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Pocket two-way (E-C/C-E) dictionaries - which one is the best?


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Gharial

OK, first question: here's a list of the main ones I'm aware of - but are there more?

1) Oxford Chinese Minidictionary (goes by other titles)

2) Oxford Chinese Dictionary (OCD)/Oxford-Commercial Press Concise

3) Collins (various titles/editions)

4) Tuttle Concise Chinese Dictionary

5) Langenscheidt/Berlitz/Insight

[6) Far East English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary]

Second question: which of the above do you think would be the BEST single short to mid-term investment for a beginning student of Chinese?

[My impressions: 1) is very good, but a bit on the small side (especially the C-E half), and shows only simplified characters; 2) as is well-known is designed more for Chinese students of English than for English students of Chinese (e.g. the disambiguating definitionese is in characters, and the Pinyin generally provided is quite limited, so an English user will need to be familiar with how to look characters up at the very least), but is one of the more comprehensive pocket dictionaries around, and shows traditional as well as simplified characters. 3) meanwhile, I am not that familiar with, but from a quick look in a bookstore, it seems to have a fair bit of usage guidance and in its latest editions has increased the amount of Pinyin provided, and could thus be a better buy than the OCD. I'm assuming it supplies traditional as well as simplified characters. (Edit: Actually, it only provides simplified characters, which is very disappointing!). The Collins by the way is the set dictionary for the OU's new Chinese course. As for 4), I really am not familiar with it, so any opinions would be welcome, especially if anyone feels it is superior to the Oxford Minidictionary say. Then, 5) seems a good dictionary, but a bit like a travel phrasebook sometimes (i.e. a bit terse), supplies only simplified characters, and the ordering by full Pinyin string can take some getting used to (especially for those who like to build their vocabulary by means of characters i.e. string-initial character). Finally, 6) is another of those dictionaries designed more - but this time much more, seeing as the intended market is Taiwan! - for Chinese students of English.]

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My vote is also for the little red one. I think it's called the Oxford (?) Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English dictionary. It's EC-CE, for learners of Chinese the C-E part is better, but the E-C part is still alright. It's in simplified, with traditional in brackets. Lookup through radicals or directly through pinyin.

Also good is the ABC Dictionary. Only C-E, but the strict alphabetical order can be useful if you look up a word that you don't know the characters of. It has a lot of words, too.

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Actually I didn't like the red one, that's also why I can't remember its specifics.

I personally use the Far East dictionary, but I do think that pocket dictionaries are not enough, and I don't know the other dictionaries to make a meaningful judgement which one would be best for beginners.

Is there a pocket size ABC dictionary?

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renzhe
My vote is also for the little red one. I think it's called the Oxford (?) Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English dictionary.

I'm pretty sure that's the one I have (I'm not at home now), and I'm quite happy with it.

I haven't tried any other ones, so I have no comparison. Also, I only use that one when I'm away from home, you will really need a decent full-sized dictionary sooner or later.

The pocket dictionaries outgrow their usefulness as soon as you hit any literary work, or any slang. They are only really useful for quick character lookups, and when you forget a common word.

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Gharial

Thanks for the replies.:) (By the way, I'd already mentioned the Oxford/CP Concise8)).

I agree that the limitations of two-way pocket dictionaries soon become apparent*, but good E-C guidance can really help consolidate the Chinese that the student is learning, and there unfortunately don't seem to be (m)any good one-way E-C dictionaries available (third question: I mean, can you thnk of any? The new Tuttle E-C from the same author who wrote their Concise two-way?), or they are again designed more for Chinese learners of English (e.g. E-E-C translations of formerly E-E advanced learner dictionaries such as those from Oxford and Longman), so the native English-speaking student is still "stuck" with the two-way pockets; plus, not everybody would be too keen on carrying several separate dictionaries along to class!

I guess the ideal two-way dictionary would be like an expanded Oxford Minidictionary in its E-C half, but I'm not sure about its C-E half (I'll need to compare the Concise with the Collins again, when I next have the chance!). Anyway, it looks like I am leaning towards the Collins as the "best" (least offensive) recommendation at the moment (you know, for those occassional/fantasy:lol:8):) moments when people ask you what single dictionary they should buy), though as I say I really do like the Oxford Minidictionary for its E-C content at least.

