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Poll: Do you still use paper dictionaries?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 03:01
Sep 17, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you still use paper dictionaries?".

This poll was originally submitted by Elodie Bonnafous. View the poll results »


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:01
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Another oft-discussed topic Sep 17, 2014

In one of the Poll Discussion forums several years ago on this topic, I posted this poem. I still feel the same way, though I use online dictionaries more and paper ones less these days.

My Heart’s With the Paper
(based on Robert Burns’ poem “My Heart’s in the Highlands”)

My heart’s with the paper, my heart is not here,
My heart’s with the paper forever, I fear.
A-chasing the wild word, and failing; and yet
My heart’s with the paper, and not with the Net.

Farewell to the paper, it’s sad but it’s true -
To the Websters, the Oxford, and Callaham’s too.
Hello to the Google, hello Multitran.
You have to find answers wherever you can.

Farewell to Larousse, and hello, Wikipedia.
There’s all that you need on the Internet media.
Farewell to Britannica filling the shelf.
It’s all on the Web, you can find it yourself.

But my heart’s with the paper, I say it again.
My heart’s with the paper. It causes me pain
To abandon my lost loves, no more books to see.
My heart’s with the paper, and always will be!

(August 2006)


Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:01
Turkish to English
+ ...
Yes Sep 17, 2014

Yes, I have a pile of them stacked up on shelves within reach of my right hand, and these are often the first thing I refer to. Over the years, I have added my own useful annotations in the margins - in fact I have gradually turned a monolingual Turkish dictionary of legal terms into quite a functional bilingual dictionary by doing so - which makes them more useful. Maybe it is old fashioned, but I am 58 and it is what I am used to!

PS - I consider myself to have excellent skills at researching terminology on line, too, although this is often my second resort.

[Edited at 2014-09-17 08:25 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Local time: 11:01
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes Sep 17, 2014

My desk is surrounded by shelves full of dictionaries, encyclopedias and other books and I find that both comforting and reassuring... Paper dictionaries are my first port of call. I prefer paper dictionaries to online versions: they have been my faithful companions for long and they tend to be more reliable. I also enjoy the feel of a book in my hands and flipping real pages. Browsing a dictionary is a joy no computer can match. The act of going to it, pulling it off the shelf seems to help my thinking process.


Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:01
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
Love the poem Sep 17, 2014

Thanks for the poem, Jack. It sums up my sentiments perfectly!


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Sep 17, 2014

I also keep at least one XP-enabled PC so that I can keep on using my CD dictionaries when off-line. I have the Oxford SuperLex 3-in-1 version (French/German/Spanish -English), the DRAE, the SALT Catalan-Castilian, and the Routledge Business and Routledge Technical dictionaries, all of them only available for 32-bit platforms as far as I know. There's also a medical dictionary but I don't recall ever using it.

In traditional paper format I have the Beigbeder Polytechnic (only the Spanish to English tome) and the Alcaraz legal dictionary, as well as a large Oxford dictionary. Finally, I have a specialist dictionary on forestry which a client photocopied for mefor one job a few years ago; I don't think it's available anywhere else.

[Edited at 2014-09-17 10:10 GMT]


Elizabeth Joy Pitt de Morales  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:01
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
My friends, the dictionaries Sep 17, 2014

That's how I feel about dictionaries. I love them, and it has been a life-long affair. Dictionaries were big in my family's house as I grew up: I got my first dictionary as a gift on my first day of kindergarten. My mother had a three-tome dictionary -- I can't remember the name -- that was already very old when I was a child. One of my favorite games was to pick one of them and call out words to her while she was washing the dinner dishes in an attempt to find one she didn't know the definition of!

Like Teresa, I have dictionaries and other books filling the shelves around my computer, but close at hand is one that I cannot imagine ever not needing: the Larousse "diccionario visual". I use it all the time for technical translations, but I also enjoy just perusing it to find out the names of all kinds of stuff that I never really even knew existed. Right next to it, just for contrast, is a 1937 printing of the 1916 edition of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition. Some time ago, I had to translate some early 20th-century texts, and I checked several words in it to make sure that my use of them was consistent with the times.

Thank you, Jack; that is a lovely poem. I was just trying to explain to my 21-year-old daughter the other evening that reading from the tablet is just not the same experience as reading from a real paper-and-ink book. I'm not at all sure I was convincing.


Nora Reed
United Kingdom
Paper vs digital Sep 17, 2014

Yes , I would prefer Paper Dictionary

I would say that is about a million times easier than finding a paper one and spending time to look up a word, but still would prefer paper dictionary. I have some in my rack. I just can't get over them.

[Edited at 2014-09-17 10:37 GMT]


Steve Melling  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:01
French to English
+ ...
General musings Sep 17, 2014

An excellent poem, Mr Doughty (sincerely).

I adore books (I suspect most translators do) and, like my fellow contributors, I am surrounded by dictionaries and books I use for context. Specialist dictionaries are difficult to find on the Internet so those are the paper ones I still use.

There are thousands of dictionaries on the Internet but, to be frank, many are...average.

I'm not criticising translators who've made the effort to help their peers or people learning a language.

But there are some companies who run online dictionaries and the least said the better.

Other online dictionaries that can be found on well-known publishers' sites are usually good and reliable.

I suppose my observations hold true for Internet content per se: a curate's egg.


Alberto Montpellier  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...

once again... Sep 17, 2014

I have still some paper dictionaries that I consult pretty often.
This question has been asked recently.
Great poem, Jack, enhorabuena.

[Edited at 2014-09-17 12:10 GMT]


Jorge Payan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:01
Member (2002)
German to Spanish
+ ...
I use one of them permanently Sep 17, 2014

I refer in particular to the "Diccionario Collazo de Informática, Computación y otras materias". Being quite thick, when closed it serves very well the purpose of raising the screen of my 25" monitor at the level of my eyes.icon_smile.gif

For everything else regarding terminology, I use the Internet. Although I will turn sixty in a few years, I consider myself an educated son of the digital era, and I am confident about my abilities for searching content in the cyberspace.


Reed James
Local time: 08:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Work is work Sep 17, 2014

I only use the paper dictionaries that have no online equivalent. One of my favorites is the Dictionary of Mexican Legal Terminology (bilingual). Otherwise, it's all electronic and in the cloud, accessible anywhere. My decision rests on the fact that this is the easiest and fastest way to get terminology from its source to my brain and thence to the target document.

Of course, as a hobby or collection, dictionaries are great and I echo some of the sentiments expressed here. It's all a matter of priorities and usefulness.


ventnai  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:01
German to English
+ ...
No paper dictionaries Sep 17, 2014

Much as I loved paper dictionaries when I was studying at school and university, I don't have use for them now. I mostly work in technical and business fields and much of the vocabulary used is constantly changing anyway, so a paper dictionary would soon be out of date. These days my own termbases and those of my clients are much more useful for my work. There are also pretty good resources online for my main combination, German to English. Paper dictionaries would still be of use to other translators, though.


Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:01
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Paper Sep 17, 2014

I love paper dictionaries and, of course, I have a lot of them.

They are useful because I can learn the words/terms close to the word/term I am searching.


Hector Aires
Local time: 08:01
English to Spanish
Yes Sep 17, 2014

I have my Beigbeder Atienza always open aside the keyboard. It is not the Holly Bible of dictionaries, however, it gives me ideas and support.

Have my best regards to everyone within this site.
El Étor

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