Collins COBUILD Learner's Dictionary
The Collins COBUILD Learner's Dictionary, in several editions, has several nice features for learners of English. It would be a nice auxiliary for the student, particularly the academically inclined learner.
First it considers word frequency from a massive computerized database of English usage from all media; 70%UK, 25%US, 5% commonwealth. Words are marked as a frequency indicator. The most frequently used class contains the 700 most commonly used words.
The second class is 1,000 words, which together with the first band comprise 75% of English usage. This allow the student to prioritize his learning and provides a base of selection from the common or the unusual choices.
Second, each definition is a complete sentence that uses the word in context. This show
typical application as well as meaning.
Third, a separate column contains information about the word, as different from its meaning. Frequency classification; is it archaic, American; the part of speech; and other coded advice
Fourth, the appendices include pictorials of most needed learning words.; geographical
tables; numbers; date-time, and words lists of the top four categories.
On the controversial side.
First, there are 55 parts of speech described and listed in the extra column along with a pattern of proper usage. For example, there are 14 types of nouns. The high number of distinctions allow for a more complete
description of correct usage. This could be valuable to the dedicated learner. However,
we can see why Ogden chose to limit his teaching to a few simple usages: he allows the beginner to quickly participate in communication where much of correct usage can be gleaned from direct experience rather than burdening the introductory stage with
However, when a question comes up, the COBUILD Learners Dictionary can provide
specific guidance, once the student has come to understand the distinctions between the 55 parts of speech. This adds to the learning overhead that Basic avoids.
Second, the definitions . Whereas Ogden uses Basic words to describe other words, the COBUILD definitions are taken from poplar expressions and may use idiom the learner has yet studied. It is useful to learn those idioms, but not helpful in understanding unknown words. One expects that definitions would be limited to high frequency words.
Third, the words and definitions are adequate for a general use dictionary, but it is encumbered with learning aids and not as compact as a normal dictionary of the same number of words.
The COBUILD database is as good of a frequency listing as we can find. We need to
add the 700 to our comparison table. However, be aware that a list of most frequently used words does
not make a complete language. A personal example, sited elsewhere on these pages,
is a vacationer who learned the 100 most common words in Dutch and was helpless once in Holland. Knowledge of the popular filler words did not contribute to meaningful understanding of complete sentences.