Using An Online Dictionary (Naver)
When you are learning a new language you will read or hear plenty of words you simply can’t understand. Therefore a dictionary is an essential tool for any language learner. However, dictionaries tend to be expensive books. Luckily for us these days plenty of good online dictionaries are available. The Korean tech giants Naver and Daum both offer decent online dictionaries, but you need to know how they work.
The Naver Dictionary: Naver 사전
The first Korean, online dictionary I am going to discuss is the one offered by Naver: Naver 사전 (네이버 사전). When you open the homepage of the Naver online dictionary, you might feel intimidated since you a mountain of different links and they are all written in Korean. However, you needn’t worry. We’ll go through the important ones together.
The most important element on the homepage is perhaps the larger of the two search bars, the one of the left marked with 어학사전. That one is the search bar for the actual dictionary. The search bar on the right, 지식백과, is the search bar for their online encyclopedia.
However, I would suggest beginners not to use this search bar. As you can imagine the functionality of the Naver online dictionary has been designed with Korean users in mind. If you type in an English word, the first results will be the Korean results. Which might sound great, but all these Korean results have their definition explained in Korean. That won’t help you that much as someone learning Korean. That doesn’t mean that the dictionary is useless for a learner!
How To Use Naver Dictionary As Beginner
As a beginner you do not type in your word in the search bar immediately, but rather you need to click on one of links just on top of the search bar. I would strongly recommend to click on the link “영어”. This will limit the search results to the results yielded by their English-Korean dictionary. These results are useful to a beginner, though at first it will be difficult to make head or tail of them.
English To Korean
As an example to guide you through the workings of the Naver dictionary (English to Korean), I have used it to search for the English word “Begin”. First note that when you are using the English dictionary, the text next to the search bar changes to 영어사전 (English dictionary). Secondly note that the search results are grouped into several categories. Each of them have their own uses. Some though will prove far more useful than others. We’ll discuss the four major groups: 단어/숙어, 본문, 예문 and V LIVE 자막.
The first category, which is plenty of useful, is 단어/숙어. The word 단어 means ‘Word, vocabulary’, and 숙어 means ‘idiom, idiomatic expression’. So the category is the most basic version of a dictionary. It will yield a laundry list of all English words, phrasal verbs and idioms that contain the word ‘Begin’ with their Korean counterpart.
All these results are also links. These links will lead you to a page focused on the word you have clicked. There you can see all possible translations in bold titles, followed with some example sentences. This is the most meaningful for a learner as it will make crystal clear what the use of a specific Korean word is and in what kind of situations they can be used.
However, some of these results will contain a link with the text “X개 뜻 더보기” such as you can see here (X being 7). That means that this English word has more than 1 Korean counterpart and you can click on that link to see all possible Korean counterparts. In general the first meaning is the most likely meaning you will need, but sometimes a more specific Korean counterpart is needed and those are found lower. This is especially true for very common words.
The second category is 본문 which is a rather difficult word to translate to English in this very context. It is another useful category which is best explained as being the opposite of the previous category “단어/숙어”.
In 본문 all Korean words that you can translate in a certain context as ‘Begin’ are shown here. If you use this category is it essential you take extra care in order to avoid making mistakes.
Luckily the Korean words are also links like was the case for the English words in the category “단어/숙어”. When you click on one of these links, the page given will yield all the potential English meanings of that one Korean word. Several example sentences will follow the listing of English translations. Pay close attention to these example sentences. Those sentences will tell you how you ought to use the word. If you simply look at the translation, you are going to end up making mistakes.
For advanced learners one useful tool this category offers, is 한자. Korean words that are in fact 한자어 will have their hanja written next to the word written in Hangeul. The hanja is far more clarifying than anything else for these words if you know the Hanja used.
예문 And V LIVE 자막
예문 and V LIVE 자막 are less useful categories for learners. Furthermore I would strongly advise against using V LIVE 자막 particularly.
The category 예문 are simply example sentences using the word you have searched for. It won’t surprise you then when I tell you this is less useful for people learning Korean. This is fully intended to help Koreans when they are having difficulties with English.
V LIVE 자막 is even less useful as these are user-made translation for captions used on V Live. s you can imagine the quality of these translations cannot be guaranteed and I would urge you to simply ignore it. If you do want to use it, keep a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the veracity of the translations offered.
Korean to English
You can, however, also use the English Naver dictionary (영어사전) in the opposite direction, which is useful when you are dealing with an unknown Korean word. The main gist of it all is completely similar to how it works when doing English to Korean searches. Except that the results for 단어/숙어 and 본문 have changed places.
However, when doing Korean to English searches, I feel the category 예문 becomes more interesting for a Korean language learner. Since then the example sentences are Korean sentences, not English sentences. In a way these example sentences could offer some great material for reading exercises. However, keep in mind these example sentences are written with a Korean audience in mind. Therefore the sentences sometimes can get quite complicated with advanced grammar.
I would urge you to learn some grammar terms such as adjective (형용사), verb (동사), noun (명사), etc. in Korean. These Korean words are used in Naver dictionary to make distinguish meanings. Certain meanings only apply when the word is used as an adjective, while another meaning is only true when it is a verb (동사).
Don’t pick the first and the best word you find using the dictionary. Like any language, Korean has several words that might mean the same thing, but are used only in specific situations. Use all the information the dictionary offers and certainly spend a lot of time looking at the example sentences. If all else fails use the Naver translation machine Papago, this Korean translation machine is a bit better than Google translate for Korean.
If you are still unsure of a word, simply ask around. There are plenty of websites, forums and groups online that are always ready to help another Korean language learner out. If you have a Reddit account there is r/Korean, Facebook has Korean Study Group and, of course, you can always ask us at Morning Lands using our various social media accounts such as Facebook, Messenger or Twitter.
If you have any other questions regarding how to best use Naver 사전 (네이버 사전) let us know in the comments. We will be happy to help you out so you can start making rapid progress learning Korean. Happy dictioneering!