More than 500 secondary school English teachers were given a crash-course in the use of bilingual dictionaries. The seminar, held at the Sheraton Hotel, was organised by publishers Longman Asia. 'The dictionary is a dumb teacher, full of useful information and material,' said guest speaker Amy Chi Man-lai, who teaches English at the Language Centre of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). She said teachers and parents agreed dictionaries were a great aid to improve English, but many students did not know how to use them. Teachers played a 'significant role' in changing this situation. Publishers of the books were in a good position to show them how to pass knowledge on to their students. Important dictionary skills include being able to find words alphabetically, checking the spellings of words, and understanding the explanations of their meanings. It was also important to understand the symbols which help with pronunciation, how to choose the correct definition, and understand the examples given. Ms Chi said there were advantages to both mono-lingual and bilingual dictionaries. According to a survey she conducted last year, 72 per cent of students owned both types of dictionaries. She said English-Chinese guides were an efficient means of 'decoding' words and helped Chinese students with new English words. Ms Chi said English lessons would be a logical place to teach the use of dictionaries, adding that it was important that teachers and students were taught the useage properly. HKUST will host a conference on using dictionaries to learn English and Chinese on March 27.