Towards a Multilingual Dictionary of Academic Words

  • Julia Read University of Pretoria, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa
  • Marguerite Ambrose University of Pretoria, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa
Keywords: multilingual, academic core vocabulary, learners' dictionary, reading skills, corpus development, translation equivalents


Vocabulary is an essential component of study, of reading and writing skills. At present, English is the primary language of tertiary education in South Africa, and this puts students from other language backgrounds at a disadvantage. The proposed dictionary will therefore be aimed at second language English users who are entry level students at university. It will be in four languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Sepedi. I.S.P. Nation and J. Coady have compiled an academic core vocabulary which tertiary students in all subject fields need to master in order to be able to encode and decode tertiary level texts, and this has been the basis for the planned dictionary. However, this list needs to be compared to and updated with material from a South African academic corpus. A preliminary comparative study has been conducted on the basis of authentic South African data, and a revised list has been created. The dictionary will not be subject-specific, but will deal with a general subtechnical vocabulary. Full definitions will be provided in all four languages, as well as translation equivalents, with English as the pivot language. Where a lexical gap occurs, translation equivalents will be coined with the help of the relevant experts. Thus the dictionary will also participate in much-needed corpus development of the African languages. It should become a valuable reference tool for both teacher and student. 
How to Cite
Read, J., & Ambrose, M. (2012). Towards a Multilingual Dictionary of Academic Words. Lexikos, 9(1).