French-English dictionary, svp
November 9, 2008 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Need recommendations for a quality French-English electronic dictionary.

I'm going to be studying abroad in France soon, taking fairly advanced classes. Normal dictionaries are too large and heavy to be useful while traveling, and the pocket-sized ones are useless at this level of French. I'd like to find a good French-English electronic portable dictionary, and would be willing to spend up to about (and hopefully less than) 125 USD.

Any recommendations on ones to check out or avoid?

(This question was not helpful.)
posted by Solon and Thanks to Technology (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend giving Ultralingua try if you want a "popup" dictionary on you computer, some FireFox extension tandles much the same task, but not system wide. If you want to use Ultralingua past the trial period on Mac OS X, look (ls -a) under ~/Library for some hidden directory with a funny name like .7bjs, then remove it (rm -r .7bjs), and symbolically link it to the trash (ln -s .7bjs ../.Trash). I've no idea about Ultralingua on portables.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:48 PM on November 9, 2008

I'm taking advanced French classes in France, and I use Ultralingua for iPhone. It's perfect for my needs.

They have 2 versions of "French->English," one with fewer words but more detail for each entry, and one with more words but more terse. However - since you're an advanced student, I'd recommend just downloading the French dictionary, which defines the words in French (if you don't understand a word within the definition, you can simply click on the word and navigate to its own definition).

The 2G iPhone (when sim unlocked) can be used as a phone in France with any carrier. The 3G can be purchased in France with a 1 year contract. If you don't have/want an iPhone, you could always get an iPod Touch instead.
posted by helios at 4:03 PM on November 9, 2008

I'm using Accio on a Mac for it's hotkey popup abilities. It's cheaper than Ultralingua but not quite as pretty. I find it a bit more useful because it has a text field that you can use to edit out punctuation and mistakes in the source text.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:24 PM on November 9, 2008

To clarify, Ultralingua has two important features (1) it has a fairly respectable dictionary and (2) it'll pop up the definition of the word under your mouse. You should give it a try on any of the supported devices you own, including your laptop.

I'd say more important ways to maximize your time & money are (1) read French fiction while there and (2) don't socialize too much with the Anglophones in your French class. You'll find many lovely Spanophones who prefer French to English. If possible, find an apartment with natives, which isn't easy since the French detest colocation, especially outside Paris.

You may have signed up for La Sorbonne in Paris. I'm sure their classes are slightly better than others, but Paris isn't the place to learn French since everyone speaks English. You'll learn more in a smaller town with an Alliance Francais, like say Lyon.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:37 PM on November 9, 2008

This is all interesting information and I'm grateful for it, but I really do need a portable standalone dictionary - no further advice needed about software for hardware I don't own.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:59 PM on November 9, 2008


You're welcome.
posted by nonmerci at 9:20 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Okay, I'm thick and have been wording this terribly. In case anyone else stumbles upon this question, here's an example of what I'm talking about:


Previous suggestions are cool, but any further advice is always appreciated.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:10 PM on November 12, 2008

Sorry to sound like a broken record but I think that kind dedicated hardware device has disappeared at the consumer market. What you're thinking of was just a toy from the '90's. People don't even carry calculators anymore because the functionality is easier to build into an existing platform like a phone.

... and I know I'm repeating what's been suggested but you'll find a far more useful and robust solution buying Ultralingua for an iPod touch or sub-notebook. It's also expandable and updateable.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:18 PM on November 13, 2008

Yeah, that is what I was going to say too, but I didn't want to beat a dead horse. Just for the record, I have never seen anyone from my school using an electronic dictionary except for Japanese students of French, who use translators like this which cost around $500 and are amazing.

If you want to stay under your $125 limit, you could buy a used Palm device (such as a sony Clié) for around $50, and ultralingua for Palm for around $15. But an iPod touch + ultralingua would only be $75 over your limit, and you would get an mp3 player, headphones, web browser, e-mail, calendar, currency converter, alarm clock and tons of other useful things included in the price...

But if you were insistent on getting a classic electronic dictionary, I'd say to try to get one which claims at least 150,000 words (250,000+ would be preferable), fuzzy matching (for spelling), and is made by a company known for reliable electronics (like Sharp, Sony, Panasonic, etc).
posted by helios at 10:09 AM on November 15, 2008

I've seen a few people using them around school, but theirs always seemed pretty nice (as I suppose the worthwhile ones would be.) You're all/both probably correct that it's not worth it. Thanks for the advice!

I might go with the iPod touch idea, if I can happen to afford it in the next few months.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:19 AM on November 15, 2008

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