If You Are Drowning in Paper Dictionaries…

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Maria Helena Brenner Kelly (PLD Member)

If you are lost amid tons of paper dictionaries, I hope you didn’t miss the presentation at ATA’s 55th Annual Conference by PLD member Thaïs Lips, “Fahrenheit 451? You Don’t Have To Burn Your Dictionaries… Learn To Research in a Savvier Way.” Even if you did miss it, you can still take advantage of the tips she offered. Read on!

Thaïs, who is President of the Colorado Translators Association (CTA), an ATA chapter, explained that her idea for the presentation came up when she realized that many colleagues still rely mainly on paper dictionaries, even when the same or similar dictionaries are available in digital format. As examples of digital dictionaries, Thaïs listed Oxford, Michaelis, Merriam-Webster, Granada, Aurélio, Houaiss, Collins, Larousse, Britannica, and the Oxford Thesaurus.

After a brief review of the evolution of the tools translators use in their daily work, from the fourth century all the way down to digital dictionaries, Thaïs noted that having these dictionaries in the computer is not enough. To take real advantage of them, one needs a dictionary manager, a piece of software that allows for easy storage and searching of digital dictionaries.

Thaïs discussed two alternatives, GoldenDict and Babylon, using the latter for her examples, since this is the software she uses every day.

To use a dictionary manager, she said, you first need to load the digital dictionary into the software. Thaïs pointed out that there are several free and paid monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, as well as glossaries in a variety of subjects and languages. You can even easily create your own dictionaries and glossaries.

Thaïs walked the audience through the steps for loading dictionaries and glossaries into the software and for using shortcuts to search effortlessly. She also showed an extra feature of Babylon that allows for easy conversion of measurements and currencies.

At the close of the presentation, Thaïs noted two compelling reasons to use dictionary managers: you will have more time to attend to style and terminology choices, and you will increase your word-per-hour average by at least 25%. And who doesn’t want that?

To learn more about what Thaïs does, please visit her website, Translation Decoder.


MARIA HELENA BRENNER KELLY was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. After working with  both finance and IT for 25 years, ten of which for IBM in the USA, she moved to the Brazilian state of Bahia. She is a freelance translator and holds a bachelor’s degree in statistics from USP and a graduate degree in business administration from FGV. She also holds a certificate in translation from NYU.

One Comment

  1. Just the type of presentation I am looking for! Can we count on a repeat any time soon?

    And thank you, Maria Helena, for the “resenha” .

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