Print dictionaries


With the internet and mobile apps, many people may not see the need for a print dictionary, but here are some Chinese-English dictionaries in print.

When choosing a dictionary, you may want to pay attention to whether the dictionary is geared more toward speakers of English or Chinese. For example, those geared toward English speakers should have examples of how to use Chinese words or include transliteration within the dictionary entries (not just of the headword). Those geared toward Chinese speakers will include pronunciation of the English.

Unless otherwise noted, dictionaries have simplified Chinese and pinyin.

 My favorite for beginners. Not huge, but not pocket-sized. While the number of words is not as great as some, the examples of how to use the words it does have make this dictionary more useful for those in the earlier stages of study. Also, things are labeled in English: verbs are marked “verb” not ““; the charts for radical lookup have things like “strokes” not “.” This it easy to use even for those just starting. Radical lookup as well as pinyin. Nice features like a table of measure words, extra content under some headings (e.g. under “clock” is an explanation of how to tell time in Chinese). Oxford Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary  at Amazon.

 When you find the Oxford Beginner’s doesn’t have what you’re looking for, this is a good one to turn to. It still has a lot of useful features for less advanced students, but is also clearly intended for use by Chinese learners of English. There are parallel “Chinese in action” and “English in Action” sections with info on things like letter-writing. Collins Chinese Concise Dictionary at Amazon.

Marketed as explicitly for learners, this dictionary suffers from small print and lacks the color headwords of more modern dictionaries (at least in the 1999 edition I have). There are example sentences and useful appendices (pinyin-Wade conversion table, simplified-traditional table [type too small and blurred to read in places], guides to punctuation, numbers, measure words, names, familial relationships, nationalities, and Chinese history). Chinese to English only. Cheng & Tsui Chinese-Pinyin-English Dictionary for Learners at Amazon.

Has the great-looking, realistic photos and images that one expects from DK. Not necessarily for very young children (see the Amazon “Look Inside”). Organized thematically (parts of the body, sports, etc.). Mandarin Chinese-English Bilingual Visual Dictionary at Amazon.

While mobile apps have eliminated most of the need for a pocket-sized dictionary, I still like to carry this one sometimes. Very comprehensive and easy to read for its size. Radical lookup as well as pinyin. The pinyin organization is non-standard since it is strictly alphabetical and does not take tone or syllable boundary into account. So words with the exact same first syllable (same spelling and same tone) may not appear together; i.e. “měiguó (USA)” will appear between “méi (not)” and “méiyǒu (not have).” The slight advantage to the arrangement is that it is easier to find words for which you do not know the tone.Langenscheidt’s Pocket Dictionary at Amazon.

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