What's the Best Dictionary for German Learners?

The best online dictionaries and browser plugins for German learners

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Schmitz, Michael. "What's the Best Dictionary for German Learners?" ThoughtCo, Mar. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-dictionary-for-german-learners-1444817. Schmitz, Michael. (2017, March 28). What's the Best Dictionary for German Learners? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-dictionary-for-german-learners-1444817 Schmitz, Michael. "What's the Best Dictionary for German Learners?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-dictionary-for-german-learners-1444817 (accessed September 23, 2017).
A painting of the tower of babel
Tower of Babel, 1595, by Marten van Valkenborch (1535-1612), painting, 75x105 cm, Belgium, 16th century, Detail. De Agostini / M. Carrieri - De Agostini Picture Library@getty-images

 A good dictionary is an essential tool for any language learner, from beginner to advanced. But not all German dictionaries are created equal. Here are some of the best.

Online Dictionaries

Nowadays almost everyone has access to a computer and the internet. Online dictionaries are usually free of charge and offer many more options than a paper dictionary. Let me introduce to you my three favorites of each category.

 

Linguee

Linguee is a lovely online dictionary which provides you with “real life” samples of the word that you are looking for from internet texts. The results are very often reviewed by their editors.
It also gives you a quick overview over possible translations and their German gender. Click on the speaker buttons and you’ll hear a nice very natural sounding sample of how that word sounds in German. They also offer smartphone apps for iPhone and Android for offline use.

Pons

At times I have to look up words in Greek or Russian which are when I refer to pons.eu. Their German dictionary is as good though I prefer linguee for its mentioned before features. Their sound samples sound very computer animated. But they also provide smartphone apps for iPhone and Android.

Google Translate

Usually the first address for language learners and lazy website translators. While it should not really be your main source of information, it can provide you with a quick overview of a longer foreign text.

Next to the bing machine, this is one of the most powerful translators I have seen. If you use the app on your smartphone or tablet you will also be able to handwrite a word that you are looking for or just speak to google and it will find what you are looking for. The killer feature is the integrated instant photo-translator.

Tap on the camera button in the app and hold the camera over a text and it will show you the translation live on your phone’s screen. Take a picture of a text and you’ll be able to swipe over a word or sentence and Google will translate that passage.  This is pretty awesome and very unique so far. For single words though I strongly recommend one of the other dictionaries above.

Dict.cc

Another powerful dictionary that I regularly use. According to their own statistics, they have about 5 million requests per month which are quite a number. You can customize dict.cc neatly and also download a widget for offline use on your mac or windows pc. Give it a try. It's certainly easy to handle and has been very reliable in my experience.

Messing Around

There are some pretty funny examples of how not to use google translate. Check out this video, where the song “Let it go” from the movie “Frozen” was translated by Google several times into different languages and finally back into English. In case you’d like to play around yourself, this page offers a convenient tool for you.

There are many other dictionaries out there but over the last years, I have come to love these three for their flexibility, reliability, practicality or usability.

Browser Plugins

There are endless options. I have picked the most downloaded and best-reviewed one for each popular browser.

For Chrome

Obviously, google rules when it comes to its own browser. The google translate extension has been downloaded ~14.000 times (as of the 23rd of June 2015) and has received a four-star review average.

For Firefox

IM Translator leaves a pretty solid impression with more than 21 Million downloads and a four-star review. It uses google translate and other translation engines and comes with a video tutorial. That sounds awesome to me but I just don’t like Firefox. Just my luck.

For Safari

Safari makes it pretty difficult to compare extensions as it does not provide download numbers or ratings. The best is to check those few ones available out quickly on your own.

Offline Dictionaries

For those of you who prefer to hold something in their hands and who love the feel of genuine paper when working on their German, Hyde Flippo has reviewed the following three fine dictionaries:

1) Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary 

This is a dictionary for serious users. With over 500,000 entries, the Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary will meet the needs of advanced students, business people, translators and others who require a comprehensive dual-language dictionary. Extra features include grammar and usage guides.

2) Collins PONS German Dictionary

Like the Oxford-Duden above, the Collins PONS is also a dictionary for serious users. It offers over 500,000 entries and meets the needs of those who require a comprehensive German-English/English-German dictionary, along with similar extra features. I consider these two tied for top German dictionary honors.

3) Cambridge Klett Modern German Dictionary

The Klett has been updated with the reformed German spelling, making it a top candidate. This 2003 edition is now the most up-to-date German-English dictionary you can buy. Advanced students and translators will find everything they need for their studies or for their work. 350,000 words and phrases together with 560,000 translations. Up-to-date vocabulary including thousands of new words from computing, the Internet, and pop culture.

What Else is Out There?

There are also certain desktop and software plugins tailored for a specific operating system. My experiences with those are rather limited and most likely outdated. If you have any actual recommendations, just write me an email and I’ll add them to this list.

Original article by Hyde Flippo

Edited on the 23rd of June 2015 by Michael Schmitz