of the web page, enter the url in the text box, and press the read button.  The web reader will then scan the page and look up each word in a dictionary.  Touch any word with the mouse and the definition will appear.  If you create an account on their site, you can save words and test yourself later.
  • Google may be the world’s best dictionary if used properly.  First, there is the official function.  Go to the localized version of Google for the language (ex. www.google.de) and enter define:komisch.  It will return a German definition with the option to see an English translation by clicking the link “Englisch” at the bottom of the page.  The real power of Google, however, comes with its less formal use.  We can search Google pages located in Germany for a certain phrase by including the phrase in quotes followed by site:de.  This is useful for students when they’re unsure of their word choice or an idiomatic phrase.  Correct phrases will appear thousands of times in reputable sources.  Poorly translated idiomatic phrases and incorrect usage will have a very few number of hits on much less recognized sites.  For example, if we go to www.google.de and enter “so schwer wie Eisen” site:.de (as hard as iron), we’ll see we only have 5000 hits.  The examples from German sites only occur when the writer is actually comparing metals or compounds that are in fact “as hard as iron”.  On the other hand Hals über Kopf” site:.de (literally ‘throat over head’, it means ‘in a big rush’) returns 130,000 in a context you would expect.  The same method could be use to check to see if accusative or dative is used with a certain preposition, common word order, etc.

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