Tech for Teach

Is your go-to dictionary CamDictionary?

For me, one of the biggest kicks I get out of teaching is when I learn something new from my students. When it comes to learning about technology however, I find that I’m usually the one pushing technology onto my students. I suspect that one reason is because I teach in a humanities faculty rather than a faculty for computer science or engineering.

There are a number of outliers however. Enter, Ibuki.


Ibuki is being groomed to take over the reigns of his father’s seafood business. As this business requires a lot of trade with foreign suppliers, Ibuki is busy studying to pass the IELT’s test, so he can spend a year studying at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Ibuki comes to every class armed with his iPhone and iPad in hand ready for

action. He has helped me a number of times in the last year as a tutor for students who are a little slower with technology and he has been a wonderful source for feedback on some of the different approaches I have taken using technology.

For today’s blog entry however, I asked Ibuki which site or app he’s using the most to prepare for next month’s IELT’s test. His response, “CamDictionary”.


The app, available on Android and iOS platforms takes advantage of your mobile device’s camera. While reading a text, one can open up the app and focus the camera on an unfamiliar word or phrase with the eye-like image appearing in the middle. Then, recognition and translation results can be received instantly. Although Ibuki is posing with the app on his iPad, CamDictionary is one app which Ibuki recommends as being better suited to a smart-phone because of its ease in taking tall and narrow photos of text.

Teachers should also be relieved to know that our students are in safe hands with the definitions they receive when using this app. The app has built-in Collins and Oxford dictionaries which students can access for more professional explanations. As of writing, the app serves 37 languages, so teachers and students who use languages outside of English and Japanese also have reason to get excited.

On a final note, to test test this app’s efficiency, fellow DMLL contributor Travis Cote and I compared Ibuki’s speed between finding a word in a paper dictionary versus CamDictionay. The results were,

1. Paper Dictionary- 34 seconds

2. CamDictionary- 7seconds

[wpvideo aZ5cDScv]

Do you have a favourite dictionary app?

5 thoughts on “Is your go-to dictionary CamDictionary?”

      1. Hi Brett,

        Actually, I downloaded the free app and bought the Collins Japanese Gem Dictionary for ¥399. The Android app looks great. I am guessing the iOS one does as well, so no need to go into too much detail here; but, as far as dictionary apps go, this has got to be one of the most stylish little dictionaries you can have on your phone. The free app has the standard adds, but they are out of the way and unobtrusive.


        The biggest problem I noticed is that it has some trouble with small print. For example, it could not read the address on a business card I tried it on, and kept translating 東京都 (Tokyo Met.) as 京都 (Kyoto), which could be problematic for those with no background in the language at all. But since it shows you exactly what it thinks it sees, you can double check for accuracy yourself. It also does not read stylized Japanese calligraphy, which is not really a fare test anyway, but I wanted to push it to the limits.

        It also seems to prefer to give you entire stings of words, rather than one word at a time. I prefer the one word at a time approach, because I do not trust the translation of entire strings of words. Much like Google translate or other such software cannot really give you the proper meaning of paragraph or even sentence level text, this app is also limited by the fact it is not human.


        What is did do fairly well, is read normal sized print. And as far as the apps ability to correctly recognize the word you give it through the camera, so far it seems very accurate.

        It also will read what it sees to you out-loud, which is really helpful for learning pronunciation. As a Japanese learner, my biggest problem is that even when I can get the meaning of a bit of text, I do not always know the proper pronunciation of the kanji I am reading. But this app can read it for you.

        The fact that it can read out-loud what it sees in your phone’s camera, is for me the best reason to own this app. Perhaps this app is not the best tool for a novice to the target language, but if you have enough background in the target language to recognize when the words displayed match the text on the paper, and if you know that computer translations cannot yet perform accurate contextual interpretation, then this app can be of service. I went ahead and purchased the add-free version for ¥166.

        1. Thanks for the detailed Android test.
          Your comment could be a blog post in itself!

          Thanks for the report on how the app can read a larger piece of text. Some of my students have been asking if they could get that capability if they purchased the app. It’s an issue that I also need to look into further.

          Interestingly, I the app could read my projector screen during yesterday’s class.

Leave a Reply