15 September 2006

Beginner's Spanish Dictionary

I think I can justifiably claim to be an expert beginner on this subject - because I have been beginning to learn Spanish for the last three or four years now. Like every other foreign language learner, I need all the help I can get. This new type of reference book is designed specifically for English-speaking adults who are either learning from scratch or refreshing lost language skills. So what's special or new here - as a dictionary? Well, every attempt is made to help the beginner. The entries are laid out in a spacious and non-intimidating manner, with the headwords in blue rather than the usual black. This gives the page a more spacious, less intimidating appearance. There are also lots of extras - such as advice for making the most out of the dictionary, verb tables, glossaries of grammatical terms, advice on pronunciation, a list of key everyday phrases, and notes on Spanish customs and habits.

Useful phrases are highlighted for quick reference, and all parts of each entry are spelt out in full, avoiding confusing jargon and abbreviations. Grammar and usage notes throughout the text warn of possible translation pitfalls, and thousands of example phrases show how the language is used in context.

It should also be said (because its title does not make this clear) that it's a Spanish-English as well as an English-Spanish dictionary. There are also special panels and call-out boxes which explain basic issues such as times and dates, parts of the body, and colours.

hacer verb
* = to make
hacer [la cama | le cena | un vestido...] = to make [the bed | dinner | a dress...]
* = to do
¿qué haces aqui? = what are you doing here?
hacer los deberes = to do one's homework
* (when talking about the weather)
hace [frio | calor | sol...] = it's [cold | hot | sunny...]
hizo mal tempo = the weather was bad
(when talking about time)
hace dos años que no nos vemos = we haven't seen each other for two years
me jubile hace cincos años = I retired five years ago
¿hace mucho que esperas? = have you been waiting long?
desde hace/desde hacia = for
no la habla visto desde hacia dos años = I haven't seen her for two years

If you're at a more advanced level than me and need a more substantial work of reference, try the excellent Pocket Oxford Spanish Dictionary. Another alternative is the Collins Talking Spanish Dictionary. Whichever you choose, there's no getting away from the fact that learning a foreign language is no easy task. Muchas gracias, y buenas noches!

Oxford Beginner's Spanish Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp.389, ISBN 0199298564

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