2006年11月09日

電子辞書の功罪

One of my pet peeves at the moment is the prevalance of electronic dictionaries in the classroom.
Almost every student (even the beginners) seems to have them, and if they see or hear a word they don't know, or don't quite have the vocabulary to say what the want to say, the lids go up, and busy fingers go to work.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against electronic dictionaries in general. I use one myself (as I detailed in a previous article), and I find them very useful, if used properly.

And I can understand how they're probably a must when one is struggling to read and write English at work.

But are electronic dictionaries (or even dictionaries in general) really essential in conversation classes?

I don't think so.

First of all, you have a living, breathing dictionary right in front of you. I.e., the teacher!
The logical thing to do if you don't understand the meaning of a word is to ask. Not asking, and jumping straight to the dictionary sort of implies that you don't trust the teacher.
(Although, I admit, perhaps not all teachers are worthy of trust.)

A good teacher should be able to explain new words in such a way that a student with even the most basic vocabulary can understand their meanings and how they're used.

If you aren't satisfied with the explanation, by all means, go to the dictionary. But the dictionary should be your last recourse, and not your first.
And this probably won't be necessary unless you're doing some really advanced material.

Going to a dictionary first can, in some cases, actually hamper understanding, since it can be difficult to see which meaning is appropriate for the context in question. I often see mistakes in translation in students' books, and I delight in getting them to realize that perhaps their dictionaries are not so reliable after all.

This is actually good training for real life. You can't really afford to pull out your electronic dictionary and tap away at it in the midst of a party or negotiation, can you? Not if you don't want to be rude.

And asking the teacher directly is actually a good way of gauging his or her abilities. A colleague who used to work as a consultant once told me a story about CEO who asked, at the end of a presentation, "So, what's GDP?" Apparently, he really wasn't familiar with the term, but it could have been a test, since even a roomful of highly-paid, extremely bright consultants had trouble coming up with a good definition on the spot.

So you shouldn't really need an English-Japanese dictionary.

You shouldn't really need a Japanese-English dictionary, either.
If you don't know the appropriate English word, just paraphrase!

Let's say you're speaking in Japanese, and you forget the word "uni" (sea urchin). Do you panic and start wishing that you had a dictionary with you? Of course not! Maybe you'll say something like "What's that really expensive orange-yellow stuff you put on sushi?" And your friends will probably respond with "Do you mean 'uni'?"

Paraphrasing is a great technique because it makes you focus on the vocabulary that you DO have, rather than the vocabulary you don't have and wish you did. This is what "thinking in English" is all about.
However, practice is required if you wan't to be able to do it smoothly. And the classroom is actually a great place to practice, since teachers are used to guessing what students actually want to say, and can help you work on good techniques to explain what you're thinking. Why squander that opportunity by whipping out your dictionary?

And again, Japanese-English dictionaries can give you quaint, outdated, or otherise outright wrong words for a certain context. The other day, a co-worker told me about a student who took one look at his face, tapped away at her dictionary, and triumphantly proclaimed "You're fatigued!"
Apparently, her dictionary didn't see fit to tell her that "tired" was far more appropriate than "fatigued."

Many people CAN funtion without their dictionaries if so required.
Once, when I was reviewing reported commands in a lesson, I said "Don't use your dictionary!" to a student simply because I wanted see if he could rephrase my sentence correctly as "You told me not to use my dictionary."
However, he thought I was serious, and drew back with a start every time his hands subconsciously (practically an addiction, at this point) reached for his dictionary. And although he struggled a bit in the beginning, he did fine. The next time I taught him, he smiled and put his dictionary away the moment I walked into the room. (Weaning people from their dictionaries has become something of a minor hobby.)

So, next time you go to a conversation class, LEAVE YOUR DICTIONARY IN YOUR BAG AND PUT YOUR BRAIN TO WORK!
posted by EnglishMaster at 12:50| Comment(3) | TrackBack(0) | English | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

広告


この広告は60日以上更新がないブログに表示がされております。

以下のいずれかの方法で非表示にすることが可能です。

・記事の投稿、編集をおこなう
・マイブログの【設定】 > 【広告設定】 より、「60日間更新が無い場合」 の 「広告を表示しない」にチェックを入れて保存する。