English Teaching in China

A peer-reviewed journal for teaching professionals

Day, M. (2013) An Investigation into the Dictionary Use and Look-up Behaviour of Foundation Year Chinese Students in a Language Centre at a Sino-British University in China. English Teaching in China, 3, 5 - 10.

Day, 2013 (PDF)

This study looked at the dictionary look-up behaviour of Foundation Year undergraduate Chinese students at a Sino-British university in China. Seventy-six students took part in an experiment using the MacMillan monolingual dictionary in order to determine their ability to look up the correct meaning of unfamiliar words in a reading text. Two questionnaires, one given before and the other after the reading task, were also used to gain an insight into students’ dictionary ownership and use. The results show that around 55% of students use a monolingual dictionary more than once a week, and 80% of students use their mobile phones with a bilingual dictionary function at least once a week, with more than 70% of these students using this type of dictionary daily. The results also reveal that all students who took part in the task were unable to choose the correct meaning of at least one word they looked up in the dictionary. This has wider implications as teachers should understand that students may need their guidance on choosing and using dictionaries as it cannot be assumed that using a dictionary results in students understanding a vocabulary item.