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A Learner’s Dictionary

FIX – A One-Act Play.  Characters: Teacher and Student. Location: Classroom, some time in November

Teacher: Are you going to fix a turkey for Thanksgiving?

Student: Fix?

Teacher: Yes. Are you going to fix — prepare — a turkey?

Student: Fix means prepare?? I thought it meant repair!

Teacher: Well, ah, yes — it means both . . .

A big problem for ESL students is that a single word may have many different meanings in English. Take “fix,” for example. When students look for a translation in their native language, they will probably find one or two definitions.

In Merriam Webster’s Essential Learner’s English Dictionary, there are nearly 30 deessential-learners-english-dictionaryfinitions, if you include nouns, verbs and phrasal verbs. There are other learner’s dictionaries, but Merriam Webster’s is particularly good.

It’s a 4”x7” paperback, 1,386 pages (caution, very small print), cram-full of word explanations, idioms, example sentences and commonly used phrases for every word. It’s available on Amazon for $9.95. But it’s available completely free online at: http://www.learnersdictionary.com/

The book is appropriate for upper-intermediate to advanced students and is a valuable resource for teachers. The online version has a Word of the Day feature, Vocabulary Quizzes and an Ask the Editor capability, where you can pose a question and get an answer.

For example, let’s say you want to know the difference between could, should and would. Ask the Editor and with the response you’ll have a ready-made lesson plan!

Do you have other suggestions for coping with the multiple-definition dilemma? Please leave a comment and share your ideas with your fellow tutors.

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