Sunday, June 29, 2014

An Australian Cultural Dictionary

A koala at a wildlife park near Adelaide, Australia

Where do you turn to in order to understand unfamiliar words and expressions when you’re living and studying in a new culture? My first point of call is usually a dictionary. Not all dictionaries contain local expressions, however. That’s why we’ve come up with an Australian Cultural Dictionary containing words and expressions suggested by English language students in Adelaide, Australia. All these words and expressions are ones that the students found hard to understand in their first weeks in Australia.

This dictionary is free, it’s online, and it’s designed specifically for learners of English. That means that we’ve included information that learners really need:

A kangaroo with a joey in its pouch

  • spelling;
  • definitions, written with a limited defining vocabulary (i.e. a set number of words used in the definitions so they are simpler to understand);
  • pronunciation, both in the International Phonetic Alphabet and in audio files (which work fine on Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome and will soon work well on Internet Explorer too, we hope);
  • grammatical information, giving information on whether a noun is countable for example, or how to make it plural;
  • usage notes, so that learners know who usually uses a word (for example, older or younger people) and when they might use it (formally or informally);
  • example sentences taken from a corpus (i.e. a collection) of real English sentences;
  • photographs of all the words or of situations in which the expressions are used; and
  • videos of some words and expressions (there is nothing like seeing a kangaroo hopping to understand how it really moves!).
There is also a link to an online survey, and we really hope you’ll give us some feedback (and maybe win a $20 Amazon voucher).

The words and expressions are all used in Adelaide, and most of them are used throughout Australia. Even if you don’t visit our country, we hope the dictionary will give you an idea of some of the common words and expressions you might encounter here.You can find the dictionary at this website:


Alpacas at the Royal Adelaide Show

This dictionary was produced by Julia Miller, Deny Kwary and Ardian Setiawan. We'd like to thank the School of Education at the University of Adelaide for giving us some funds to help put the project online. We'd also like to thank the PEP students at the university's English Language Centre for suggesting the words and giving us feedback on the types of definitions that worked best. Thank you also to Adam Kilgarriff for allowing us to access the VOLE corpus. And a big thank you to Athena Kerley and Alex Lovat at the University of Adelaide for lending us their voices for the audio files!

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