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Illustrate: The Video Dictionary – app review

PoutingEssentially Illustrate – The Video Dictionary is a dictionary. But it does things slightly differently.

After you look up a word you have the option to watch a short animated video.

Let’s say you look up the word POUT. You see an explanation and there’s also the option to watch an animated video which helps illustrate the word: up pops Dad explaining to his daughter that he has to cancel their appointment; Mom symapthizes but notes the daughter is still pouting; and daughter sits looking angry and pouting at the whole affair.

And that’s the basic premise: a dictionary with animated explanations. It’s a good idea and the next logical step for dictionaries.

Testing the App

We installed the android version of the app on a Nexus 10 tablet and played with it for several days.

First off, it’s pretty simple to use. You look up a word and either get a fairly straightforward dictionary definition or the definition plus a video – that’s where the USP comes in. Many of the words (although not all) include this short animated cartoon which tries to help with the definition. Some of these are quite useful but some seem to animate without really adding a lot. But having said that, of course, just seeing an animation alongside the definition will help students to remember the word; it’s no longer just a dry stream of words but also a few moving images with some “spoken” language.

I say “spoken” in inverted commas. It seems like the animation includes computer generated voices, a bit of a cross between Stephen Hawking and how my SatNav sounds. Although the app is pretty simple and pleasant to use I would have preferred genuine voices rather than the slightly grating mechanical ones they have.

But that aside, it was quite fun to use and it tempts the user to explore. I sat down with a cup of coffee and spent a good half and hour just browsing away listening to various definitions and so on which I haven’t done with a regular dictionary in a very long time.

The first dictionaries had just words and explanations. Then they included pictures. Then online ones had sound files to hear the word in action. And this latest incarnation includes short videos to help out as well.

Good idea. It does bring dictionaries to life.

Contents & TEFL

There are some 20,000 words in the dictionary and these are updated daily with new videos. (And I assume that those words missing videos will have them added as time goes on.)

There’s also a daily vocabulary question which was fine as far as it went although I think it would be nice to see a few more “games” included in the app: questions on different topics and so on and more than just one question a day. For EFL students the daily quiz is a moment of fun but I can’t see it being hugely useful to them.

VespertineThe free version of the app has more than enough words for EFL students as it stands although there is an option to buy premium lists of words.

Target Audience

As for the words themselves, whilst there is obviously a lot of useful vocabulary in the app it does also contain words definitely for more advanced students only, and even then it goes beyond. Words like: sonorous, invocation, vespertine, bacchanalian… These aren’t common in the TEFL classroom and you can see how the roots of the app – for native speakers taking university entrance exams – are coming through here.

There is one area where the dictionary does need work if it’s going to take off with language learners and that is in the grammatical information offered about the words. It would be nice to see more on the parts of speech, pronunciation, usage, forms and so forth. At the moment it’s a little stark in terms of meta-information.

But don’t let that put you off. It is useful and does help and I would recommend this for TEFL students. Sure, some of the vocabulary might be a bit obscure and not really useful to them, but it also covers simple, everyday terms and the video element will certainly help out English language learners.

Rating

It’s free and useful. The animations are fun and will help students. They will need another dictionary which has more grammatical information, but in terms of playing with vocabulary and helping with explanations, this is good.

Rating 4 out of 5.

Useful Links

Dictionaries‏‎ – about dictionaries in general in TEFL

App Home – official website

Download Link on Google Play – for android devices

Download Link on iOS App Store – for apple devices

Download Link on Windoes Phone Store – for windows devices

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