Elementary entries

10th October 1997 at 01:00



By John Alder. DEVELOPING DICTIONARY SKILLS IN SPANISH. By Martine Pillette. Collins Pounds 26.50 each.

The latest Easy Learning Dictionaries series caters for pupils up to GCSE level. The content is modern, including IT words (modem, mouse), music words (ghetto-blaster, rap) and items often missing in previous versions, such as "work experience".

The layout is clear, with each word printed in bold on the left of the column. Gender is indicated by the definite article placed before the noun, rather than by abbreviations after it. Each word is designated clearly by part of speech in capital letters.

Translations are underlined and any extra entries bullet-pointed. Examples of the word's use are given in smaller type below. So a simple word is arranged on one line as: "die Informatik substantiv", with "computer science" below.

The German dictionary uses the spelling reforms, but words that have changed are indicated, and listed alphabetically at the back, where spellings can be compared. Both books also include advice about using dictionaries.

The Dictionary Plus Grammar series follows a more traditional layout and includes more entries. The grammar section is clearly presented and contains some cross-referenced examples. It will have limited examination value unless the candidate is merely checking an already-known fact, but this is probably reasonable.

More interesting features of these dictionaries are the use of key words and notes on culture. Prepositions, key verbs such as "to dohave" and other multi-form words are marked in the text by a "key word" heading. This alerts users to the need to check for specific usage. Doch in German, for example, has four clear entries with examples of its uses, while "at" from English into the other languages has six.

The cultural notes explain, in the relevant language, social and political issues from France, Germany and Spain, while the English to foreign language sections contain entries on such items as the Houses of Parliament, Guy Fawkes and football pools.

The Developing Dictionary Skills packs, also from Collins, can be used by beginners, but are suitable for any age. They attack dictionary use logically, gradually unpicking the way dictionaries are organised. They emphasise ways of avoiding the use of a dictionary, and put a premium on speed. They also allocate several pages to verbs, and focus on alternative meanings.

The German version maintains explanations in English throughout, whereas the Spanish moves entirely into Spanish later in the book. The exam hints section at the back of both books is in English - the German lists hints and rules, the Spanish elucidates both through some gap-filling tasks, which encourage learners to be sure of their practice.

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