Whether you are studying Japanese, Mandarin or French (no Lingomi French support yet.), using paper dictionaries is just a waste of time. Some People may even wax lyrical about how it’s important to use paper dictionaries to understand radicals and describe the many skills you’ll learn from using dead-tree dictionaries. Don’t believe them. They are lying.
I wasted more than 60 hours using paper dictionaries. By comparison I could have watched 120 TV episodes in a foreign language. Or met with my language partner for an extra hour every day for two months! Or had 60 more hours to focus on memorizing new words!
All of those activities would have improved my language abilities quite a bit. Instead, I gained other, less important skills. I can look up a word in around 10 seconds. I’ve memorized a good bit of the radical table. Sadly, I’ve never seen a question about the radical table on an exam, and my dictionary skills never seems to help in a conversation.
Use a digital or online dictionary instead. It takes 5 seconds to look up rather than 30 seconds. And there are lots of choices, too.
Want an online dictionary?
Japanese learners can try Japanese sites like: Eijiro. (aka ALC) and Goo; or try some English based dictionaries: Jisho, Jim Breen’s Dictionary which has an interface I still haven’t figured out (Disclaimer: Lingomi uses JMDict and EDICT as our Japanese sources).
Using an iPhone/iPod/iPad? Try DianHua (it has a simple flashcard system built in for free) for Mandarin and Kotoba for Japanese. Or you can try another of the many dictionary apps in the iTunes Store.
You can save even more time by letting Lingomi lookup your Japanese and Mandarin words for you. Simply upload a spreadsheet with words in one language to the site and then download your list with definitions filled in for you! The whole process takes about a minute. (I actually wish I had Lingomi on those days I had to look up 120+ words.)
Studying a language is a time consuming process as is. Instead of wasting time looking up words, use it studying instead.
[Disclaimer: I love paper dictionaries and dictionaries in general. I even studied how to write dictionaries! I love them, and I know they are a waste of time!]
Steven Daniels (July 12th, 2010)