As for C-E dictionaries, I also like the Far East, Chrix, but like I said on another thread ( http://www.chinese-forums.com/showthread.php?p=223189#post223189 ), it would be nice if it included simplified characters not only in its character entries but in its indexes too. Which leaves mainly the ABC, I guess (which by the way sure is available in a pocket edition - it's the top item on Google Books for 'abc chinese' [Amazon.com shows only the Desk edition, and is charging silly prices now for the Pocket] - which is exactly the same as the original Desk edition, just a lot smaller and dinkier, yet still with perfectly legible font!).

That reminds me, I wonder when (if?) the ABC English-Chinese/Chinese-English Dictionary is (ever) going to be released! And their ABC Dictionary of Chinese Character Structure and Phonology also sounds enticing.

http://www.chinesestudies.hawaii.edu/abc/

*On the postgrad dip course I did, everyone soon came to rely on their Xinhua Zidian during written C-E translation tasks rather than the Oxford/CP Concise (or even the Han-Ying Cidian, from which the C-E half of the Concise is derived)! But for (E-)C encoding, there was of course only the Concise and/or the Chinese we had learnt up to that point (courtesy of e.g. the old PCR volumes I & II etc).

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So which one is the red dictionary?

I'm with renzhe on that one, you'll run into limitations sooner or later with any pocket-size dictionary, but if the pocket edition of the ABC dictionary included all 197 K entries, then that would be impressive.

Far East is published in Taiwan, there's no need for simplified characters throughout, and it saves space. There's just no need for simplified in its market...

I have the 新华字典 as well, and for the most part, I find it pretty useless, I sometimes use it as a reference to the PRC standard regarding simplification of characters...

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Gharial

Hi Chrix.

The red one is the 精选英汉汉英词典.

The Pocket edition of the ABC only has 71,000-odd entries, same as the original Desk edition. I don't think they could produce a truly pocket-sized edition (i.e. not as small as the Pocket edition of the Desk) of the Comprehensive ABC without the print becoming illegible (the Comprehensive has 3 tightly-packed columns per page as opposed to just the looser two of the Desk/Pocket), but I guess a Desk-sized and/or paperback edition of the Comprehensive would be doable (and welcome?). I'm assuming that the forthcoming ABC E-C/C-E will be based on the Desk/Pocket and therefore have around 71,000 entries at most each way.

Yeah, I guess the Taiwanese market alone is sufficiently large and profitable to not make a fully simplified-inclusive edition of the Far East remotely tempting financially to the publisher, but I still think such an edition would sell like even hotter cakes internationally, and it probably wouldn't ultimately need that much more index space. Anyway, I can dream!:)

Interesting comments regarding the Xinhua. In the context of having only the 3 dictionaries I mentioned (in the footnote to my last post) as recommended/"set" references (for written C-E translation), it was obviously the most comprehensive character-wise and therefore "useful", but yeah, the info it contains is generally pretty limited, even when one cares to read the Chinese-only stuff beyond the short English glosses! It certainly wouldn't make a very good "production" (versus "receptive") dictionary.

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Interesting comments regarding the Xinhua. In the context of having only the 3 dictionaries I mentioned (in the footnote to my last post) as recommended/"set" references (for written C-E translation), it was obviously the most comprehensive character-wise and therefore "useful", but yeah, the info it contains is generally pretty limited, even when one cares to read the Chinese-only stuff beyond the single-word English glosses!

What English glosses? There are none in my edition, from 1998...

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Gharial

Heh, I should probably call my Xinhua my "Xinhua"! That is, I'm not exactly sure if it's an official reprint or imprint of the actual Xinhua, but it seems similar enough to e.g. the description that Yin Binyong gives of the Xinhua in his and Rohsenow's Modern Chinese Characters (excepting of course the addition of the useful English glosses:D) that I think it can be called 'a' Xinhua at least!

