ON DICTIONARIES: Which ones you should use and how to get the most out of your (online) dictionaries!

use a dictionary

After an epic rant on why you should never use Google Translate and an in-depth explanation of how to use a dictionary correctly, it’s now time to look at what dictionary is right for you and how you can practically use it. That’s why I’ve made two demonstration videos in which I show you the different features and possibilties of several online dictionaries and how you can use them to your advantage. If you haven’t read my guide on how to use dictionaries correctly, I would highly advise you to check that out first.

WHAT DICTIONARY FOR WHAT LEVEL: RECOMMENDATIONS & TIPS

In order to make it easier for you, the student, I’ve decided to compile the following guide because I want you to easily find which online dictionary you could use according to your level and needs. In the videos and descriptions below, you’ll find more information on the links and dictionaries.

A1-A2 
for students learning Dutch (from the Netherlands or without any specific accent in mind) with English or German as a source languageUse this free dictionary:
https://en.bab.la/
for students learning Dutch (from the Netherlands or without any specific accent in mind) with another source languageUse this free dictionary:
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/
for students specifically learning Flemish DutchUse the combination of 
1. the paying Van Dale translation dictionaries (either French, English, German or Spanish , 4.99€ / year) and since these dictionaries don’t have the pronunciation of the word in Dutch, combine it with
2. the monolingual Van Dale NT2 online Dutch dictionary for Dutch students (3.99€ / year) where you can hear the pronunciation in Flemish Dutch as well
A2-B1
Use the combination of 
1. the paying Van Dale translation dictionaries (either French, English, German or Spanish , 4.99€ / year) and combine it with
2. the monolingual Van Dale NT2 online Dutch dictionary (3.99€ / year). That way you can switch between the translation and the Dutch, simplified description of the word. 
B1 onwards
 As much as possible, try to use the Van Dale NT2 online dictionary for Dutch students only. 

I’ve made a more in-depth video demonstration of how and when to use these dictionaries.

INSERT GENERAL EXPLANATION VIDEO

Here, you find an in-depth video demonstration of how the Van Dale payed for translation and monolingual NT2 dictionaries work and how you can use them productively.

INSERT VAN DALE VIDEO

OVERVIEW OF DICTIONARIES

Below, I’ve listed for you some important dictionaries (in print and online) along with my personal ideas about it in italics. They are oftentimes selected because I know that many students like to use them. That’s why I thought it would be important to give you my very personal, critical feedback on them. If you have any recommendations for me or dictionaries that you think I left out or missed, leave a comment!

In print

Online

Good translation dictionaries

Bab.la dictionaryA great free dictionary for Dutch-English and Dutch-German. There are lots of examplary sentences, you can check the article of the word and you can hear the pronunciation of the words in Dutch, but only in Dutch from the Netherlands.

The Free DictionaryA great free dictionary but far from complete depending on your source language (case in point: the Portuguese-Dutch is not all that fleshed out or exact). You just type in the word, it automatically recognizes the language or if it’s a word that exists in other languages, you click on the corresponding flag in the search bar. Then you will get a definition of the word and if you scroll down, you should get the possibility to translate it into the language of your choice (of which there are plenty to choose from, from Arabic to Vietnamese). There are lots of examplary sentences and you can check the article of the word. You can also hear the pronunciation of the words in Dutch but only in Dutch from the Netherlands. This is probably the best free dictionary for other languages than English or German.

Van Dale Translation Dictionaries (3,99€/year per dictionary)

You pay a certain price per year for all of these dictionaries. That means that your costs are quite low in comparison to getting a print dictionary. You can use these digital dictionaries in your browser after creating an account with Van Dale. You could also use it on your phone with the rather temperamental Van Dale App. Van Dale in general has some technical issues so beware.

The main drawback to these dictionaries is the fact that you cannot hear the Dutch pronunciation of the words. That’s because it’s a dictionary for English / other target language students). It’s best combined with the NT2 dictionary below. Then you can easily move to the Dutch pronunciation of the word (as shown in the video demonstrations). Despite that, these dictionaries are very precise. For the little amount of money that you have to pay and how practical it is to use, it is well worth it to get it if you use any of these languages as your source language.

Monolingual Dutch dictionary ideal for students – MUST HAVE!

Van Dale NT2 onlineCosts 4.99€ / year and available in print here. Features and drawbacks of the online version:

  • You can immediately see whether a noun is with “het” or “de”.
  • To my knowledge, it’s the only dictionary where you can listen to the pronunciation of each word in Dutch from the Netherlands and Flemish.
  • There are many examplary sentences that are easy to understand.
  • Only Dutch-Dutch with simplified Dutch definitions for adult students, not a translation dictionary
  • It’s recommended for A2-B1 level students and it’s also good for A1 students if you want to check examplary sentences. You could also use it in combination with any of the above translation pocketdictionary of Van Dale

And Flemish students, check this one out…

Vlaams WoordenboekA great dictionary with typical Flemish words, expressions and ways of saying. Ideal for students who live in Flanders or who have a lot of exposure to Flemish language and culture.

Translation dictionaries with problems

Van DaleThis free online version I would not recommend: it’s confusing and difficult for students to use. There are better free versions out there.

Pons WörterbuchDictionary ideal for German students. Quite good, but with some drawbacks: the pronunciation of the words is only in Dutch from the Netherlands and more importantly, it doesn’t show you the article of the noun, but rather indicates m (masculine), v (feminine) (corresponding to “de”) or o (onzijdig, neutral) (corresponding to “het”). That’s very confusing and inconvenient because Dutch doesn’t really use gender anymore.

Mijn WoordenboekAn online translation dictionary. It does what it says on the package, comes with a bunch of different conjugations and other cool functions. It’s quite good although you don’t get a lot (if any) explanation with regards to the translation of the word. This is especially confusing if there are many meanings linked to the same word.

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