Inspired by Spain’s World Cup victory I’ve been working on my Spanish lately. Thanks to the wonders of modern libraries I was able to download a set of audio lessons to my mp3 player and now have an idea of how to ask when the train leaves for Madrid (or better yet, Camp Nou). I’ve also been bravely slogging through websites in Spanish with the aid of the handy aFCA translation add-on.
However, no learning enterprise is complete without a trip to the (virtual) bookstore. My old Spanish-English dictionary was getting dreadfully out of date, particularly with respect to information technology, so enter the Oxford Spanish Dictionary, or rather the Gran Diccionario Oxford. The books are identical except for the covers, but by some mystery of marketing the edition with the Spanish title is $9 cheaper in Canada, so that’s what I got. It is quite an improvement over my last dictionary, with large headwords in blue that are easy to scan, various bubbles and boxes with subheadings to break up large entries, lots of examples of words in use, and sidebars with helpful cultural information.
My other new acquisition is the Larousse Quod 2009 which I mentioned at the end of a prior post. At a mere $3.08, thanks to another mystery of marketing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check it out. As the cover suggests, it is a pretty slick publication. Published annually and geared towards students, it is a heavily illustrated encyclopedia arranged by topic in 11 major sections:
The Universe and the Earth
Science and Technology
The Living World
Sports, Games, and Entertainment
Arts and Literature
The introduction states that the purpose of the book is help everyone participate intellectually in the development of the world and the debates of the day, as well as access the wealth of human knowledge in an enjoyable way. It is indeed very up-to-date and enjoyable to flip through (see pages from an older edition here). The only caveat is that the typeface is extremely small. Clearly this is meant for young eyes, and really there’s no other way to cram this much information into a single volume. This edition also has a slight flaw in that some of the index pages are printed in grey rather than black; it is perfectly legible but may explain the bargain price of the book. I also noticed that they included an ad for El Pequeño Larousse Ilustrado, their encyclopedic dictionary, in the section on marketing—sneaky!
British readers may chuckle at the name “Quod,” which is mean to signify who, what, when, where and why, but in Britain is slang for prison. Perhaps for this reason Larousse has renamed the book Larousse Pequeña Enciclopedia for 2010, though the book isn’t available yet. Their companion website is also unavailable, which makes me wonder if they are struggling just as other encyclopedia publishers are. Perhaps the days of randomly flipping through an encyclopedia are coming to an end. Searching online may be more efficient, but it lacks something as a relaxing pastime—it’s hunting, rather than fishing. Sometimes you just want an excuse to sit and muse for a while, and a little encyclopedia like this is just perfect for that.