I come from the era of paper dictionaries. When I was in university and studying lots of languages, a dictionary purchase was a big deal – it was expensive, when you had no money, and it was kind of a statement of commitment to studying that language to get the big hardcover version rather than the pocket size. I remember my first big Oxford Russian-English – a sign of achievement, that I’d made it far enough that I needed so many words – and I also remember the extremely well-worn stack of dictionaries available at the language lab for students to borrow while studying. Even if you owned a dictionary, it didn’t mean you wanted to carry it to school with you each day. The Spanish dictionary, in particular, got passed around the table often.
I still own that Oxford Russian-English dictionary, but only for sentimental reasons, or long-term power outages. Because I also have it in app version on my phone, as well as an Oxford French-English, and what was once the Collins Spanish-English and is now branded Ultralingua. (I see you can now get Dal’ – that’s a Russian-Russian – on the app store now too. Time was, that was a difficult thing to get ahold of.)
Having multiple dictionaries on your phone is a pretty amazing thing. Not only are you saving on bookshelf space and weight, but it’s faster, too – no flipping pages, or ending up on one word just to be referred to another one starting with another letter (a common problem with Russian verbs). And while the plain Oxford dictionaries are just fine, I’m really impressed with what happened to the Collins dictionary when they joined forces with Ultralingua.
For one thing, you can search not just by verb infinitives, but by any conjugated form. As I’m in that part of Spanish learning where all the verb forms are a jumble in my head, this is coming in very handy. And then, you can tap through from that verb form to view an entire conjugation table – all forms of all verbs. We used to have to buy a different book for that. And all this is downloaded on your phone – you don’t need an internet connection to use it.
I’m an intermediate Spanish learner, not advanced, so I can’t speak to the depth of the content of this dictionary, though I’ve not yet found it to lead me astray. But this app is worth every cent I paid for it, and I would recommend it to anyone learning the language or even travelling to a Spanish-speaking country and wanting to decipher menus.
Check it out now: [iTunes]
Top photo by Alexa Clark on Flickr