7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The best one-volume monolingual dictionary on the market,
This review is from: Diccionario del estudiante (RAE) (Spanish Edition) (Hardcover)Every intermediate and advanced student of Spanish, at some point, needs to add a monolingual dictionary to their basic arsenal of reference books, i.e., a dictionary that defines words using only Spanish, without the need for translation into other languages. Still, a good, monolingual dictionary is so much more than just a list of words with definitions: yes, it explains meanings of words, but it also provides students with extensive usage examples, addresses common dilemmas (e.g., the word listo to be used with SER or ESTAR?), and often provides synonyms of words (listo = inteligente).
There are dozens of monolingual dictionaries available on the market, and unfortunately most are really bad, virtually useless, and often quite expensive on top of that. Several are quite expensive, and awkward to use. The "Diccionario del estudiante" published as a result of a joint effort between the Real Academia Española and Santillana is the unquestionable king of the hill in this category. It is reasonably priced, big enough, so it lists most the entries that intermediate or even advanced students of contemporary Spanish language and literature may need, and it is also handy enough to be easily browsed.
The range of vocabulary covered here is extensive, and individual entries are very well and clearly written; each word is accessibly explained using fairly basic vocabulary (so even low-intermediate students will understand the definitions), and each definition is accompanied by a generous amount of well thought-out (i.e., illustrative and not generic) usage examples. The listing of words uses the so-called MODERN SORT, where ll/rr are not treated as separate entries, but fit within the letter l and r, respectively. Unlike so many other, poorly designed dictionaries, this one lists the necessary syntactic information for each word, including prepositional extensions of verbs (Esto no depende DE mí.), and adjectives (dependiente DE), and often includes common collocations for nouns (la conclusión: llegar a ~). Prepositional extensions are one of the most difficult aspects of vocabulary, since they are arbitrary and unpredictable, and therefore are impossible to guess even for fairly advanced students. For example, Eng. "to look for" does not translate into Span. *"buscar por" - buscar requires no prepositional extension in Spanish. Additionally, prepositional extensions often change between verbs and other parts of speech derived from them. This dictionary has it ALL covered.
One of this dictionary's unique features is the inclusion of the pronunciation key for words that may cause problems for learners and native speakers alike. Most dictionaries assume that Spanish words are pronounced the way they are spelled; but this rule does not hold true for many recently imported words of foreign origin: for example, "handicap," although still spelled in Spanish with an h, is pronounced as [jandicap] and not as [andicap], which this dictionary points out. It also indicates that the word is a recently imported Anglicism, and it provides useful, and better alternatives for each of its several meanings.
IN SUMMARY: The best single-volume monolingual dictionary on the market today ('09), with clear definitions, usage tips, syntactic info, and common collocations. An absolute, essential must for any serious student of Spanish, and with its clear, two-color, easy-to-read layout, it's a real pleasure to use. Oh, and unlike many others in this category, it's actually affordable for an average student.
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Initial post: Oct 31, 2009 12:42:09 PM PDT
Spanish student says:
Thank you for the detailed comments. I appreciate your information on prepositional extensions and the usage examples. I was also attracted to the book by its layout and use of different fonts and blue for the main word entries. I am excited to find such a dictionary, though I have already been disappointed by my research into the example you gave: "handicap." Neither the definitions for this word or related definitions and synomyns (e.g., for the troubling "invalido"), mention the words I have seen most commonly used in Chile for physically challenging problems or disabilities: the somewhat more respectful "discapacitado" or the almost equally offensive "minusválido." Forget for a moment any judgements on appropriateness of these various terms; "Discapacitado"* is in wide use but not listed or menionted in the dictionary. ("La Fundación Nacional de Discapacitados" )
But I also think that the definitions of terms like "invalido" should note that there are questions about their appropriateness. I sometimes translate "invalido" as worthless by the way, just to make the point. I still think the dictionary is worthwhile. I appreciate that it doesn't shy away from explicit definitions of political terms with concrete references. However, the omission of "escuadron de la muerte" is another shortcoming, given the central role these organized killers have played in several Spanish speaking countries.
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