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THE English-German/German-English dictionary.
on June 16, 2012
I bought this book after I decided to study abroad in Germany. I got it to replace my 1992 Langenscheidt German "Compact Dictionary". After 20 good years of use (both in a high school for quite some time and some several months abroad), my old book is finally going into retirement. Even with the grammar shift in 1996, most of the entries in my old book were still pretty accurate, and I loved the old entry system, but that rugged little thing needs to be put to rest.
I was apprehensive at first with my new one. I'd never looked inside the version meant for the native English speaker before, and while one might not think there's a big difference, I found some important distinctions:
1. The ones they sell in Germany, while containing identical dictionary sections, have conversions for all sorts of measurements *from* metric *to* U.S. Standard, whereas the English version has the opposite. Especially important for people who like to bake and people who aren't familiar with how long a kilometer (or a meter, for that matter) is.
2. The German version contains a list of all of the irregular English verbs, whereas the English version contains a list of all the irregular German verbs
3. The "how to use this book" section in the German version is naturally in German. While it isn't rocket science, I like knowing all the nuances of the dictionary because it contains some helpful grammar info that might go unnoticed if the "how to use" section is skipped.
4. The English version also contains various tidbits like basic mathematical phrases (eg how to say 1/3 or 6 x 7) and German counting terms (1st, 2nd, so on)
5. The German version in most bookstores I've been to (in Germany) and on Amazon.de cost around 25 Euros. That's roughly twice as expensive as the English version if you ship it for free.
My apprehensions over the English version were misplaced, however, and I was overjoyed to find that those wise and reasonable people at Langenscheidt had largely stuck with their very functional format from the 90s. This bad boy contains just about every word you're going to need, provided you're not a chemical engineer or biologist lecturing in German. It has the plural and genitive forms for most of the nouns, classifies the verbs in a pretty useful manner, and contains a pretty intuitive layout. It also has a nice phonetic chart comparing the sounds between the two languages, and has pronunciation breakdowns for the "harder-to-say" words. I wasn't keen on the blue Headwords (in the old version they were just black and bold), but that's personal preference. The best things in this little monster, however, are the example sentences contained in some of the definitions. While you're not going to learn German grammar from this book, the examples are simple, relevant, and most importantly, accurate.
My only complaints are that this edition of the book is about twice as large as my old pocket dictionary, with only a couple thousand more entries. Same thickness, but basically doubled in page size. The upshot here is that it is much easier to read, but unless you're packing it around in your backpack, this isn't a pocket dictionary anymore.
In short: If you're only going to be passing through, this book might be a bit much for you. It's big, powerful, and means business! If you're going to be spending an extended period of time in Germany, or if you're studying anything from beginner to advanced German, you won't find a better book. Especially for the price. Under $15 for this thing is absolutely insane.