What to Expect of German Word Look-up Experience


Alternative titles

  • What Kind of German Word Look-up Experience Do I Need?

To answer the question in the title, let’s first think why I need to look up a German word.

Why Do I Need to Look Up a German Word?

Here is a list that I can easily think of as the following.

  • check the infinitive/basic form of an unknown word
    • in case a word I meet is conjugated or declined (dekliniert)
    • e.g., it is worth knowing that „liest“, „las“ and „gelesen“ are just „lesen“ in other forms and „ließ“ and „lasse“ are just „lassen“ in other forms
  • check the pronunciation (including where is the accentuation)
    • e.g., it is worth knowing that „interessant“ is pronounced as [intərɛsant] instead of [inteːrɛsant]
  • check the split lines
    • e.g., „heraus“ is commonly separable as „he·raus“
  • check the part of speed or gender of noun
    • e.g., „Band“ can of three genders: „das Band“, „der Band“ and „die Band“, and different genders give different meanings
  • check the conjugation or declension of a word I want to use
    • e.g., I want to express „She is reading a novel“ but I don’t know the 3rd person form for „lesen“, then I need to look it up
  • check the definitions
    • very common and depending on the real situations I may want to
      • have a glimpse of short meanings (fast)
      • have a in-depth explanation (comprehensive)
    • because of different situations, this part varies a lot
  • check the patterns
    • may be part of definitions
    • but make sense to be standalone to let learners get the information more efficient
    • e.g., I want to know what proposition is after „kümmern“
  • And more…

What Kind of German Dictionary Can Satisfy My Needs?

Maybe something as the following.

As seen in the above GIF or MP4 (converted from GIF by Twitter), the wished dictionary entries would have a fixed always shown block, called meta in the images, which gives stable short information about the keyword.

As for the definitions, depending on the use cases, one may just want to get the basic definitions for a keyword or more comprehensive definitions. As for me, at the moment, most often, I would like most to see basic definitions of a German word in German (from PONS Basiswörterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache). If I don’t truly understand the basic German definitions, with one more click I would have the chance to get the help of my mother language (from 外研社德汉双解德语学习词典 which is the Chinese annotated version of PONS Basiswörterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache); In other cases, I may have the interest to see more about a word, then „PONS Großwörterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache“ is also just one step away. And what’s best? With the foundation of „PONS Basiswörterbuch“, it is easier to understand definitions in „PONS Großwörterbuch“. (Here is also one implication, normally, for me, or for many people like me, less is better than more – one typical issue when I try to use online dictionaries like Duden.de or Oxford Online is that the pages are too long and I am in a hurry and without enough time to go through the pages.)

What are also of great help? Also as shown, indentation helps to grasp points faster, and color coding makes the identification of noun gender easier and more memorable.

What could be added to make it even better? Behind the IPA, maybe, audio from Forvo; Illustration images if applicable; …

In the era of multi-media web world, I really hope dictionary makers can take advantage of web technologies to make language learning more enjoyable. Why I mention web technologies? Here your are https://www.johannhuang.com/web-pages/german-dictionary-demo/ – the web page in the GIF.


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