Monday, April 16, 2012

Don’t forget the app: Dictionary

Have you ever been snuggled in your bed reading a book—you know, the traditional kind made out of paper—and all of a sudden there was a word you didn’t know? And your dictionary is in another room and you’re just too comfortable to get up?

If you’re like me, you try to guess what the word must mean based on the context of the sentence, but still you’re not sure. And unless you have a piece of paper handy to write it down, you don’t remember it later so that you can look it up.

Webster's Dictionary copyright 1968
Or maybe you’re comfy on the sofa watching some TV, and you hear a word that you don’t know. But again, your dictionary is in another room. Or if your dictionary is old like mine, it may not even have the word you want to look up.

Maybe you don’t even have a physical dictionary anymore, and your computer is out of reach so you just let it go. And you never really know for sure what that person was talking about.

"Blog" didn't exist in this old dictionary
I bet your smart phone is on your nightstand while you are lying there reading or it’s on the sofa next to you while you are watching TV. Well, I have a solution for you. Download a dictionary app to your smart phone.

I’m sure there is more than one dictionary app that will work fine, but the free one that I use is by Merriam-Webster. This one has a special feature that is particularly nice—voice search. Now my android phone comes with voice search and it is literally the best feature there is on my phone, but this is incorporated into the app and it really works.

Merriam-Webster App
All you have to do is press the little microphone icon, speak the word into the phone, and voila it will return the word to you. But what if you’re reading a book and you have no idea how to pronounce it? Just wing it and chances are it will figure it out. I’ve had very good success with this. Sometimes it may return more than one word, and all you have to do then is click on the correct one.

If it doesn’t find the correct one, you can always type the word in, but I have only had to do that once so far. And once you find the word, you can click on the speaker icon next to the word and have it pronounce it for you.

The app tells us that blog was first used in 1999
When you find words that you like and want to be able to easily find again, you can star them so they are added to the favorites tab. I’ve done that a couple of times in case I do want to try to incorporate one of those unusual words into a sentence at some point.

And there is a tab for recently searched words just in case you looked up a word and want to look at the definition again. That’s a nice feature.

If you want to expand your vocabulary, you can also use the daily tab to learn a new word each day. And so far these have been words you could actually use every day—nothing so unusual that you would say, “What? I’d never use that.”

I have looked up more words since downloading a dictionary app to my smart phone than I had in recent times with my physical dictionary. I can’t guarantee that I will remember all of these words to be able to use them in a sentence of my own, but I can guarantee that I had a much better understanding of the content that I read or heard at the time.

I hope you'll give it a try.

Questions: Have you found a dictionary app you like better? What is the most interesting word you've looked up lately?

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