Which bilingual dictionary for Primary MFL?

Wednesday, 1 July 2015  |  Little Linguist

Which Dictionary for Primary Languages?

As Modern Foreign Languages have become more prevalent in the primary school, so the range of bilingual dictionaries especially targeted at younger children have come onto the market. Two of the major UK dictionary publishers, namely Collins and Oxford, now publish bilingual dictionaries that have been carefully tailored to meet the needs of Key Stage Two MFL students.

In this post, we will take a look at some of the most popular primary school foreign language dictionaries.

Bilingual Dictionaries for Key Stage Two (approx 7 - 11 years)

There are two main choices when choosing a first "proper" bilingual dictionary. Collins publish the very popular Primary Illustrated dictionaries (formerly known as First Time dictionaries), available in two languages: French or Spanish.

Oxford's First Learner's series also comes in French or Spanish variants. All of these dictionaries have the same price point of £8.99 (as of July '15) and are paperback editions.

Both of these publishers' offerings are ideal first dictionaries, with traditional A-Z French or Spanish to English, and English to French or Spanish sections. They also have some separate topic-based illustrated vocabulary pages. Features such as full colour, simple illustrations, example sentences and cultural references make these very easy for beginners to use.

Inside KS2 MFL Dictionaries

Key Stage 2 MFL Dictionaries


We would recommend either of these dictionaries for Years 3 & 4 (7 - 9 year olds), but also for Years 5 & 6 (ages 9 - 11) if they are new to learning the language and / or new to using bilingual dictionaries.

Collins Pocket Dictionaries

For pupils in Years 5 & 6 (ages 9 - 11 years) who have been learning languages for a few years and are able to confidently use bilingual dictionaries, you may find that the Collins Primary Illustrated and Oxford First Learner's dictionaries are a bit limited in their range of vocabulary. For these more able Key Stage Two children, we would recommend the Collins Pocket Dictionaries. This series offers titles in a range of languages including French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Again, features such the use of colour and example sentences make these accessible for young learners. They offer a wider range of vocabulary as well as important grammar notes and verb tables; these will last well into Key Stage 3 (age 11 - 14) and beyond.

These are also priced at £8.99 (as of July '15) and are paperback with a vinyl-cover.

Bilingual Dictionaries for Key Stage One (approx 5 - 7 years)

Collins have also published very simple option for younger children; Collins Very First Dictionaries, in a choice of French or Spanish. Aimed at 6 - 9 year olds (upper Key Stage 1 and Lower Key Stage 2 beginners), these each teach 500 words and introduce children to bilingual dictionaries through a combination of topic-based themed pages, rather like a picture dictionary, and an A-Z illustrated section too.

Like the Primary Illustrated dictionaries, these are very simple for beginners to use and have features such as full colour and example sentences. They also have links to the words online so pupils (and non-specialist teachers) can check their pronunciation.

These paperback dictionaries are priced at £5.99 (as of July '15)

Collins Very First Dictionaries

Picture Dictionaries

For even younger children who are not yet ready for 'proper' dictionaries, we offer a wide range of picture dictionaries and vocabulary builders.

Most of these feature themed pages with colourful, busy scenes labelled in either English and the foreign language, or just the foreign language, with a full word list at the back of the book.

Our favourites include:

B-Small Picture Dictionaries

Collins First Picture Dictionaries

Oxford First Words Dictionaries

Usborne Picture Dictionaries



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