Back in school and university, I used a paper dictionary. Although it served me well over the years, I could never take it into professional life with me, because looking up words manually was putting a limit on my productivity. Using a paper dictionary may feel good, but the price is just too high.
A colleague of mine bought several dictionaries for us to use at work a few years ago. She had been a proofreader at a newspaper in the pre-Internet era and was used to working with paper dictionaries. But after just a few years of using them together with electronic resources, she admitted that paper resources no longer made sense. Now, she refers to just one book on a regular basis, while the others are gathering dust on the shelf.
The main point is that using paper resources is unacceptable for a professional translator today. Who wants to spend countless minutes finding a word? This time is better spent more productively.
ABBYY Lingvo: A new dimension
As soon as I became a professional translator, I laid my hands on ABBYY Lingvo. This is an electronic dictionary installed on a computer. After years of shuffling pages in a paper dictionary, I thought that Lingvo was the best thing since sliced bread. It is very easy it is to use: You simply highlight a word or a word combination, press a keyboard shortcut, and Lingvo opens with the respective dictionary entry. This gave me a significant boost in speed compared to a paper dictionary.
Even though online English to Russian dictionaries were already available at that point, I found Lingvo superior to them for a variety of reasons. First, the Internet was expensive and slow. Second, the dictionaries on the Internet were not reliable enough, because a site could go down any time. Lingvo was much faster and more reliable.
Multitran.ru and other resources
Today, when Internet connection speed is no longer a bottleneck, I prefer using the Internet resources for looking up words and word combinations. Here is why:
- They are extremely easy to access. With a program like IntelliWebSearch, you can look up words in a plethora of resources almost instantaneously.
- When you search not just in a specific dictionary, but on Google, you might find definitions and translations on forums, which are often accompanied by a discussion that is both interesting and valuable, enriching you with more context.
- Unlike an installed dictionary, an Internet resource is not bound to a specific computer.
I believe that online dictionaries are already superior to the offline ones and the gap will continue to widen. The amount of user-generated definitions and discussions about words and word combinations grows so fast that any offline dictionary will have a hard time keeping up with it. Unless you are committed to maintaining and constantly updating your own offline dictionaries, such as those supported by Lingvo, you are better off searching on the Internet.
ABBYY Lingvo will likely become a cloud service. I do not think a dictionary as an installed product makes sense anymore. ABBYY, however, might still prefer to do this for licensing reasons.