Five Easy Ways to Choose
the Right English Spanish Dictionaries

I think it was the second day of my translation program in college when I realized how many different English Spanish dictionaries there were.

And this was eons before the Internet as we know today with all it's super awesome (and not so awesome) resources for translators.

We know that dictionaries come in all shapes, sizes, specialties, and mediums. There are paperback dictionaries, medical dictionaries, desktop dictionaries, electronic dictionaries, good dictionaries, and bad dictionaries.

And that just doesn't go for paperback and hardback dictionaries, either. The Internet has everything, I'm pretty sure. I even once saw an animated gif of a monkey snowshoeing. I'll never get those 10 seconds back.

OK, back to dictionaries.

1. Don't Trust the Internet

Just because it's on the Internet, doesn't mean it's true. This is a warning call to be careful when doing research online for translations of specific words.

Due to the nature of the web, anyone can claim they know everything about Arctic ice fishing and how to translate every related word in both Spanish and English. Don't make your translation final until you've verified your sources and feel good about them.

2. Determine Your Needs

There are so many choices to choose from when deciding what to get. Narrow down what kind of work you'll be doing.

Are you interested in translating for the medical field? You'll need to invest in medical dictionaries.

Want a good generalized dictionary? Don't spend your time looking at specialized ones.

I always end up spending more on resources I don't need when I haven't determined what exactly I want. It's kind of like going to the grocery store when you're hungry. Not very good on the bank account.

3. Determine the Format

Are you looking for just Spanish English translation equivalents or do you want definitions included?

That's usually the difference between glossaries and dictionaries. Glossaries are lists of translations while dictionaries have definitions included.

4. Determine the Language(s)

Obviously this article is all about English Spanish dictionaries. However, you do need to ask yourself:

Do I need (or want) the dictionary to be a monolingual one or a bilingual one?

This may sound like a silly question at first but it's important to realize that there are a lot of specialized dictionaries that are written in only Spanish or only English.

Legal dictionaries are an excellent example of this. Because laws are different in different parts of the Spanish-speaking world, individualized resource books have been written which explain the laws of that particular region. These will undoubtedly be different from other regions and will usually be monolingual (as opposed to an English Spanish dictionary).

It's important, then, to have a good library of reference materials in both languages (either Spanish <-> English or Spanish-Spanish dictionaries) because that will help you translate more effectively.

For me personally, I like to have both bilingual and monolingual dictionaries in order to cross-reference them with each other on meanings of words.

5. Determine the Medium

Where do you do most of your translation work?

Do you like to work at your home office?

At the park?

In the library?

Outside by the pool?

In your bed?

The last thing you want to be doing is carting around every English Spanish dictionary you own wherever you go to work on your translations.

Thanks to this technology age, however, there are many options to choose from. Electronic Spanish English dictionaries, computer software, or even programs for your pda all will help you with your needs.

There are still plenty of books, too, if you like the feel of having a book in your hand while your doing your research.

Return from English Spanish Dictionaries back to Spanish Translation Resources for more on becoming a successful translator.