Anyway its actual title is 新编新华字典/Xinbian Xinhua Zidian/A New Chinese Dictionary, and it was published in 1993 by Hainan Chubanshe and edited by Wang Tongyi (who I later noticed is criticized by DeFrancis in the ABC's list of 'Works Consulted', in relation to WTY's Xin Xiandai Hanyu Cidian, and Yuyan Dadian, for 'sloppy scholarship'(sh)). We just bought what our teacher had ordered/supplied.:)8)

I can scan a sample and post it here if anyone wants me to.:wink:

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Gharial

Okey dokey, here are the details/content spread, and some pages that cover more or less the same range of characters as the sample you posted, Chrix. (NB: To substantially improve the quality of the image, click on the thumbnail previews until they are at maximum view size then save that image to your PC and view it independently of the forums. That is, for some reason the images you can see here on the forums are nowhere near as clear as the original jpeg scans I made:-?8)).

3092_thumb.attach

3093_thumb.attach

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Lugubert

Even concentrating on Japanese this semester, my Oxford Chinese Minidictionary is always within reach. For Chinese, I love the constant supply of measure words with the entries.

For slightly larger pockets and one way only, the Sisu Concise Chinese-English Dictionary mostly is as helpful to me as ABC based paper/'net options.

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Moving_away

Regarding the Xinhua with English, there is an "official" one by the Commercial Press International:

新华字典 (汉英双解)

ISBN 7-80103-198-9

(traditial version is also said to exist, published in Hongkong)

It takes the 1998 (so not the most recent, but still) version of the C-C Xinhua and turns is into a C-C-E (including pinyin for all the examples). The definitions in English are definitely more extended than the limited ones posted in the example above. And when in China, the 26元 it costs is not something to think too long about. It has all the limitations of the normal Xinhua, being a 字典, not a 词典, but the English (slight spelling mistake here and there) is good and for a character-lookup worth it. (unfortunantly i don't have a scanner so an example is not possible for the moment)

Regarding the subject of this topic, I have only experience with the Langenscheidt dictionary. Very usefull, especially when traveling around, to me more than a phrasebook (I used this one much more often than my phrasebook when traveling around 2 years ago), but limited (like most pocket dictionaries I guess) for study.

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there unfortunately don't seem to be (m)any good one-way E-C dictionaries available (third question: I mean, can you thnk of any?
I have one or two, forgot the title but it's light green with red letters, but yeah, it's not very good. I don't know of any good E-C dictionary for learners of Chinese. (We should all just keep studying and at some point the market will get big enough to make one, hopefully.)

The Xinhua dictionaries I know of are really good for obscure characters that you have to make some head or tail of, it seems that little book contains every character in use in current Chinese. But it's not really for more detailed descriptions.

On the little red one: I actually used it for translating modern philosophical text for a class for a while, it had enough entries for that. But literature is out of its reach.

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Gharial

Thanks for the info on the official C-C-E Xinhua, Moving_away. I sometimes think of getting a newer edition than my Wang Tongyi one, cos mine from the very start had bowed hardback covers and dodgy binding (so I had to tape in some of the index), not that the actual contents have proved too undependable, and any eventual replacement can probably wait until I find a sample online somewhere (that, or you get access to a scanner:D).

Yeah, saying the Langenscheidt is 'like a travel phrasebook' wasn't the best way to describe it (I mean, it doesn't have enough phrases!). What I perhaps ought to have said was '(too) like a bare-bones glossary for many entries' (and the full alphabetical/Pinyin-string arrangement doesn't help in this regard), but an intelligent user should be able to grasp how the items are used in context from the information (however limited) that is given, and a fair bit of thought seems to have gone into the Langenscheidt's compilation generally. (Shame about the apparent jumble of its index though: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/23782-third-sort-in-langenscheidt-dictionary ).

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Gharial

I was browsing the links at MBDG, and following the link to Pleco I spotted something about 'the brand-new ABC E-C Dictionary' (including sample entries):

http://www.pleco.com/abcec.html

Won't be news to people who own the very latest Pleco software, but was news to me at least.:)8) I sure hope the book version of the ABC E-C(/C-E) is published soon!

