BETT 2016 Guest Blog: Oxford University Press and the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary for Office 365


One of the great things about Office 365 is the ability for our partners to build apps and systems that compliment the various elements of this collaborative productivity tool in the classroom. One such app is the OALD – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary – from the Oxford University Press.

OUP will be at BETT 2016 on stand C110, and have provided us with follow blog post ahead of this year’s exhibition.

OALD promo image

In the 1940s, a revolution came about in dictionaries for learners of English. A S Hornby, a teacher in Japan, realized that the materials available to his students were not suitable for them, and he set about creating a dictionary that would meet their needs. His dictionary became the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Over the years it has been updated many times, and like Hornby, today’s lexicographers think about what a non-native speaker of English needs from a dictionary. In the 21st century, the technological revolution means that the dictionary, now available as an app on Microsoft Office 365, is even better able to meet those needs.

A dictionary should tell you:

… what a word means – but in a way that a student of English can understand. A definition for a learner needs to be clearly written in simple terms, something that the OALD ensures by using a limited set of 3000 words. As Hornby pointed out, a student who wants to know what a lobster is will not find an explanation like ‘a large marine stalk-eyed ten-footed long-tailed edible crustacean’ helpful. A simply worded explanation, together with a picture, is far more helpful for the language learner because it enables them to understand the meaning of the word immediately. On the OALD app you can see thousands of pictures to help you understand the words.

… how to say a word. A dictionary for native speakers may assume that you know how to pronounce a word, or it may ‘respell’ the word in a way that is supposed to help you – but as a non-native speaker, you may find this unintelligible. It’s much better to find out how to say a word like ‘unintelligible’ by hearing a real native speaker saying the word. The OALD app allows you to hear the pronunciation of each word in British or American English.

… how to use a word. Words don’t exist in isolation. You have to know how to use them correctly, and that means knowing about their grammatical habits. For example is it: ‘I suggest to go tomorrow’ or ‘I suggest going tomorrow’? The OALD will tell you the correct construction so that you can put the word into a sentence. And it’s not just the grammatical construction that is important: you also need to know the way a word combines with other words. Suppose you need to do something. Action is required. But is it ‘do action’, ‘take action’ or ‘make action’? The dictionary entry for action will show you the word in a sentence and highlight these important combinations. Lexicographers choose examples for the OALD by studying the 2.5-billion-word Oxford Corpus of English and identifying the important constructions, contexts, and collocations to ensure that the examples help you understand and produce natural-sounding English.

OALD main image

Over 100 million English language learners already use the OALD to develop their English skills for work and study. 2016 extends OALD’s reach even further with the launch of a new app for Office 365 in partnership with Microsoft. 

The OALD app explains 185,000 words, phrases, and meanings with the needs of the English learner in mind – and this is now available directly at the point of need, within Office. If English is not your first language, writing reports, assignments or articles, and even emails are challenging, but with the help of the OALD Office 365 app, it’s easy to check you are using the right words, in the right context, and in the right way. With OALD, users will understand what words mean, learn how to say them, and know how to use them.

To find out more about the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and Oxford University Press’ digital publishing programme please visit our stand (C110) at BETT 20-23 January, Excel London.   


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