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This article looks at ways in which the new Macmillan English Dictionary on CD-ROM can be integrated into the self-study part of a Business English course.
There are many ways of using a CD-ROM dictionary, and I will mainly focus on two:
The teaching context
I work in an executive language school in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, where we teach Business English to students predominantly from mainland Europe. Courses are short, generally two weeks long, and learners consolidate grammar, widen their active vocabulary and usually leave with increased confidence and listening skills. They also look at learning strategies which we hope they will apply at a future date.
We teach both individual courses, and multi-national groups of up to six students. Students are encouraged to support their classroom learning in a small self-access centre which has six multi-media computers.
Using the Macmillan English Dictionary on CD-ROM
We have recently started to encourage learners to use the Macmillan English Dictionary (MED) in a number of ways. I have grouped these ideas as follows:
Introducing learners to the MED
Time is usually at a premium on a Business English course, and learners are introduced to the benefits of studying in a self-access centre at the start of their course. This means that during the course they have the knowledge, time and opportunity to support their face-to-face classes with work on CD-ROM, the Internet etc.
1.1 Using the Guided Tour
Like many multimedia products, the MED CD-ROM contains a Guided Tour, which is self-explanatory. In my experience, few people actually work through these Help tutorials, so it is sensible to assign this as an introductory task. Set learners the task of working through the Guided Tour, as part of the introduction to either the self-access centre itself, or to using CD-ROMs generally. This is especially recommendable with those students new to using CD-ROM dictionaries, or multimedia in general.
1.2 Using a beamer
A beamer is an electronic projector, and projecting the computer screen can be an invaluable way to introduce learners to aspects of the CD-ROM. The teacher can show the disc to groups, before sending the students to the self-access centre to work on a specific task.
1.3 Using a dictionary comparison sheet
The following task has many variations. It can be used for example to allow learners to discuss the pros and cons of using a paper-based dictionary, a CD-ROM and a web-based dictionary.
to allow learners to explore the benefits of using a monolingual dictionary.
Level: intermediate and above
Time: 45 minutes
Comment: Depending on the learners level of technical literacy, the teacher may need to monitor during the task phase, or suggest specific features to look for. This is especially important for students looking at the CD-ROM.
Rationale: Many students arrive with a (small, yellow!) bilingual dictionary. They would benefit from learning dictionary skills for using a monolingual dictionary. Certain features of electronic dictionaries and web-dictionaries (eg search) are useful for learners and the self-discovery of these benefits can enhance autonomous learning. The resulting discussion is insightful for the teacher regarding the learners language background, expectations, learning style etc.
The search facility on a CD-ROM is one of the most attractive features, and really is the key difference between an electronic dictionary and a paper dictionary. Remember that the words are hyperlinked, meaning that if you do not understand a particular word in a definition, you can go directly to that meaning by double-clicking on that word.
Note: While the SmartSearch is a superb feature of the MED, it takes a little time to familiarize oneself with how it works. The teacher will need to feel comfortable with using SmartSearch first and may wish to suggest that learners explore this feature in a post-lesson task.
An important feature of Business English is collocation. Teachers are used to focusing their learners attention on key word partnerships in specialist Business English texts, and encouraging them to record them in ways they can access them later.
The MED shows words which frequently collocate with many key business words.
Aim: to expand synonyms and related vocabulary connected to the language of trends
Extension: A frequent learner question in a lesson on trends language is when to use words like plummet and soar. Instead of answering the question, the teacher can turn the enquiry into a CD-ROM research task. Learners report back on findings eg which words can be found in the Financial Times etc.
Note: search to research tasks are highly effective ways of adding variety to a lesson, and getting learners to become comfortable and confident in using CD-ROM.
grammar vocabulary phrases sounds common mistakes
2.4 Word frequency
Rationale: This activity will help learners decide on the relative importance of words, and whether they wish to store them for productive use.
3 Pronunciation work
3.1 Pronunciation practice
Typically, learners have difficulties in pronouncing specific phonemes. One Japanese student was unable to pronounce his own product, due to difficulties with the /l/ sound in aluminium.
The teacher can note the problematic sound areas as they arise in a lesson, build up a list, and then issue the student with a list of words which have been difficult to pronounce at the end of the lesson. These can be practised in self-study.
I believe it is preferable to do such work alone, rather than in the spotlight of others in the class, and the MED provides the opportunity to listen to the original, record your own attempt, and then compare it. The student can record themselves as many times as they wish, in private.
3.2 Using SoundSearch
The MED disc also offers a sound search.This enables the teacher or student to type in an asterisk and hence search for words containing similar sounds, eg type in the phonemic symbol /w/ and *. This brings up a list of words which contain this sound, and the learners can do discrete work on phonology listening and repeating. This is one of the features of the dictionary we have found most useful.
We are currently integrating the Internet more and more into our teaching. There are many reasons for this including relevance, authenticity, face-validity and student expectations.
As part of a training session on reading skills, demonstrate the facility to read a text on the Internet and move your mouse over each word. The small moveable window in the QuickSearch mode shows learners the word, providing it appears in the dictionary. In an interesting feature, the dictionary also speaks the pronunciation of the word at you. (This is an optional feature.)
Encourage learners to visit their own company website, or a site such as the BBC news. This is an absolutely excellent feature of the CD-ROM dictionary.
Many Business English students write letters and faxes in Microsofts Word on a word processor. The QuickSearch facility enables the learner to check spelling, and access meaning from received e-mails.
4.2 Business Skills: presentations
It is very common to give learners time to prepare their presentations in self-study. Encourage learners to use the QuickSearch function of the CD-ROM dictionary when they prepare their presentation, to check the words for both spelling and pronunciation. This activity is valid for preparing transparencies in Word, as well as handouts. Note that the QuickSearch works with PowerPoint too.
This article has suggested some ways in which the new Macmillan English Dictionary on CD-ROM can be integrated into the self-study part of a Business English course.
There are of course many ways the inventive teacher can incorporate the CD-ROM into their language courses. One of the most important is to ensure that learners know that the benefits of such a disc will continue long after the end of the course, and be of benefit not only in their language learning but also in their professional life.