Langenscheidt's Pocket Russian Dictionary: Russian-English/English-Russian (Langenscheidt's Pocket Dictionary)
by Langenscheidt Staff, Langenscheidt Publishers
Release Date: July, 2001
I'm entering my third year of Russian study, and I am becoming frustrated with this dictionary. It is the only one I used the first two years, and it served me well during that time. The small size is convenient, and the grammar tables in the back have been invaluable. However, I have found (especially in the English to Russian section) many inaccuracies, and the Russian to English section lacks many words that are necessary--even fairly basic ones. If you want a good jumping-off point, this will suffice, but pretty soon you would be better off buying a reference grammar and a more complete dictionary.
This dictionary consists of two sections: The English-Russian part and the Russian-English part. Whereas the Russian-English section is geared towards American English, the English-Russian one is definitely British (with a Soviet flavor). The reason for this is the fact that the two sections are compiled by two different authors who may even not have met. The English-Russian section is taken from the Romanov's pocket dictionary (a Russian author who did his best, but living behind the iron curtain, obviously didn't have enough exposure to the living English language -- be it British or American. The Russian-English section is pretty good for a dictionary of this size. I specifically liked it because it is based on American English.
This dictionary is liked by so many people because it has so many neat things (English speakers find the grammar clues very helpful even though they are so concise). The definitions of the English words are coded with special characters to indicate what area of special interest they refer to (such as medicine, military, chemistry, etc.) So, the idea behind this dictionary is great. The unfortunate thing about this dictionary is its English-Russian section when it comes to the Russian equivalents of English words. They are often not accurate enough and sometimes plain wrong. They get especially bad when it comes to subtleties like the difference between glimmer, glitter, gleam, glow, glisten, glint, etc. Mr. Romanov uses the same Russian words to define almost all of the above English words, which makes it impossible to find the correct equivalent. This is true for so many words in this dictionary that it renders it almost useless for both English and Russian speakers when they achieve the upper intermediate level, and the correct usage of words becomes crucial to their language study.
Another problem this dictionary has is the inability to find in the Russian-English section every Russian word used as a definition in the English-Russian section, and vice versa. This feature is called "mirroring" and is a sign of a good bilingual dictionary. Since this dictionary consists of two independent sections, they do not mirror each other at all. Therefore, when one needs to clarify the definition by performing the reverse lookup, this dictionary often fails.
The positives of this dictionary is the stress marks and grammar clues given for English speakers in a concise and effective way as well as the flexi-cover that protects the dictionary better than regular paperback. Unfortunately, the binding is not heavy duty, and pages start coming loose after moderate use. (It happened to me, but it may have been a defective copy).
Summary: This dictionary used to be the only choice for those going on a travel to Russia and needing a Russian-English-Russian pocket dictionary featuring Russian pronunciation and grammar. Langenscheidt came up with a new edition of a pocket Russian-English-Russian dictionary in 2001(ISBN: 1585730580, the cover says "New"), which seems to have gotten rid of the Romanov's section. Hopefully, the new edition is better than this one.
For those living in North America and wishing to study Russian as well as for Russians who want to learn American English, I would recommend Kenneth Katzner's English-Russian Russian-English dictionary (ISBN: 0471017078) along with a good grammar book. (For Russians I would also recommend a Longman Dictionary of American English -- pocket or full size -- for American pronunciation and simple definitions in English). This combination may be too bulky for traveling, but it provides better knowledge base for serious language study.
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