Once you start learning a language, no matter what language, there is one thing you will always need. A dictionary. No matter if you are a beginner or almost fluent you will still need it. However, the question is, what dictionary do you need. A book, an online one, an electronic dictionary, or just a simple one on your phone. Is it worth investing in a good dictionary, or are the free options better?
I am going to compare a few different options.
First of all let’s start with the simple word for house in English and Korean (집) : This is no problem for all the tried options, however the online, electronic and phone dictionaries give me a wide variety of example sentences such this one from naver dictionary.
as I was looking for the key to my house.집 열쇠를 찾고 있었다
Now the other way around. For the online and phone option you need to have a Korean keyboard installed. For most computers not a problem but this might be a problem for some phones. Again this is no problem on the online, electronic and phone dictionaries and gives a nice list of examples and translations.
Now for the NTC’s Compact Korean and English Dictionary it is a pain in the ass to even find a simple word if you are looking at Korean to English. Since the Korean words are listed by how they are written in Romanization. It took me a good 10 minutes to only find the word for house and it doesn’t even give me examples.
Now for something a bit more difficult. Let’s find the meaning of ~고 싶다.
Let’s start online with both Naver and Daum dictionary.
This is what Daum dictionary could come up with. Thanks to the bing translation there is an exact translation however I don’t trust bing and figuring it out from the examples given is possible but still a little bit difficult.
Luckily Naver dictionary gave me and exact translation and a few examples to go with it. Even my phone did better then Daum dictionary although I had to change the search word to 싶다. But it gave me an exact translation and quite a few examples to go with it. The same with my electronic dictionary, I had to adjust the search word but I did find what I was looking for. I gave up with the paper dictionary or else I wouldn’t even be able to finish this article.
Next up, something that is most difficult. Let’s find the meaning of a Korean proverb. 작은 고추가 맵다 is one of my favorite ones because it gave me and my friends a good laugh back in the day. Literally it means small peppers are spicy but it is used with the meaning don’t underestimate the small things.
Daum dictionary couldn’t find the proverb even when I changed up the keywords a little bit. Naver however, proves once again why I love it so much and it gave me this as a translation.
Don’t ever underestimate the little man. 작은 남자를 과소평가하지 말라. (작은 고추가 맵다.)
Once again, my phone surprised me with a wonderful translation when I looked up the word for 고추 (pepper), it gave me the proverb I was looking for and this translation: the smaller, the shrewder.
The electronic dictionary also gave me a translation when I put in the full search term however, the translation was in Korean. Which is fine for me; but a little bit too challenging for beginners.
Overall Naver dictionary was the best and the dictionary I use on an every day basis. The only downside is, is that you have to have internet connection and access to a device with internet connection (aka a computer or a smartphone). I have to say though the dictionary app on my phone surprised me since I only ever use it too look up a word or two while I’m texting with my Korean friends. I won’t throw out my electronic dictionary though since it is really helpfull with a subject I haven’t touched up on – looking up Hancha – and it could be helpfull if I don’t want to have my computer around while studying Korean (such a distraction!).
I will banish NTC’s compact Korean & English dictionary to the back of my closet though, it’s the worst dictionary I have ever seen and I do not recommend you buying it!
Now tell me, what is your favorite & least favorite dictionary and why?