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  • Hi. Welcome back to www.engvid.com. I'm Adam.

  • In today's lesson I want to speak with you about: "How to Use a Dictionary".

  • Now, for some of you, this might seem very obvious.

  • You open the dictionary, you look for your word, there it is, everything's good. But

  • it's not that simple. Now, the reason I say it's not that simple is because a lot of people

  • have a problem with exactly how to use a dictionary, and also when to use the dictionary. You don't

  • always need to go look for every word.

  • So, before I look at a few examples of when you should look for a word in the dictionary,

  • I want to stress that if you really, really want to build your vocabulary quickly and

  • have a very wide range of vocabulary, use an English to English dictionary. I'm going

  • to give you a couple of examples of which dictionaries to use after, but English to

  • English. Now, I've had many students who use English to whatever language, English to Spanish,

  • English to Japanese, English to whatever language is their native language and vice versa. This

  • is good for a very quick check, but don't make it a habit. Okay?

  • Get yourself an English to English dictionary-you can get the book, I'll show you one in a second-or get online

  • and find the apps for the more common dictionaries. Now, the reason I say this is because you

  • will have to look for meanings of words, and if you don't understand the explanation of

  • the meaning, you will probably learn more words in that explanation and then you can

  • look those up. So you're actually going to build your vocabulary exponentially. "Exponentially",

  • very quickly and to a large degree, without end, so you can go very quickly.

  • So, let's look at three sentences, and I underlined the words we're focusing on. Okay? "Salivate",

  • "plethora", "mitigate". Now, you may know these words, you may not, but these are a

  • little bit higher end words, they're not very common. So we're going to think about what to do.

  • First, use context. What I want you to do is I want you to try to guess the meaning

  • of a word before you go to the dictionary.

  • "The hungry dog began to salivate when it saw the steak on the table."

  • Now, most of you have seen a dog, most of you have probably

  • seen a hungry dog. Now, you think of a hungry dog, you think of a steak, what do most dogs

  • do? Even what do humans do? Dogs do it more obviously, they start to salivate. They start...

  • The little wet stuff comes out of their mouths. Right? That wet stuff is "saliva".

  • Dogs have it, you have it, I have it, human beings have it, too. It helps us to eat and digest our

  • food. Now, because of the context, because you have a hungry dog and because you have

  • a steak, it seems pretty obvious that "salivate" means to start emitting or getting... Letting

  • out saliva. Now, another thing to keep in mind: The next sentence will probably use

  • this word, "saliva". So: "The dog began to salivate, and all the saliva gathered in a

  • pool on the floor. So then when I walked by it and I slipped and hurt myself, it's the

  • dog's fault, not my fault." Okay? So, now, do I need to or should you go look at this...?

  • Look for this word in the dictionary? No. You can guess the sentence. You probably are

  • right in your guess of what this means. The next sentence will probably confirm it. Just

  • move on. Don't worry about this word. It's easy. Now you have a new word in your head.

  • But let's look at the next word:

  • "The forum was a grand success as it had generated a plethora of ideas."

  • Now, you have a forum. A "forum" is where people exchange ideas or

  • where they have discussions. On the internet, there are plenty of forums.

  • At www.engvid.com, there's a forum where you can ask questions, and teachers help, and other students help.

  • So, if the forum has all these ideas and it was a grand success - why? Because it had

  • generated, it had made or created a plethora of ideas. Now, you can probably guess what

  • this means. A "plethora" means many and varied. So, a large amount or a large number, and

  • a varied number. So, now, if you can guess the sentence but you don't really know this

  • word, skip it. Don't look for it in the dictionary. When should you look for this word in the

  • dictionary? When you see it the second or third time. Now, "plethora" is a very high-end

  • word, mostly used in academics, and even then, rarely used. People don't like this word because

  • it's a little bit snobby. Okay? Not everybody knows this word, not everybody needs to know

  • this word. Most people will just use a better word or an easier word. "...generated many

  • ideas" or "...generated a variety of ideas". If you have a simpler word, use it. So, if

  • you see this word, don't look it up. If you see it again or the third time, then yes,

  • look it up so you have it in your vocabulary base.

  • Next: "Many investors sell off their stocks during crises, thinking that this will mitigate

  • their losses." So here's our word: "mitigate", notice we have all verbs, but you know because

  • of context. Now, again, usually the context will allow you to guess the meaning, but this

  • word is pretty sure to come up again and again. This is a good word, it means to make less,

  • like less intense, less painful, or weaken the impact of something. So, this word...

  • Okay, the first time if you can understand the sentence without looking it up in the

  • dictionary, keep going. The second time, and there will be a second or third time, look

  • it up in the dictionary. So, this one we're going to look up.

  • Excuse me.

  • Now, those of you taking the IELTS or the TOEFL test, you need to know this word. It will show up at

  • some point on the test. If not the test you're taking, then the next practice test or the

  • next practice test. This word will come up again. Know it. So look this word up in the

  • dictionary. Okay?

