A dictionary is essential* for anybody learning a language. Whether you have an electronic, paper dictionary, or prefer to look up* words online or via* a cell phone application, developing good dictionary habits is important. Using a dictionary effectively will make studying easier and more enjoyable. Here are the top 3 tips for using a dictionary:
#1 – Choose the right dictionary. For most ESL students, an electronic dictionary is the best option. They are quick and easy to use. You can get translations and explanations in Japanese, see example sentences, and listen to the pronunciation of the word. But, they are expensive. Cheaper options include using online versions of popular dictionaries, such as http://dictionary.cambridge.org/ or applications such as Dictionary. by Fairfex, Inc.
Hint: If you already have a high standard of English, it is best to use an English-only dictionary.
#2- Use it at the right time. Don’t look up* every new word that you see or hear – you will never get anywhere! Instead, when you come across a new word in a reading, don’t stop. Finishing the paragraph can help you to guess the meaning of the new word. If you can’t, and it still seems important, then you can look it up. If you hear new word, don’t jump straight into the dictionary. Wait and continue listening because often the meaning becomes clear (and the information that comes next may be important). If you still need to check the meaning, ask the speaker, or look it up in your dictionary.
#3- Translate back into Japanese. When you look up a word in English in a bilingual dictionary, you will probably find that there is more than one Japanese translation. If you are not sure which to use, you could try a back translation. This means checking each Japanese translation one by one. If a word has a definition that matches the word in your language, you are safe to use it. Also, read the example sentences. You can usually see if the word is a good fit for the sentence you are making.
Dictionaries are important, and it is important to use them correctly. I hope these tips help.
*look up: （辞書で単語を）ひく、調べる