Who needs dictionaries? Watch a talk by Michael Rundell of Macmillan

Watch Michael Rundell’s talk Who needs dictionaries below. This recent talk for the British Council explores the future of dictionaries. You can also download the slides<title=”Teach English” target=”_blank”>.

(You can download his slides at the bottom of the link page)

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3 Responses to Who needs dictionaries? Watch a talk by Michael Rundell of Macmillan


  1. KariD says:

    I notice that so many of my students are using web based dictionaries and a variety of other word reference sources. Whenever possible I try to get them to use the learner dictionary, but with mixed success. It is so much easier to look up an individual word on their iphone or android. Being an employee of a publishing company, Michael Rundell is surprisingly open to these emerging dictionary trends. He acknowledges huge changes due to the web including how youth and young adults really don’t own dictionaries any longer. Interestingly he asserts that British lexicographers are at the leading edge in a lot of these changes. He also mentions how emerging vocabulary is being captured and defined through crowd-sourcing methods like the MacMillan Open Dictionary and he gave some examples. I loved this – “lexical blends in the twittersphere”! He also mentioned wordreference.com and British Council as possible useful sources for definitions and word usage. Reliability, of course, is always an issue with these web-based sources, which he acknowledged. I liked his openness to change – his belief is that we are in the middle of very fast moving trends which on the whole are very positive.

    His talk did not deal with any implications for language teachers of these fast-moving developments. Although they may be positive for native speakers, this approach to lexicography can be confusing to the average learner as it provides far to many meanings and usages. Do we incorporate these changing resources into our instruction so we don’t seem old fashioned to our students? Or is it best to stick with the tried and tested?


  3. IanBarker says:

    I find myself using paper-based dictionaries less and less but do wonder how learners manage as online resources often have far less information about the grammar, syntax and function of a word. Having said that, some older style dictionaries were so dense as to be almost impenetrable to anyone other than a lexicographer!


  5. KelvinFowler says:

    Margaret C4 commented on the 14/02/2013:

    “I nagged my students for years about using a reliable paper dictionary until I started studying French. I invested in the best dictionary I could buy which quickly began gathering dust as I fell more and more in love with wordreference.com !”

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