  • So, when do you use it? When a word is repeated often enough that you know it's a word that's

  • commonly used, and if the word... For example: "plethora", if you can't understand the sentence,

  • again, do you need to go right away, look at the dictionary? No. Do you understand the

  • paragraph? If you understand the paragraph and you have a general sense of positive or

  • negative in the sentence, again, skip it. If it comes up again, look it up. If you need

  • to know this word to be able to make sense out of the whole paragraph, then of course,

  • look it up. Now, the reason I say this is because many students tell me that it's very

  • boring to read. Why? Because every few words, they have to go to the dictionary. So, they're

  • reading with a dictionary in one hand, and the book or the magazine article in the other

  • and it gets very tiring. And yes, I understand that. So, learn when to skip a word, learn

  • to guess the meanings of the word, and understand that words that are repeated often should

  • be looked up and become part of your vocabulary base. Okay? So, now, we're going to look more

  • detail in what you're going to see in the dictionary when you look up a word, and what

  • to make of all the information that's presented there. Okay?

  • Okay. So, now, we're going to look at basically how to use the dictionary. Now, before I get

  • into all the different aspects of what's in the dictionary, I want to talk about using

  • an actual book dictionary, a physical book you can hold in your hand or getting online

  • and using one of the dictionaries online. Now,

  • I personally prefer the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

  • Because I write mostly for a North American audience-okay?-and I

  • deal mostly with North American writing, I use a North American or the top North American

  • dictionary. This is the American dictionary, but it also applies in Canada. If I were in

  • Europe or in the UK, I would use the Oxford Dictionary. There are lots of other dictionaries;

  • there's the Collins in Canada, there's the Cambridge in the UK, etc. I use this one.

  • Now, you're thinking: "Well, look how thick that is", and it's actually pretty heavy.

  • Do you want to carry this in your bag everywhere you go? Of course not. I don't suggest or

  • I don't recommend that you do that, but have this available to you when you're at home

  • or at your local library, at your school, at your office. Be able to access this whenever

  • you need. Now, this one is full of very tiny writing. I'm not sure if you can actually

  • see that, but everything that is online is also on here.

  • Now, my personal opinion, my personal preference is to use the book rather than online whenever

  • I can. Why? Think about your internet experience, think about how you behave when you're watching

  • or doing something online. When you go to any of these dictionaries online, you're going

  • to have advertisements everywhere. You're very easily distracted. Okay? You're clicking

  • buttons. It's very easy to click off the page, or to give up, or to not scroll far down enough.

  • Okay? So this makes you use... Makes you search for words actively; you have to open the book,

  • you have to look things up by alphabetical order. You can't just type in the word, you

  • have to look for it, so you become active in your search for the word. That's one. Two:

  • While you're looking for one word, you might come across another word that sounds interesting

  • or looks interesting, or: "Oh, I've seen this word somewhere before. I wonder what it means."

  • So you're probably going to build your vocabulary even faster by doing it in a book. When you

  • search for your word online, you're just getting that one word and that's it. If you're curious

  • enough, you'll go look for other ones, but you won't know which ones to look for. Here,

  • they're in your face. Better... Sorry. Better to be distracted by other words in the dictionary

  • than by diet pills or a new opportunity to go on vacation that you are going to see online.

  • So, let's move on from there.

  • However, there are, of course, advantages to the online dictionaries as well. Firstly...

  • And some of these things will be the same, some of them will be different. All of them

  • will give you the symbols... The syllables-sorry-and the... I forgot to mention, here, the phonetics.

  • The phonetic spelling of the word. Now, what does "phonetic" mean? Means the sound of the

  • word, how to pronounce. So, let's go back to our word "mitigate". The Webster's Dictionary

  • will give you the pure syllabic or syllable breakdown of how to say it: "mit∙i∙gate".

  • But for those of you who are a little bit more adventurous, who are... Have a good memory

  • because you have to study a new alphabet, there's also the phonetic spelling: "mi",

  • so this is an upside down "e", but it actually sounds like: "ih", and "gate", "a" with a

  • bar across from it is the diphthong, it's the "a"; not" "ah", not "aw", etc. "mi t ə gāt".

  • Now, if you go to the Oxford Dictionary, they will give you the same phonetic spelling,

  • except instead of the "t", they will give you the "d". So, in England, they probably

  • say: "midigate", in America, they say: "mitigate". So you know the differences, there.

  • Now, m-w.com, that's the Merriam-Webster's dictionary. You can write MerriamWebster.com

  • and that'll go to the same place. OxfordDictionaries.com will take you to the Oxford one. Or Dictionary.com,

  • that's just the generic internet dictionary. If you go to Google and type: "Define" whatever

  • word you're looking for, it will give you a definition as well. So, these are the internet

  • ones. So, they give the phonetic spelling, they give the syllables, they give you other

  • forms. So, if "mitigate", you might also see: "mitigation", which is a noun, "mitigated"

  • is an adjective, "mitigator" is a noun, person.

  • It'll give you the other forms that you can look up.

  • On the internet, not so much in the book, because they don't have that much space...

  • On the internet, you will see sample sentences. Now, if the sample sentences in the dictionary

  • are not enough, you want to see more, go to your search box on your search engine. I use

  • Google, so you can use that. Just type: "Use 'mitigate'"-or whatever word-"in a sentence."

