Friday, February 6, 2015

Online Linguistic Resources: WordReference

Back in November, we dedicated a post to the Ethnologue, an impressive language reference work and one of our favorite online linguistic resources. Today, we're going to take a brief look at another wonderful online language resource: WordReference.

WordReference is a website that features bilingual and monolingual dictionaries for a variety of languages as well as forums where users can ask and answer language-related questions. I first discovered it back in high school because I was tired of spending ages flipping through the pages my paper Spanish-English dictionary trying to find words. Back then, most of the site's resources were related to Spanish and English, but today it also features language dictionaries that provide translations between the English language and French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Romanian, Czech, Greek, Turkish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Arabic!

While I can't vouch for the depth or quality of many of these dictionaries since I've never used them before, I can say that WordReference's Spanish and French resources are outstanding. As I progressed in my education from high school Spanish class into university BA and MA degree programs in linguistic fields, I always expected to someday hear negative things about using WordReference from professors... but it never happened! In fact, I have consistently been told throughout my linguistic journey that it is a great resource, which always amuses me since I first discovered it as a teenager purely due to laziness. 

I think I'm head over heels in love with these adorable snow leopard cubs!
So you're probably wondering, what all does WordReference do? First and foremost, it contains a large number of searchable dictionaries. Say you want to translate the word "love" into Spanish - just type it into the search box (which works even if you've got the languages listed in the wrong direction!), and it will provide you with a number of different translations, including amor. Most come with useful example sentences, and as you continue to scroll down you'll also be treated to the translations of compound forms like "head over heels in love", and eventually reach forum discussions containing the word "love". If you don't trust WordReference's own dictionary, you can also click the "Collins" tab at the top of the page to see results from the respected dictionary publisher.

However, one of the best parts of WordReference is its forums. While many online forums are generally awful and unreliable, WordReference has managed to create an exceptional online community that has serious discussions about the meanings and translations of words. From my experience, its users provide accurate, reliable answers to linguistic queries, and even correct each other (kindly) if someone has answered a question incorrectly. It's also quite useful that each user's location and native language are listed next to their posts, so if you're looking for a translation for a cultural term specific to Mexico, you can look for answers posted by users from Mexico.

I could go on and on about the many features of WordReference as a linguistic resource, but instead I'll leave it up to you to explore the website and see what it can help you do! If you've used WordReference before, we'd love to know what you think - do you love it or hate it? Is it a good tool for your language pair? Let us know in the comments below.