10+ Best German Dictionaries for Language Learners and
how to pick the right dictionary for your German learning
A good dictionary is an essential tool for any language learner, from beginner to advanced. But not all German dictionaries are created equal. From hardcover dictionaries to online programs to mobile apps, here are some of best German dictionaries for German learners.
German dictionaries come in many shapes, sizes, price ranges and language variations. They range in format from online and CD-ROM software to large multivolume print editions resembling an encyclopedia. Smaller editions may have only 5,000 to 10,000 entries, while larger hardcover versions offer over 800,000 entries. You get what you pay for: the more words, the more money. Choose wisely! But it’s not the mere amount of words alone that make a good German dictionary. There are a few other factors that need to be considered. Here are a few tips on how to pick the right dictionary for your German learning:
German Dictionaries with One Language or Two?
Monolingual, German-only dictionaries offer several disadvantages, especially when you are just at the beginning of your German learning. For intermediate and advanced learners they might serve as additional dictionaries to broaden one’s ability to circumscribe certain things. While they usually contain more entries they are also very heavy and impractical for daily use. Those are dictionaries for serious language students, not for the average German learners. If you are a beginner I strongly recommend that you get a German-English dictionary to be very clear about what a word might mean. Take a look at a few Top German Dictionaries.
Software or Print Versions German Dictionaries?
When you open a dictionary to any two-page spread, you are usually looking up a word. It is usually the case, though, that your eye wanders. Words are tantalizing, and a dictionary page holds so much information that it is easy to see something else interesting on the page. Print dictionaries allow for serendipity and in print, a word’s entry is presented in a wraparound paragraph form. Finding the sense and the information you are looking for is a great way of making the brain exercise.
Another brain exercise is simply finding the word in an alphabetical book, which keeps your spelling gene working. If you are great at spelling, you are keeping your skill up. If you struggle with spelling, this exercise improves your spelling IQ.
Dictionaries for Special Purposes
Sometimes a regular German dictionary, no matter how good it may be, just isn’t adequate for the job. That’s when a medical, technical, business, scientific or other industrial-strength dictionary is called for. Such specialized dictionaries tend to be expensive, but they fill a need. Some are available online.
Whatever kind of dictionary you decide on, make sure it has the basics: the article, which means the gender of nouns, noun plurals, genitive endings of nouns, the cases for the German prepositions and at least 40,000 entries. Cheap print dictionaries often lack such information and are not worth buying. Most online dictionaries even provide you with audio samples of how a word is pronounced. It’s advisable to look for a natural pronunciation.
The Best Dictionary for German Learners
Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary (Hardcover)
This is a dictionary for serious users. With over 500,000 entries, the Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary will meet the needs of advanced students, business professionals, translators and anyone else who requires a comprehensive dual-language dictionary. Extra features include grammar and usage guides.
Collins German Dictionary (Hardcover)
Like the Oxford-Duden, the Collins is also a dictionary for serious users. It offers over 500,000 entries and meets the needs of those who require a comprehensive German-English/English-German dictionary, along with similar extra features.
Collins also has an excellent smartphone app for practicing vocabulary words, which includes a filter that allows you to search for words you may not know how to spell correctly.
Cambridge Klett Comprehensive German Dictionary (Hardcover)
The Klett has been updated with the reformed German spelling, making it a top candidate. This 2003 edition is now the most up-to-date German-English dictionary you can buy. With its 350,000 words and phrases together with 560,000 translations, advanced students and translators will find everything they need for their studies or work. The up-to-date vocabulary includes thousands of new words from computing, the Internet, and pop culture.