I think picture dictionaries are fantastic. Too often students are forced into memorizing textbook lists of vocab without any accompanying illustrations. I find that going over long vocabulary lists rarely ends with all those words sticking in my brain. In fact, it seems more suited to building translation skills than fluency. When you see an object and put a word with it, that’s making a real language connection. See a round orange fruit, think naranja—something very different from seeing the word “orange” on a page and thinking, “the Spanish word for orange is ‘naranja.'” So I’m all for picture dictionaries helping to bridge that gap. And they’re particularly useful for learning words that you don’t know in your first language, because you get to learn that word, too. No longer will you go around language lost saying, “put the whizzy thing in dumdum stuff.”
With that said, I’m particularly taken with DK’s Spanish English Bilingual Dictionary (ISBN: 9780756612986), which I happily purchased earlier this week and have been obsessing over ever since. First, the book is comprehensive but not overwhelming. I have a German picture dictionary, for instance, that goes as far as to label every component of computer circuitry, a diesel engine, livestock facilities, the atom, etc. Fun stuff for sure (really?), but not likely to come up in someone’s life unless it relates to her profession. On the other hand, the parts of a toilet (which are labeled in this DK dictionary) could be very useful if the loo overflows in your Spanish vacation rental. And who wouldn’t be excited to learn the key terms of ice hockey in Spanish! Because it’s a popular sport in Central America???
(Sorry for the skewed images. I was in a hurry at the scanner.)
(Oh, and I love that two people sitting with their backs to one another is the universal symbol for divorce.)
Topics covered include health, environment, transport, eating out, appearance, and beyond. Each section is illustrated with clear and colorful photographs (older picture dictionaries often use drawings), and when necessary, both a peninsular and Mexican Spanish term is given. You don’t want any slip ups in Oaxaca, do you? Best of all, the pretty little thing is compact—about six inches long and wide–and carries a nifty price tag of $14.95. I’m in love!