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  • 4 weeks later...
Gharial

There's a new, appreciably bigger two-way bilingual dictionary from Oxford, due to be released in Sept 2010! Details are as follows (in comparison, their current 'Pocket' Oxford Chinese Dictionary [4th edition 2009] has only 90,000 words and phrases, and 120,000 translations):

http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/academic/language/reference/dictionaries/bilingual/9780199207619.do?sortby=bookTitleAscend

New Edition

Oxford Chinese Dictionary

First Edition

Oxford Dictionaries

2,064 pages | 258x188mm

978-0-19-920761-9 | Hardback | September 2010 (estimated)

Price: £45.00

* The largest and most authoritative Mandarin Chinese bilingual dictionary available, with over 300,000 words and phrases and 370,000 translations

* Produced in association with Foreign Language Teaching & Research Press (FLTRP), using the latest lexicographic methods to ensure accurate translations and usage information

* Designed and compiled for use by both English and Chinese native speakers

* Clear and accessible layout with Simplified Chinese characters and lookup in Chinese made easy by Pinyin and radical indexes

* Extensive practical support for students and those working in Chinese or English, including example letters and emails and guides to telephoning and text messaging

* Instant access - wherever you are - with Oxford's online dictionary service included with this book

By far the largest and most up-to-date single-volume English-Chinese and Chinese-English dictionary available and endorsed by academics worldwide, the Oxford Chinese Dictionary has been designed both for English speakers learning Mandarin Chinese and Mandarin Chinese speakers learning English. It has been produced using the latest lexicographic methods and the unique dictionary resources of Oxford University Press in Oxford and Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press in Beijing, together with an international body of expert advisors.

The Oxford Chinese Dictionary contains over 300,000 words and phrases and 370,000 translations, including the latest vocabulary from computing, business, the media, and the arts, and tens of thousands of example phrases illustrating key points of construction and usage. There are over 300 cultural notes giving essential information about many aspects of life and culture in the Chinese- and English-speaking worlds. The dictionary is based throughout on corpus research for both English and Chinese, providing up-to-date evidence on real language. The English is based on the Oxford English Corpus, and the Chinese draws on the LIVAC corpus from the City University of Hong Kong.

Extensive supplementary material includes sample letters and emails, guides to telephoning and text messaging in both Chinese and English, chronologies of Chinese history and culture, and features on particularly difficult aspects of the Chinese language, such as kinship terms and measure words. There are also over 50 pages of lexical and usage notes which contain helpful extra information about Chinese and English.

The organization and layout have been designed for maximum clarity and accessibility. All Chinese headwords and compounds are shown with Pinyin transcriptions, so that the learner of Chinese can pronounce each one correctly. Chinese headwords are given in Simplified Chinese characters, but Traditional Chinese character versions are also given in brackets after the headwords when they differ from the Simplified form. All the English headwords are also shown with phonetics, so that the learner of English can pronounce each one correctly. The Chinese-English section of the dictionary is organised alphabetically by Pinyin and there is also a radical index which allows you to look up a character without knowing its Pinyin form.

12 months' access to Oxford's online dictionary service - Oxford Language Dictionaries Online* - is included with this book. The site is regularly updated with the latest new words and meanings from Oxford's language research programme, the Oxford Languages Tracker. You can also hear audio pronunciations and improve your language skills with online cultural notes, guides to writing, and much more.

This ground-breaking dictionary is an indispensable reference for any serious student of Chinese and English as well as academics, professionals, and translators.

*Chinese language only. Based on the Pocket Oxford Chinese Dictionary.

Readership: Ideal for anyone who needs a comprehensive and authoritative Chinese-English English-Chinese dictionary; for professionals, students, academics, and for use at work or at home.

Reviews: "an impressive work ... the accuracy of translation/definition is of the highest quality ... a superb reference work, one that should wind up on the desk of every English-Chinese and Chinese-English translator" - Professor Howard Goldblatt, Chinese language specialist, teacher, and translator

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