Tips for using an Online Italian-English DictionaryAn online Italian-English dictionary is a very helpful resource for students learning Italian. My favorite is Word Reference, http://www.wordreference.com.There is more to using an online bilingual dictionary than you might think! Here are some helpful tips:
This may sound silly, but make sure you select the right languages, “English-Italian”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading students’ work and seen an expression in Spanish, French, or Portuguese!! :)
You wouldn’t want to write “squash” the vegetable when you mean “to squash something”, would you? Other than making your writing sound silly, it is incorrect and can be confusing! Using the wrong part of speech is a common mistake to make when using a bilingual dictionary. It is important to think about what type of word are you looking up: is it a noun (person, place or thing), verb* (action, or state of being ex. “am”, “are”, “is”), adjective** (describing a noun), or adverb (describing a verb)? (There are many more parts of speech, but these are some of the most common!). Make sure when you type the word and look at the list of results, you see the appropriate abbreviations:
noun = nm (masculine noun), nf (feminine noun)
verb = v, vi, vtr
adjective = adj
adverb = adv
Read the words in parenthesis to get the context of the word being translated, and/or the gray sample sentence (if one is provided) for each word you plan to use.
It will help you to make the best choice possible in your translation.
If you are looking up an expression, enter the most important word in the search box. Then, scroll down, and look for your expression. Expressions must be looked up as one whole term; it almost never makes sense to translate an expression word-for-word. For example, In English, we say “I can’t wait”. In Italian, this makes no sense!! An Italian might ask, “Why can’t you wait? Are you busy?” The Italian expression for “can’t wait” is “Non vedo l’ora”, which literally means “I can’t see the time!” If an Italian looks up Non - “can’t”, vedo - “see”, l’ora - “the time”, you also would not know what they were talking about! By entering “wait” in the dictionary, here are the results:
These options should give you the expression you are looking for!
*When you look up a verb (for example, you want to say “My sister is going to camp this summer”), you need to pick out the verb in your sentence and simplify it: the action here is “go”. In the dictionary, type “to go” or “go”. Read through the words in parenthesis and example sentences to make sure you have a word with the correct meaning. Don’t forget, you must now form the verb.
**When you look up an adjective (for example, you want to say “The pizza is delicious!”), you need to make the ending agree with the noun. La pizza is feminine, so when you find the word “delizioso”, make sure to change it to “deliziosa” → “La pizza è deliziosa!”First, online bilingual dictionaries let you type in a word you would like to look up and it gives you the possible meanings of that word and an example sentence. Many words have more than one meaning, or in Italian, could be translated differently depending on the situation. When you use an online dictionary, you have the ability to choose the best word possible for the situation. This means you can avoid incorrect or awkward translations!Another great feature of online dictionaries is the verb conjugator. Type the verb you would like to see the conjugations for in the box, and it will give you all the forms of the verb. At MJS, we mostly only work with "il presente" (the present tense), which are the first verbs in the top left of the conjugation chart on the page. In 8th grade, we also learn "il passato prossimo" (the "near" past, or Present Perfect tense), which are the first verb conjugations in the second row of the chart.Finally, one of my favorite features of Word Reference is the forum. At the bottom of each entry, people can post questions about phrases that might not be found in the dictionary. They often contain cultural information about phrases that are hard to translate.Online Dictionaries :D vs. Online Translators >:(Online dictionaries are different from online translators. Online translators do not give you options for the right meaning of your word in a sentence, and often lead to incorrect and awkward translations!! Sentences translated by online translators often do not make sense, or say something completely different than what you meant. When students use online translators in a World Language class, not only do they risk writing things that are incorrect or illogical, but they also risk plagiarizing. Online translators are NOT an acceptable resource for World Language class!