Are paper dictionaries still effective?

R.I.P Paper Dictionary 💀 – Creative Language Learning Series

Some time ago I asked my cousins if they knew what an encyclopedia was (they’re nine by the way), and they stared at me like I had said some kind of foreign word. I couldn’t blame them as I almost had forgotten the word myself. I dare anyone of you to walk into somebody’s house and ask to use any of the following:

  • An Encyclopedia
  • A Thesaurus
  • A Print Dictionary

What do you think your chances are of getting access to any of them? The process of finding information has sped up dramatically within recent years. Turning to the method of flipping through hundreds of pages can even seem like physical labor to something people!

Thankfully we’ve evolved to more efficient means of searching for information like… oh, I don’t know – THE INTERNET? Not the mention we have our phones, and I don’t know about you all, but Siri and the five Japanese dictionaries on my iPhone have been doing a fantastic job at searching for words.



Pros Of Using A Print Dictionary

Physically Hold Knowledge

Imagine if you could weigh the amount of knowledge that you could potentially learn. How much would it weigh? 5, 10, 15 pounds? Regardless of the number, it’s an awe-inspiring thought. The concept of weighing your knowledge in language learning as a physical quantity is quite unique and it really is motivational if thought about for long enough.

Tantalize Your Senses

Not all dictionaries are loaded with black and white words. Some actually have fun, creative visuals that assist in learning the information presented. Learning a language in context is one of the best methods you can use to make it stick, so having illustrations thrown in between words can hold your interests, stimulate your senses and overall give you a better learning experience.

Fewer Distractions

Compared to online dictionaries that can be littered with hundreds of video ads, spam, and promotions, a plain paper dictionary has a more streamlined design. You’ll be sure to not venture off into a random youtube video or click on a video game advertisement. Paper, that’s all you have in front of you and quite frankly that’s all you need, PAPER.

Easy Access To Knowledge

While approximately 3 billion people have access to the internet, that doesn’t mean that they’ll ALWAYS have access to the internet. Paper dictionaries come in handy here because you don’t need to find the nearest Starbuck’s Wi-Fi to search for words. You’ll always have the power and control to find the information you need with a print dictionary – so long as you carry it with you.



Cons Of Using Print Dictionaries

This article isn’t titled “R.I.P Paper Dictionary” for no reason. There are quite a number of concerning cons that make use of the paper inefficient.

Slower Access To Information

The first con is as clear as day, it’s slow. Using a print dictionary to look up any kind of information is slow. Even though the dictionary is categorized neatly, it can take a while to sift through all that information to find exactly what you’re looking for – as there are no wires or high powered software to get you there faster.

Bulky Design

Print dictionaries can be bulky, but there are some that are smaller and take up less space. Nonetheless, they still take up more space than, oh… I don’t know YOUR PHONE. Carrying it around can be more of a burden than a blessing at times.

Harder To Bookmark Information

Let’s say you find a word or piece of information you deem really important. What do you do then? Well, you can cut up pieces of colored paper and cram them in between the pages hoping they don’t fly out or misplaced. There is also the option of taking a bold sharpie marker and risk eventually defacing your entire dictionary). Either way, bookmarking is going to be more of a pain than a pleasure.

Expensive In The Long Run

Print dictionaries can be relatively expensive, but the price itself isn’t necessarily the problem here. Suppose you buy a $20 dictionary and then next month some group of scholars decides they want to add 1,000 more words to the language. That’s going to cost you another $20 or probably even more since it’s new! I don’t know about you all, but I’d rather just update the app on my phone and move on with my life.

No Audio To Practice Words

Normally, I wouldn’t be so critical about this one, since integrating sound into something as dense into a dictionary isn’t easy. However, language learners prefer ( I know I certainly do!) to hear a word when it is first introduced to solidify the meaning. The only sound you’ll be hearing with a paper dictionary is the sound of exactly that, paper. Good luck trying to get a word’s phonetics out of that… you can also try guessing, but that never goes well.



Are Print Dictionaries Really Dead?

So who’s to say that the use of paper dictionaries aren’t completely obsolete? Well, you can try the millions of people who still use them. But, why is there such a fascination in something that seems so inefficient?

You’d be quite surprised actually! Print dictionaries are still in widespread use for good reason! As language learners, we need to remember that there is always more than one way of accessing information. We don’t always need to use an electronic dictionary to find information, as the standard paper dictionary can hold massive amounts of value.

However, they do lack some of the 21st-century advancements we’ve managed to integrate into language learning. This may be why they take the backseat in the world of language learners, specifically.

Personally, if someone were to ask me to look up a word on my dictionary without specifying what kind of dictionary, I’m going to use my phone. The reason for that quick decision isn’t that I hold a bias towards electronic dictionaries, but rather that I prefer to be efficient. This isn’t to say that I don’t have my fair share of print dictionaries, but how often do I use them?


Yes, Paper Dictionaries Are Dead

Yes, the answer is yes. As comprehensive and open-minded as I tried to be with this article, I’ve come to a consensus that the paper dictionary is truly dead. Be honest with yourselves, when was the last time you saw somebody whip out a 1,000 page dictionary to find a word mid-conversation?

Okay, I’ll do you guys a solid here and say they aren’t “dead”, but they’re definitely already 6 ft under in your nearest cemetery. And I only mention this point because they are still being produced in stores, and kept on the shelves on high schools and other educational facilities.

So, by all means, use a print dictionary, but remember you might be cutting yourself short. Better yet, try using both print and electronic dictionaries and see which one you prefer. I’m certain you’re eventually going to throw one away, and I’m even more certain that it’s going to be the one with the paper in it.




RIP Paper Dictionary Worksheet

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Posted by Kiandro


I'm Kiandro, the content creator here at L-Lingo. I'm an avid language learner and culture enthusiast. Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts you have on my blog posts.