Bi-lingual dictionary wizards- a simple guide

The bi-lingual dictionary:an important key to the target language door!
Help your children to become "bilingual dictionary wizards!

I think it's a really great way to introduce grammar if you liken basic grammar and the tools to support non-native speakers to access target language as "keys to the door" or "magic tricks"
Here's the first really important "key to the door":the bi-lingual dictionary.
Children love bilingual dictionaries as they see them as special and treasure troves of words .
All we need to do is teach them the magic tricks of how to access and use then and then they can become a really                                             useful learning tool in the language classroom.

Magic tricks to know about and try out!
Stage by stage take your class through how to use a bilingual dictionary.The stages here are explained in  black and then the magic tricks are written in red.
Children love exploring bilingual dictionaries and once they see them as important learning tools then they will have the freedom to find the nouns etc they want to say and use rather than use the language you provide them with.

Do the magic tricks work when your children try to prove the stage descriptions?
You are going to need a class set of bilingual dictionaries- preferably one between two to make your "magic tricks" work best! 

  • Stage One
English words are in alphabetical order in the second half of a bi-lingual dictionary.Ask the children to turn to the middle of the book and see where the English words start. Can they tell you the first English word they can find . What letter does it start with? How can they prove it's the start of a list of English words in alphabetical order?
  • Stage Two
Target language words are at the front of the bi-lingual dictionary appear in the alphabetical order of the target language.Ask the children to turn to the front of the book and see where the target language word list starts. Can they tell you the first target language word they can find in this list. What letter does it start with? How can they prove it's the start of a list of target language words in alphabetical order?
  • Stage Three 
If you look up an English word in the bilingual dictionary,the target language word is written next to it.Can they check this for you with some common words you may have already practised in the target language (e.g nouns for animals - cat,dog, horse etc)?
  • Stage Four
If you want to check that the nouns you have found in the target language is correct , then you need to "cross reference" it by looking for the word in the front of the dictionary. Remind the children that these words are in target language alphabetical order- so it may be cat in English but it's gato in Spanish.Can they prove that this is the case, looking up nouns in the English first target language second section and then cross referencing them in the front of the book in the target language- English section and finding the target language word first?
  • Stage Five 
Next to the noun on the right hand side it will indicate whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition . In easy learning and child friendly dictionaries it may well say the actual word “noun” etc on the right hand side. In most bi-lingual dictionaries in brackets on the right hand side there will be an abbreviation which tells you that the word you looked up is a noun etc (e.g a noun is indicated by a "n" in brackets) .Can the children check that this works every time. Select some nouns they already know, write them up on the flip chart and ask them to find them in the target language first- English second section of the dictionary and see if they can see the word "noun" or in brackets an "n" after the noun?
  • Stage Six
Take the children on a similar learning journey to find familiar adjectives and verbs See how they can access them from English or access them from the target language section or cross reference the words they find and also find proof that they are verbs and adjectives.
  • Stage Seven
Bilingual dictionaries help us to know more about the words. We want the children to feel confident that they can look up a noun and know whether it's "le chat" or "la souris" in French etc. How do you know whether a noun is in French le or la and in Spanish el or la or in German der,die or das? In easy learning dictionaries the nouns are often written with the correct word for "the" preceding the noun. However there is a simple magic trick! If the dictionary has in brackets after the word an (n..) it's also going to have the letter "m" or "f" in French and Spanish and "m","f" or n" in German.The lettesr represent - masculine,feminine and neuter ....these are not sexual genders, see them as tags /codes that tell the person using the noun if it's masculine we say "le" , if it's feminine we say "la " in French. In Spanish masculine is "el" and feminine is "la" and in German masculine is "der", feminine is "die" and neuter is "das". Can the children find nouns in the dictionary for you and if the word for the is already written next to it can they tell you wherther it's masculine , feminine etc and if the noun has a the abbreviation  for example (nm) or (nf) after it , can the children tell you the noun with the correct le/la ( French) or el/la (Spanish)etc.

How to create bilingual dictionary wizards of your children!

  • Play games with the stages described above.
  • Make sure the games are age and stage of learning the language appropriate
  • Take time out to access bilingual dictionaries and prove and then revisit and prove again the rules . 
  • Create team challenges 
  • Encourage children to explore new nouns and use them in the spoken and written work and not just to rely on the list of animals/ clothes etc you have given them.
This is one of the key ways to help the children to see the importance of the bilingual dictionary as a language learning tool.

Primary Teachers and Bilingual Dictionaries at the ready!
This is a second way to help the children to see the importance of the bilingual dictionary as a language learning tool
I would suggest that in your classroom you should have a class bilingual dictionary for everyone's reference including your own.
As primary teachers remember that you are the facilitators and you are helping the children to try out the magic tricks for themselves. 
You can cross reference words too to make sure that the word you find in Spanish/ French etc really does have the meaning you want to convey and that there isn’t another word that would be better.
When a child asks for a word you don't know or aren't sure about let them see you access a bilingual dictionary to find it out and ask the class to remind you of the rules you have practised.