Review - The New Oxford Picture Dictionary

Library Journal, Volume 127, No. 2, February 1, 2002

CD-ROM - The New Oxford Picture Dictionary

Windows 3.1 +/Mac OS 7+. 1997
ISBN: 019-458866-1
Price: $49.95

The New Oxford Picture Dictionary is a multimedia learning tool for teachers and students of American English. It contains more than 2400 words-in pictures as well as in spoken and written form. The disc promotes active learning with memory games, crossword puzzles, customized vocabulary lists, and tests. Its combination of lessons and exercises helps students practice listening, reading, spelling, and speaking skills.

The disc is easy to install and comes with a helpful 24-page User's Guide. The latter consists mostly of a Guided Tour and navigational instructions, but without it many of the disc's interactive features might go unnoticed. The disc makes attractive use of color and graphics, but labels are not always sufficiently descriptive, and on-screen instructions are sparse.

The dictionary is divided into 13 categories (e.g., Clothing, Health, and Work). Most users will probably treat each category as a discrete lesson, but you can also bypass the category divisions and go directly to a word by using an A-Z index.

To hear and see a word in English, you click on a circle next to an item. The circles are sometimes arbitrarily positioned, though, so the word you hear may not be the word you expected to hear. For example, when I clicked on the circle on the ceiling of a subway car, I expected to hear ceiling, but I heard subway instead. In the print version of the dictionary, words that describe individual items in a picture are marked by small numbers. If a similar distinction were made in the CD-ROM, this confusion could be avoided.

I cant' resist mentioning the disc's creative method of illustrating prepositions. In a picture of a cozy living room, cats can be found "between the pillows" on the sofa, " on top of the table," "in the drawer," and "behind the chair." The cats are adorable, and they won me over.

The Bottom Line: The New Oxford Picture Dictionary is recommended for all public, academic, school, and special libraries serving students and teachers of English as a second language. Students' experience with the disc will be enhanced by an introduction to the User's Guide. Bilingual editions (English-Spanish or English-Chinese) are also available.

--Carrie Macfarlane, Research Svcs., Widener Lib., Harvard Univ.

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