I’m trying to decide…

I'm trying to decide whether to buy a better Spanish dictionary for the test tomorrow. I have one, but it's fairly generic and old. I've been told that really good dictionaries have idioms and such, which could be really helpful tomorrow. (The test is open-dictionary, in case that wasn't clear.) Any opinions on this (or suggestions on particularly good dictionaries) would be very welcomed.

One more section of grammar to review, then just read read read. Nervous. I woke up this morning from a dream in which I was failing the exam. Sigh.

7 thoughts on “I’m trying to decide…”

  1. I’m a proponent of the Really Good Dictionary approach to language exams, it having served me well in the past, but I don’t know that you need to buy one. I’d suggest checking the library and seeing if they have anything you like.

    (Okay, not the most helpful suggestion, but it’s all I’ve got to offer.)

  2. I sometimes think that the dictionaries passed my French and German exams, with only minimal page-turning and pen-wielding help from me.

    I recommend the Harper Collins big fat dictionaries. (My French one is a Harper-Collins-Robert, but the German is just Harper Collins.) They have idioms, they have common phrases, they have verb tense tables. They’re a wonder of modern dictionary technology. The only thing is, you’d have been a lot better served having the dictionary well in advance, because familiarity with your dictionary can save you a lot of time on the test.

    If you can get one from a library, do, because they tend to run $80-100. But most libraries don’t let reference materials circulate.

  3. Big dictionary with post-its placed at the start of each letter (easier to flip to the right one right away).

    I am not making this up: my M.A. reading exam turned out to be an excerpt from 120 Days of Sodom.

    (I also have fond memories of the author-identification clerihews on the English Lit GRE. You could tell when people got to that part of the test because they’d start giggling…)

  4. I am now the proud owner of a $55 Harper-Collins unabridged dictionary. It is *huge*. I plan to spend the rest of my study time familiarizing myself with it. 🙂 Thanks for the rec, Susan!

  5. You should have two dictionaries at hand: a large one for more obscure words and phrases, but also a small one for quick reference. Use the small one first–you’ll find the word more quickly, and won’t be overwhelmed with possible meanings. (If you forget the meaning of a preposition, this is definitely the way to go.) Then if it turns out that you’ve hit on something obscure, you can turn to the large dictionary afterwards.

    Another (more obvious) suggestion: pick a page of Spanish text, and translate it under test conditions. I’ll be happy to correct it if you can get me the original and it isn’t already too late.

  6. I think I’m only allowed one dictionary, according to the proctoring instructions I saw. Sad, but there it is.

    I did just do what you suggested (Kevin’s suggestion), using a dual-language book. Mostly did okay, but made one very stupid mistake (got the gender of the protagonist wrong) which would certainly have flunked me, since I said her all through instead of him. Argh. Many sentences I did just right, but there were a few other mistakes, mostly minor. Kev says I should be more colloquial throughout in my translations; I tend to translate literally, which comes out generally as correct but quite formal English. It makes me nervous to translate more loosely, but I think he’s probably right on this one.

    Argh. Kev’s assessment is that I’ll pass if I am reasonably lucky on the passage I get, and if I don’t tense up and make a stupid big mistake due to stress. Sigh.

  7. So, there goes my good dictionary advice….

    One way to correct an overly formal translation is to read it without looking at the original. Then, if the word order sounds awkward, change it.

    Anyway, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things, and what you need is sleep. But that is advice that I, at least, was never very able to follow.

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