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…
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.
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.
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.
- OALD on iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/app/oxford-advanced-learners-dictionary/id442911228 (price $28.99/£19.99)
- Version 1.0 released 3 August 2011 / Size 424MB (BrE spoken sentences 431MB extra / NAmE spoken sentences 432MB extra)
- iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad – iOS 3.2+