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Is it better to use an English-to-English dictionary to improve my English?

August 4, 2021 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

In general, yes, I would recommend using an English-to-English dictionary as a way to improve your English.

And this is because if you look at English definitions of words in an English dictionary, you’re actually doing something in English.

Here’s an extract:

You see, the more you remove your native language in your learning process, the better. And if you’re reading definitions in an English dictionary, obviously, you have to understand English first. So, when you’re reading these definitions, you’re actually leveraging your English. You’re using it as a tool to learn even MORE English.

However, if you use dictionaries in your native tongue, that’s another case. And I say this because English dictionaries in a different language usually have a lot of fuzzy translations. Of course, some specific technical words have clear translations… but then most of them still don’t.

Let’s take this for example:

If you translate the English word “cause” into Japanese, you’ll get a similar word in Japanese… but it’s not used in the way it’s supposed to be used in English. Not only that, you’ll actually lose most of the information you need. Like how the English word “cause” is only used in negative situations, i.e. “cause a problem” or “cause an accident”. You never really say “cause happiness”. And, you know, this sort of thing is hard to grasp if you’re just looking at word-for-word translations.

Now, this is not to say that all multi-language dictionaries are bad (some of them are actually good). I just think that it’s always going to be better to keep English in English since it has real benefits once you use them.

So, again, yes, you can use an English-to-English dictionary. But if you can, try to avoid multi-language dictionaries when your goal is to improve your English.

Now, if you need help improving in English faster, you can try what I like to call the “Two Track Approach”. You can learn more about this and other methods in the free training I created. You’ll learn the 5 key changes my best clients make to improve their English as higher-level English learners.

If you want more tips, you can sign up for my free daily emails here.

Hope that helps.

Dr Julian Northbrook

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