Friday, August 05, 2011

A writing helper: MacMillan Dictionary

Lately  I have been writing more entries for my blog and posts in the forums for courses I delivered for the British Council. As a non-native English speaker, sometimes I'm in doubt about the right word or phrase to use. Also, when I am rehearsing for my presentations or recording tutorials and doubt strikes me again, I turn to one of the best online dictionaries I have come accross: The MacMillan Online Dictionary.

What Do I like about it? First, its slick and sort of "minimalist" presentation caught my fancy. Secondly, the easy way to search words/phrases and all the info I can get including pronunciation.

Lay-out and design

Have a peek at this image, isn't that a page you feel like you are going to get what you want? The lay-out, in my humble opinion, is clean and simple. Information is not cluttered. It goes from top to bottom. From Search engine to dictionary features/content. You can clearly identify three sections;

1. Search engine (dictionary/Thesaurus)
2. Main web page dictionary information (learn english, live english, love english)
3. MacMillan dictionaries and mobile apps.
4. In detailed-dictionary features and content for entry words

The design is as clean and simple as the lay-out. Red, black and white as the main colour for fonts, headers and drawings. Fonts are easy-to-read. Few pictures or drawings. All this makes navigation easy and pleasurable. 

What do I use this dictionary for?

1. look up word's meaning, its pronunciation, collocations and maybe prasal verbs.
2. make sure I am using the word appropriatley. You can get info about cultural notes, word stories, offensive words an metaphors.
3. check how frequent a word is. It is useful for my ESP courses at the university.
4. find synonyms in the Thesaurus.

This is really helpful when I write a blog entry or a post in forums. Also, it's really handy when I rehearse for presentations and hesitate a bit on how a certain word is pronounced.

Searching for words

Searching is easy. You can either search in the MacMillan webpage or add it to your list in the Firefox serach bar and get definitions in a flash from its tool bar.

There are some other gadgets you can sue to search for words in a breeze in this online dictionary.

Other features I love:

Another nice feature is that words like "snap" has got sound effect. I think it is easier to click on a sound effect icon and make our students listen to it than us trying to ackwardly impersonate the sound.

Also you can check both British or American definitions and also get some info about word forms.

It has got an interesting video like What's Your English.

How can you use it in the classroom?

1. For writing compositions, look up words and check their meaning, collocations, use, word form, phrasal verbs.
2. For reading, to look up for words and check their meanings.
3. For speaking to check pronunciation (althought chekcing pronounciation for reaidng can be useful as well).

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