The Best and the Worst Language Dictionaries – for Turkish-English

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A native Turkish-language site visitor, studying English as a foreign language in the UK, wrote us a while back asking advice about which dictionary he should use while studying for his English-language proficiency exam. He indicated his personal preference for the Redhouse Dictionaries — the Büyük El Sözlüğü in particular. But then, to our surprise, he told us that his foreign-language examiner thought the Redhouse Dictionaries too Americanized.

That rang my bell, and I replied…


I’m sorry, but your foreign-language examiner is mistaken. The Redhouse Dictionaries go out of there way to include current British language usage. I quote, “The dictionary reflects the American point of view of its editors; however British usages in vocabulary, meanings, spelling and pronunciation have usually been noted.”

And anyway, the Redhouse Dictionaries are by far the best of all the available ones on the market. I especially recommend the large 2-volume set, simply titled Redhouse Sözlüğü. It’s the next step up from the Büyük El Sözlüğü. Find more detail about the 2-volume set on our ‘Best Books for Turkish’ page.

Nothing else even comes close to the Redhouse Dictionaries. My Redhouse Dictionary CD Edition is so useful that I leave it in one of my computer’s CD-bays all the time.

Our friend John Ma, who got his Ancient Civilizations Doctorate from Oxford University, explained it quite well when he said, “I wish the world-famous Oxford University Library had more copies of the Redhouse Dictionaries. The students are always using them. And the Oxford Turkish-English-Turkish Dictionary just gathers dust.”

But I’ll go a bit further than John…

The first Turkish-English-Turkish dictionary I ever owned was the “Concise Oxford Turkish-English Dictionary” by A.D. Alderson and Fahir Iz, published 1959 and reprinted several times up through 1985. And, I can’t think of a worse foreign language dictionary.

I tried using it for years as I struggled unsuccessfully to get a handle on the Turkish-language. (I bought my first copy of the Oxford Dictionary for my work-area in Ankara in 1976 and my second copy for my bedside in 1987 — also in Ankara.) And, except for my being able to express and understand the standard ‘amenities’, I was absolutely befuddled by Turkish-language during the entire time.

I only began to successfully understand and use Turkish-language after I dropped the Oxford Dictionary and began using the various editions of the Redhouse, the Langenscheidt, and selected local-specialty dictionaries — like the Commercial and Technical Dictionaries published by FONO. So I’m afraid I disagree with your foreign-language examiner. Deeply.

But, the largest Langenscheidt Dictionary is a passable second choice if your foreign-language examiner won’t let you use the Redhouse Dictionaries. Still, the Langenscheidt Dictionary is curiously weak in places. And in comparison with the large 2-volume Redhouse Dictionary Set (which has 160,000 entries in each book), the Langenscheidt Dictionary is small (with only 80,000 entries total).

Nontheless… whatever you do, avoid the above-mentionedConcise Oxford Turkish Language Dictionary“. It’s terrible.

[Click following to access a fully illustrated HTML version of Worst and Best Dictionaries.]

write by Dante

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