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Holly

Best Chinese-English Dictionary?

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Holly

I'm looking to buy a dictionary to bring with me this fall when I head to China, but I'm not sure which one to buy! I've heard some people saying that the Oxford dictionaries are the best, but I'm curious what people here think. I can't find many threads on actual, physical dictionary books, only online ones. I'll certainly make use of the online ones, but I'd like a dictionary to carry around with me as well.

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yonglin

I think that unless you need a dictionary now, you should buy one in China. It will be a lot cheaper, and save on your baggage allowance. I bought an excellent pocket-size Oxford English-Chinese, Chinese-English dictionary for a very modest price (36 yuan) back in 2006. I doubt the selection has severely deteriorated in the past 4 years.

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Daan

The dictionary yonglin mentions is excellent. Another one I like is the 現代漢語詞典 (bilingual edition).

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skylee

Another one I like is the 現代漢語詞典 (bilingual edition).

There is a bilingual edition?? Great. Is there a bilingual traditional script version?

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Holly

I think that unless you need a dictionary now, you should buy one in China. It will be a lot cheaper, and save on your baggage allowance. I bought an excellent pocket-size Oxford English-Chinese, Chinese-English dictionary for a very modest price (36 yuan) back in 2006. I doubt the selection has severely deteriorated in the past 4 years.

We were recommended to bring along a travel guide (if anyone has suggestions for a good one, let me know!) and a dictionary. You make an excellent point, but part of my wants to be as prepared as possible before going. Classes start only a few days after we arrive, and I don't know how much free time I'll have. :P I imagine a pocket-size dictionary would fit in my carry on with no problem.

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roddy

Is this the one you mean, Yonglin? Served me well for many years. The selling-point for learners is the pinyin not just on the headwords, but also the example sentences.

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yonglin

Yes, roddy, I'm pretty sure that's the one.

I think some people complain that the paper is too thin, or the print too small, but I feel that's the price you have to pay if you want an extensive and portable paper dictionary.

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Holly

A lot of people are saying in the reviews that the print is ridiculously small and thus very difficult to read. Is that true?

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Daan
There is a bilingual edition?? Great. Is there a bilingual traditional script version?

There is a bilingual edition, but I'm not sure if there's a traditional script one. The ISBN number of the bilingual edition with simplified characters is 7-5600-3195-1.

A lot of people are saying in the reviews that the print is ridiculously small and thus very difficult to read. Is that true?

If I could own only one Chinese dictionary, it would be that one. It's easy to take with you when you're heading out, but contains almost all the vocabulary you'll ever encounter, even when reading newspapers or magazines. I think Lu once said she felt it was sometimes hard to find literary words, but the odds are you won't be coming across those in the near future anyway. By the way, if you're planning to buy that dictionary (and just for the record, I would suggest buying quite a few dictionaries), consider buying it once you get to China. You'll probably be able to buy it in the on-campus bookstore and it'll save you a lot of money.

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Holly

(and just for the record, I would suggest buying quite a few dictionaries)

Really? Why is that?

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yonglin

Really? Why is that?

You'll need one each for 成语,习惯用语,synonyms and antonyms. You'll also need one "pocket" bilingual dictionary as well as one "brick" bilingual dictionary. Then, you'll need four monolingual dictionaries: one which has the largest number of 字, one which has the largest number of 词, one which has the best example sentences, and one which has the most convenient pinyin index. An additional dictionary which provides the best collocation references might come handy. Finally, you'll need one for classical Chinese.

You will find all of these in your local Xinhua book store. This is why you should leave some baggage allowance for the return trip.

Oh, and electronic dictionaries are very popular in China these days. :rolleyes:

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Kobo-Daishi

Dear Holly,

A lot of people are saying in the reviews that the print is ridiculously small and thus very difficult to read. Is that true?

I think they're referring to the pocket-sized edition as to the characters being too small.

I have a copy of that edition and its dimensions are 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches by 6 inches.

And the type is very very tiny.

You'd need an electron microscope to see the characters. :P

Or arms like Mr. Fantastic, Plastic Man, the Elongated Man, or Elastic Boy. :P

But that applies to most of the dictionaries I have. Aging Eyes. :)

There's a newer larger edition where the type is infinitely more readable.

My in-law has a copy of that edition.

Don't know if they've added to the content since the pocket edition but still for readability...

