Ok, maybe you aren’t like my wife and read the dictionary for fun, but if you are serious about language learning, one tool that I literally never leave home without is Abbyy Lingvo. They have a variety of products available in digital and print format (see the Abbyy Lingvo products in our store), and the best dictionary app I have ever used, hands down. While I have made use of their computer programs as well, most of my time has been spent using their mobile app because, well, it’s in my pocket wherever I go.
Here are some things you should know about Abbyy Lingvo and why we recommend it.
- The company’s focus has been the Russian speaking market, so the majority of their dictionaries are Russian, English-Russian, Spanish-Russian, etc, though they do have a number of other dictionaries as well. As of today, looking at the available languages within the app, there are 22 different languages* available, ranging from major European languages like French and Spanish to smaller regional languages like Tatar.
- The app itself is free on the Google Play store, however,
- You have to pay for and download the dictionaries you want to use within the app. They range from $2 to$40 depending on the size of the dictionary.
- These dictionaries are then available offline, which is great when you are traveling and don’t have access to Wi-Fi or data. Nothing stinks worse than needing to know how to say something in a foreign country and not being able to get your dictionary to work!
- Not only does it have basic dictionaries, it also comes with a variety of specialty dictionaries like automotive dictionaries, medical dictionaries, idioms and saying, and more, depending on the language. Even though I was already fluent in Russian at the time, when my wife had a medical emergency, I had never studied terms like “hemorrhage” or “radioactive contrast dye,” and had my phone out the whole time I talked with the doctor. It was also handy in finding medications later.
- When you search a word, you don’t have to know the infinitive or “dictionary form of it.” I love this feature. For complicated languages like Russian, I can simply type in the inflected form as I see it in a book or on a sign or as I heard it, and it will find the appropriate entry for me. This is great when I hear words like “покупающийся,” (pokupaiyushiysya, the present active imperfective participle of “buying”) and can’t guess it comes from the word “купить” (kupeet’, which means “to buy”).
- Every entry comes with a list of inflected forms, so if you are writing a paper, for example, and you want to know the feminine imperfect past tense of a given verb, it has an organized chart to help you find it.
- You can take pictures of words in books or signs, etc., and it can detect the word and pull up the appropriate dictionary entries.
- You can use your phone’s built in speech-to-text software to say a word into the app and it will pull up the appropriate dictionary entry. This is great when you’re talking to a native speaker and are hung up on a word they are saying.
So in summary, while not the only dictionary out there, and not the cheapest dictionary app, in our opinion, it is one of the most powerful and useful ones. We’ve been using it for over five years on a nearly daily basis and have yet to be disappointed by it.
*As of the time of this post, the app has dictionaries in Belarusian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Kazakh, Latin, Norwegian (Bokmal), Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Tatar, Turkish, and Ukrainian.