Do you remember competing with your classmates in school to find a specific word in a gigantic hardback dictionary? Over the years, dictionaries have evolved into many different shapes and forms, and they are undoubtedly still an indispensable companion to every language learner out there.
Bilingual dictionaries help you get the answers that you want when studying a language, which are translations and example sentences in your mother tongue. However, immersing yourself into a monolingual environment and mindset – although scary – is absolutely necessary in order to become fluent. While monolingual dictionaries may be tougher to use at first, they do help you in understanding the whole context in the long run.
Here is a list of free online dictionaries to help you with your language studies.
- WordReference: Offers translations in English, Spanish, French, German, and more. It’s great for looking up single words or common phrases, checking conjugations, and browsing the forums.
- Linguee: Offers translations from English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, and more. It’s great for looking up more specific phrases, as it searches through many bilingual websites to find you real translations of what you need to say. It also comes with a great free app.
- bab.la: There are 28 target languages available from English, which means it’s pretty difficult not to find the one you need. You can also find the most commonly used phrases from the single word that you searched for.
- ProZ.com: A user-contributed database that can help you find that technical term/phrase not yet updated in general dictionaries.
- Wiktionary: You probably know this one already, built and edited by users around the world.
TheFreeDictionary: Challenge yourself to a monolingual dictionary that is available in 15 languages. For English, its flexible search methods may be just what you need when you can only vaguely remember the word that you are looking for.
Larousse: Yes, they also have bilingual dictionaries, but if you are looking for a credible monolingual French dictionary, make sure you give it a shot.
Duden: One for German learners, its stylish design makes the search experience more enjoyable than some of the others out there.
RAE: A monolingual Spanish dictionary from the Real Academia Española.
Multitran: For Russian learners.
Dicio: This is a Portuguese dictionary developed by computer scientists and linguists from Brazil. You will find around 400,000 words in it!
Don’t forget non-dictionary resources that might just do the trick. Learn more about the words or phrases that you want through other means.
Google: While there is a dedicated translation service, some users have noted that by using image searches they were able to make the connection between words and meaning without introducing a second language (more practical for nouns). Try it out and let us know your opinion.
Wikipedia: Abundant information edited by users worldwide. Here you can find detailed history with lots of references.
Choose your own source of information according to your preferences and needs, but make sure not to limit yourself to just one.
Do you have a multilingual dictionary or useful resource not mentioned here? Don’t keep it a secret – send a tweet @Lingvist, or write us in the comment section, so we can add it here and share with the community!