Learn Hebrew, Show Your Pride, Spotlight|July 5, 2011 11:02 AM

Hebrew Dictionaries: How to Choose the Right one?

Ariel Hebrew-Hebrew Dictionary

Ariel Hebrew-Hebrew Dictionary

So you’ve made the decision to learn Hebrew. You’ve set your mind on the goal and now you need the right tool. There are many different types of Hebrew dictionaries on the market today that you can choose from as your language companion. But which one is the right one for you? More specifically, which Hebrew dictionary can best accommodate your needs, level and your purpose of studying Hebrew? For example, are you studying for business or for pure pleasure? Are you interested in delving into the historical roots of the words, or looking to chat with the locals using the most up-to-date jargon? There are many things to consider when you’re looking for the Hebrew dictionary that is right for you. This article will explore what people look for in Hebrew dictionaries today, and how might you find the right one for you.

Vocabulary matters

When it comes to dictionaries, don’t judge the book by its cover but by its vocabulary. Check if the dictionary of your choice actually has the right selection and size of vocabulary in Hebrew. For example, a decent vocabulary size for a hard or paperback copy, without being too overwhelming, would be between 80,000 and 100,000 entries. With the increased use of technology and electronic devices today, the capacity for vocabulary has increased dramatically as it is no longer limited by the size and format of the printed copy. Speaking of getting a competitive edge and doing translation on the go, one of the latest advances in this area is the pen scanner. We are talking about a sophisticated electronic dictionary with multiple specialized features aimed at helping the user practice the language in a more efficient and accessible way. Consider the option, for instance, of being able to hear pronunciation of words and phrases in Hebrew via speakers or headphones. The size of the device also gives it its added advantage; in fact, just upon sizing it with your eye it is hard to believe it contains more than 300,000 words.

Idioms, expressions & slang

The best dictionaries also include idioms, modern expressions and slang, all of which are important to those wanting to master the conversational aspect of the language. Every Hebrew dictionary also has its own style in terms of format and layout. This refers to how the information is organized on the physical or electronic page – how many words or entries are visible per page or how the text is organized. Even the use of color is an important consideration, as many people are visual learners who are likely to choose one dictionary layout over another mainly for its visual presentation.

It is equally important to identify the main purpose for the dictionary and how it will be used. Businessmen, for example, might want to use an English-Hebrew dictionary that focuses on the spoken language and its practical uses which will help them communicate more clearly with clients, co-workers or business partners. In this case, they are more likely to focus on expressions that are appropriate for use in an office environment and boardroom meetings, or terms related to their specific project or business focus. In a business environment, clear and confident communication is absolutely a key. Therefore a dictionary that can enhance one’s clarity and use of proper terminology can give a serious language boost to a non-native Hebrew speaking professional.

Modern verse ancient Hebrew

When it comes to Hebrew dictionaries it is recommended to check whether the emphasis is on the Biblical Hebrew versus Modern Hebrew. Hebrew is an ancient language that has been revived in the 20th century. If you’re a newcomer to this language, taking your fist steps in the Hebrew language or, a traveler who is interested in speaking Hebrew in Israel or with Israelis around the world, or a businessman that has Hebrew speaking business partners – , you would certainly benefit more from a Modern Hebrew dictionary that offers idioms and most up-to-date modern expressions.

Aramaic is one of the ancestors of the Modern Hebrew language. Scholars and students who are interested in ancient scriptures can benefit from having a handy electronic Aramaic translator while deciphering their way through ancient Aramaic texts.

Which format is better – paperback, electronic or on-line?

It all depends on the usage!

Home & Community libraries: If you are looking for a dictionary for a home or community library then the good-old hardcover Hebrew dictionary will be the right choice.

Translation on the go: in case you are a student who studies Hebrew at school, college or in an Ulpan or if you happen to be traveling in Israel and you need a light weight dictionary that can be carried in your pocket or bag at all times – chose a handheld electronic dictionary.
These days there are a variety of excellent solutions out there such as the Hebrew Babylon electronic dictionary or Wizcom’s Quicktionary Pen scanner using an innovative OCR technology.
Electronic dictionaries combine the advantages of fast, efficient translation, an on-the-go option, and a lightweight device. Electronic dictionaries are portable, and often integrate a wide variety of features filled with thousands of words to help you learn Hebrew on the go. However, a good old-fashion Hebrew dictionary can always come in handy for all members of the family for years to come. It never runs out of batteries and is available in affordable prices. Today in some formal exams you can only use the traditional type.

Online & desktop dictionaries: they are very useful when working in an office environment but they have three main disadvantages:

  1. We are not always online and thank god for that
  2. Sometimes we are away from our computer – that god for that too…
  3. Even when carrying smart phones with translation apps – they don’t make the best connection between offline and online worlds like a pen scanner does – it actually scans a whole line of Hebrew text from a book and promptly displays the translation on the screen

In reality, many people who learn Hebrew use more than one dictionary since each has its own advantages and perks. If you’re more of a tech savvy type or just like your information at the tip of your fingertips, literally, you can opt for the software version of the dictionary in Hebrew. However, these formats mostly rely on wireless technology.

Show your pride in Israel’s Hi-Tech industry:

Quicktionary TS: Hebrew-English Pen Scanner

Quicktionary TS: Hebrew-English Pen Scanner

We haven’t conducted a statistical research yet but it seems that relatively to the small number of Hebrew speakers in the world (comparing to other languages such as English, Spanish, and Arabic etc.) we managed to gain sufficient presence in the High-Tech adn online industry and that includes companies & manufacturers to releasing a Hebrew version of their product. As mentioned before, two of the biggest companies in this industry are Israeli owned: Babylon who provide translation software, electronic dictionaries and translation tools and Wizcom who provide text solutions, portable translators scanners and reading pens – in mid-2010 they launched the Quicktionary TS Pen scanner in Hebrew.

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