The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A shiny new dictionary

I've just received a shiny, new copy of a recently-published dictionary (yes, another one to pack!) that I worked on last year; the Chambers Student Learners' Dictionary. And I have to admit that even after 10 years in dictionary publishing, I still get quite excited when a new book arrives and I flick through the first couple of pages to find my name (or not, as the case may be with certain publishers). To be completely honest, this wasn't the most exciting of projects to work on. As with much modern lexicography, it was mostly a case of editing and adapting entries from another dictionary on the publisher's database to fit the format and users' needs. I was rather spoilt by the first project I ever worked on as a new lexicographer, because it was a brand-new dictionary being written from scratch - the Cambridge Learner's Dictionary - but sadly, such projects tend to be rare. I suppose there's no point in reinventing the wheel though, especially with the benefits of modern database technology.

The interesting point about this dictionary (and its USP) is that it's explicitly targeted at CLIL; a rather horrible acronym that always sounds to me a bit like a nasty disease, but actually stands for Content Language and Integrated Learning - or in other words, learning other subjects through the medium of English as a non-native speaker. It seems to have been a popular trend in ELT/ESOL in the past few years and has seen many of the dictionary publishers bringing out editions which include more subject-specific vocabulary. Most intermediate level learners dictionaries would discount words like aerodynamic or zygote on the grounds of frequency, but for CLIL learners, they're likely to crop up on the physics or biology syllabus so merit inclusion.

It's interesting too that Chambers seem to have bucked the trend on ELT dictionary titles and have gone for learners' dictionary instead of learner's dictionary (Cambridge, Oxford and Collins COBUILD all go for learner's dictionary, while Macmillan dodge the issue with dictionary for advanced/intermediate learners!) - are Chambers perhaps expecting groups of students to share a dictionary rather than having one each?

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