Sunday, November 9, 2008

Goodword English Arabic Dictionary

Dr Johnson, the author and lexicographer, once said, “Dictionaries are like watches, the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.”

While this English Arabic dictionary by lexicographer, Mohd Harun Rashid is like Johnson’s watch, here are some good things going for this version and some areas where it could do with improvement.

Many English Arabic dictionaries only have the Arabic script but this dictionary comes also with the Arabic words transliterated in English letters, pointed with symbols to denote a long or short sound and marks to alert readers to the difficult sound of a hamza or ain (strong guttural sound). For instance, the word ‘dictionary’ is transliterated as mu ‘jam, qāmūs.

This dictionary is small (A5 in size) and as such it is easy to carry around without feel that you are lugging a London telephone dictionary.

The Goodword dictionary is substantial containing 20,000+ words and phrases. It has an extensive number of scientific words (e.g. oxygenize, nitrogen, milliliter, morphine and glycerine), academic terms (e.g. inverted commas, earth science and semicolon) and political words (e.g. Senate, Congress and Secretary of State).

A big part of this dictionary’s usefulness is in its versatility. Idiomatic expressions are included—words such as hoity-toity, hocus-pocus, hobby-horse, hogwash and hullabaloo.

While not being exhaustive, words come in many variations e.g. swim (v), swim (n), swimmer (n), swimmingly (adv.), swimming pool, swimming-suit (n).

As Arabic vowels play an important role in the pronunciation of Arabic it is good to see Arabic words in this dictionary with vowels. This makes it helpful for beginners seeking to give the correct pronunciation.

This 824 page dictionary is amazingly cheap—only Dh27.00!

It would be good to also have Arabic to English included in the one volume (although this would double the size of the volume!)

The Arabic script is very small thus making it difficult for beginners (and those whose sight is dim) to identify the letters.

Samuel Johnson was right. Dictionaries are like watches.

Mohd Harun Rashid, Goodword English Arabic Dictionary (New Delhi: Goodword, 2006, 2008).

This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 27.00.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: A sample of the text from the Goodword English Arabic Dictionary. Click to enlarge.