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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aristotle1990

You'll need one each for 成语,习惯用语,synonyms and antonyms. You'll also need one "pocket" bilingual dictionary as well as one "brick" bilingual dictionary. Then, you'll need four monolingual dictionaries: one which has the largest number of 字, one which has the largest number of 词, one which has the best example sentences, and one which has the most convenient pinyin index. An additional dictionary which provides the best collocation references might come handy. Finally, you'll need one for classical Chinese.

Why would anyone need any of these when such extensive and free resources are available for free? (Not sure if you were being sarcastic or not...)

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dumdumdum

You'll need one each for 成语,习惯用语,synonyms and antonyms. You'll also need one "pocket" bilingual dictionary as well as one "brick" bilingual dictionary. Then, you'll need four monolingual dictionaries: one which has the largest number of 字, one which has the largest number of 词, one which has the best example sentences, and one which has the most convenient pinyin index. An additional dictionary which provides the best collocation references might come handy. Finally, you'll need one for classical Chinese.

You will find all of these in your local Xinhua book store. This is why you should leave some baggage allowance for the return trip.

Oh, and electronic dictionaries are very popular in China these days. :rolleyes:

to expand on that, some might even want a hongkong or taiwan bilingual copy, because certain words and phrases related to ideology and politics are explained differently in mainland. yes china is a market economy now, but on the official standpoint certain things are still pretty rigid thou out-dated.

i was surprised to see 'state/nation'(guojia) being explained as something like 'a tool for certain social class to control other social classes' when i first arrived in china in the early 90s, and i was like 'wow, that's pretty hardcore'. dont know if things had changed now.

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anonymoose

You will find all of these in your local Xinhua book store. This is why you should leave some baggage allowance for the return trip.

How does that work? If she buys a dictionary in China rather than taking one with her, how will she have less to carry back? :conf

Anyway, I'm not familiar with the dictionary that everyone's been recommending, but the one that has served me well is the "A New Century Chinese-English Dictionary" (新世纪汉英大词典). Exactly the same dictionary comes in a large-print and a small-print size, but the print in the small-print size is still easy to read if you have normal eyesight. The large-print edition is huge and not the kind of thing you'd want to be carrying around with you. The small-print version is still not "pocket-sized", but could comfortably be carried around in your bag. It has over 2000 pages on fairly thin paper.

The reason why I like this dictionary is that it even contains fairly obscure characters. I often came across characters that I couldn't find in the previous dictionary I was using (Times if I remember correctly). It has example collocations and sentences. It contains most frequenly-used idioms, so for a beginner at least, you won't need a separate idiom dictionary. It is arranged according to pinyin, and has pinyin for each entry (not just the head entries). And each entry is in blue (in the small version) which is easier on the eye when searching for words.

I guess that there are other good dictionaries around, but this is so far the best that I've seen, although admittedly I haven't really been looking since I bought this one.

These days, however, I use the internet to look up most new words.

By the way, I agree with others that you should wait until you're in China to buy a dictionary. Apart from being cheaper, the choice available will be much wider. And don't worry about not having too much time. Any bookshop you go to will have dictionaries.

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yonglin
How does that work? If she buys a dictionary in China rather than taking one with her, how will she have less to carry back? :conf

The idea was that you should not bring too many things with you to China (i.e., on the outbound trip), since you will want to buy a lot of stuff in China (dictionaries included) which will need to meet some baggage allowance on the return trip. I will bet about $50 on that even if Holly brings a dictionary to China, s/he will buy at least one whilst in China.

aristotle1990, I was just providing some ideas of different types of paper dictionaries you might consider buying (if it seemed strange that one would ever want to own more than one dictionary). If you are the type of person who just loves paper dictionaries (like me), you probably considered buying each one of those at some point (especially when you see that the price in China is a pittance compared to your home country).

Re the small-printed Oxford dictionary which roddy linked, I will admit that it is difficult to see all the strokes of the traditional characters (provided in brackets) in the English-Chinese part of the dictionary. I have no issues seeing all the strokes in the simplified characters (fairly normal eyesight). Also, the Chinese-English part contains all the characters in very large print (in the rare case that you cannot make out the strokes, you could just look up the character using pinyin in the Chinese-English part). However, if you wish to learn traditional characters, you should probably pick up a HK/Taiwan dictionary instead. If Holly has poor eyesight, it would probably be best to have a look at a paper copy of any pocket-sized dictionary before purchasing it.

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