  • Usually the top entry will be for that page, and you will see many sentences. Keep in mind

  • that many of these sentences are a little bit old-fashioned or highly academic, but

  • some of them will be very useful for you to understand the word.

  • And online, obviously not in the book, there will be a recording so you can actually hear

  • the word spoken. I've listened to many of these recordings. Some of them I like, some

  • of them I don't like. I've heard different versions, but it's up to you. You can go check

  • all three dictionaries and compare how the word is said aloud. Okay? So, now, we have

  • the reasons to use the book, we have the reasons to use online.

  • Now, what are you going to see when you get to the book? You're going to see multiple

  • entries, but before that, you're going to see something... You're going to see the phonetic

  • spelling, and then you might see something like this. What does this mean? It means verb

  • and transitive.

  • This is very important to know. So, "mitigate" is not necessarily a

  • transitive verb, but it can be a transitive verb. Okay? So we... To mitigate a transitive

  • verb, it means a verb that must take an object. So, if you have "vt", then the entry will

  • be for the transitive verb. If there's a non-transitive version of this verb or a non-transitive use,

  • they will separate that into different entries.

  • Okay. So, I want to look at the word "cover". Sorry, one more thing. The dictionaries will

  • also give you the origin of the word, like if it came from Latin or Greek or from French

  • or wherever. If you're interested in that, it's in the dictionary. If you're not, don't

  • worry about it too much. But, sorry one more thing, there is something called "false friends".

  • "False friends" are words that are used... For example, in Spanish, there's a word in

  • Spanish and then you see the same word almost in English and you think they mean the same

  • thing. That's not always the case. Sometimes they mean the same thing, sometimes it's a

  • false friend, meaning that although it looks the same, they're completely different uses

  • in Spanish or English. So be aware of that.

  • Now, let's look for this word. If you're going to... If you have the problem with this word:

  • "cover", you see a sentence and you're not under sure... You're not sure how this word

  • "cover" is being used, because as far as you understand, "cover" means like cover yourself

  • with a blanket. But in the sentence you're looking at: "The policy doesn't cover earthquakes."

  • Policy doesn't cover earthquakes. So, obviously, "cover" doesn't mean like put something over

  • or put something on top of something else. It means something else. You go to the dictionary

  • and you see that there are actually 16 entries for the verb "cover".

  • That means 16 different meanings or uses for this verb.

  • So, how do you know which one is yours? You don't. You go through each one

  • until you find the meaning that applies to the context you saw the word

  • in. Okay? Now, some of these will even have... Some of these will even have sub entries.

  • So, for example, the first entry of "cover" is to protect, but this has also 1a, 1b, 1c,

  • 1d, 1e, five sub entries. You can protect someone by I'm holding a gun so my friend

  • can come out of the situation, so I'm covering his retreat. Cover with an insurance policy.

  • You can cover someone by protecting them, defending them from an attack. In sports,

  • the defender covers the guy with the ball so he doesn't get around him. So, lots of

  • different uses. And we have six noun entries for the word "cover". So, right away you understand

  • it could be both a noun and a verb, and it has many different meanings.

  • So, you see a sentence like this: "Many artists like to cover Adelle's songs."

  • Adelle the singer is very famous, lots of good songs, everybody likes to sing her songs. Everybody

  • likes to cover them. So you're thinking: "Cover? Well, you can't put a blanket on top of a

  • song, that doesn't make sense. There must be another meaning." So, you go to the dictionary.

  • This is from Webster's by the way, the 16, Merriam-Webster's. You go there and you go

  • through all the different meanings, and you find 16, number 16, the last one: "'Cover'

  • means to record or perform a song." Now... Sorry. To record or perform a cover of a song.

  • So, now they're using the word "cover" in the definition of "cover", but they're using

  • it as a noun. So you go to the noun entries, and number six will tell you a "cover" is

  • a recording or performance of a song already recorded by someone else. So, there you go,

  • you have a new understanding of the word "cover". If you want, you go check all the other 15,

  • and you know all the different uses of "cover".

  • Now, this takes a lot of work, yes, it does, but learning a new language takes a lot of

  • work. And I've... I've repeated many times, other teachers have repeated many times: If

  • you really want to improve your language quickly, you have to build vocabulary. If you want

  • to build vocabulary, you have to read. Now, a lot of people say:

  • "Reading, oh, but I don't understand. Every word, every 10 words, I don't understand."

  • Well, that's what the dictionary is for.

  • Be patient, be motivated, be hard working, and I guarantee you your English

  • will improve very quickly and you'll be able to speak about anything, read anything, write

  • about anything because you will have the vocabulary for it. Okay.

  • So, if you have any questions about this, please go to www.engvid.com.

  • You can join the forum and take the quiz.

  • If you like this lesson, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

  • And, of course, go out and get yourself a dictionary. Don't forget. A paper... A hardcopy

  • one so you have it at home, your office, at school, library, wherever you're going to

  • be so you can check it. And download the apps or save these... These addresses in your browser.

  • And come back again. See you soon.

  • Bye-bye.

Hi. Welcome back to www.engvid.com. I'm Adam.