Mike Harrison's Reviews

App review – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

Written on 11/10/2011 – 7:39 pm | by mikeharrison

Following a post I recently wrote on the usefulness of learner dictionaries in the language classroom, I received an interesting email from Mary Franklin at OUP. Would I be interested in reviewing the new OALD app for the iPhone/iPad? So here it is…

First impressions

From opening the app, it’s clear that some time has been spent on its presentation. It just looks very nice. The interface is clean, with a list of all the words in the dictionary on the left. You can simply scroll through these (if you have time on your hands!), tap on one of the letters to skip to that part of the dictionary, or look for something specifically in the search box. There is a spacious section to the right where the definitions and examples of usage appear, which can be easily resized.

What’s on the menu?

In the top menu, from left to right, there are a number of useful functions:

  • A history of all the words you have looked at, enabling you to flick between words with a couple of taps
  • The search box
  • A magnifying glass and list icon, which lets you find headwords and phrases containing your search term
  • A ‘moon’ icon which lets you show a full entry or an entry with certain parts hidden from view
  • Add to favourites, which lets you store selected words in the favourites menu
  • A couple of navigation arrows to skip back and forth between words and entries you’ve recently looked up

And at the bottom:

  • OALD – this is the dictionary part of the app. Search, favourite and read entries here
  • Favourites – all the words you’ve stored as favourites using the icon at the top
  • Settings – change the text size of entries, decide if you want to download extra spoken example words and sentences (obviously this means the app will take up a little bit more space on your iPad)
  • Information – and help

A dictionary at your fingertips

For me, this is the brilliance of the app. Searching for words is so simple, navigating between entries seamless, and the opportunity to hear a spoken example of a word is very useful (as mentioned above, you can download example sentences with the words in them). The sheer practicality of this app, even before you consider how much less it weighs than the paper dictionary, is what makes it for me.

Practical activities

So how could you use this app with learners? The search box will obviously be a useful space where learners can check their spellings. If they spell a word incorrectly, its entry won’t show up. But they will be able to see suggested words, including (hopefully) the correct spelling of the word they are looking for. Learners could play example words and sentences to each other and challenge them to write them down, or find them in the dictionary. Use the Favourites function to store a number of words, possibly on a particular theme but they could also be unrelated to each other. Challenge learners to write a short text linking the words together.

Click on the loud speaker icons to play the word

Minor niggle

Just one small thing I’ve noticed about the app – in the pop up window explaining the abbreviations, the text doesn’t seem to wrap around properly, meaning that sentences have an annoying habit of finishing and running off-screen.

Very well, but what do the learners think?

Coming soon – I will be testing out the app with two intermediate to advanced learners I currently support with their language needs. I’m going to let them play around with the dictionary and ask them what they think of it.


Technical stuff

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  1. 7 Responses to “App review – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary”

  2.   By Tara Benwell on Oct 11, 2011 | Reply

    Thanks Mike! I’ll share this on The English App’s Facebook page. Looks great. Cheers.

  3.   By David Warr on Oct 12, 2011 | Reply

    Nice review. As you say, let’s see what your learners think.

    •   By mikeharrison on Oct 12, 2011 | Reply

      Cheers, David. I had originally thought that I wouldn’t be able to get a learner view of the app, as I am teaching mainly lower levels this year, but then realised about my support classes. I have a 1 hour session every week with 2 learners who are studying for a sports diploma – will be really interesting to get their take on it. After all, this is an app designed for learners…


  4.   By Mark Bossert on Jan 28, 2012 | Reply

    Hi, I love the look of the App. This looks like it would be really useful. I agree that the writing not word wrapping properly would be a pain. I wonder if there is something like this available for android phones.

  5.   By Alex Dyakowski on Apr 27, 2012 | Reply

    Hi Mark,

    Available on Android now too.

  6.   By lucien grey on Jul 29, 2012 | Reply

    My nieces have played with the version during a recent road trip. They seemed to be pretty excited about it. Though there was an occasional disagreements on the usage of a particular word. But I was glad that they kept busy and did not get in my hair.

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