The little dictionary that travelled the world

If you had asked me six months ago if I would recommend buying an electronic dictionary I would have shrugged and told you it probably wasn’t necessary. Then something happened: I saw my language partner’s electronic dictionary and realised that it’s really practical!

So far I have relied on a mix of physical dictionaries, Google, and Naver, but:
– dictionaries are not always very “portable” – at least not if you also plan to carry other things with you.
– google translate is… well… often unreliable… and requires you to have an internet connection while you work.
– naver has a great dictionary, but you also need an internet connection for this one, and the website is slower here than in Korea.

With time I realised that whenever we looked up a word in the electronic dictionary, whether from Korean to English or the other way around, the results always made sense, and the sample sentences were useful. In comparison, I cannot count the number of times google translate has sent my language partner into fits of giggles.

So in late November I decided to buy my own electronic dictionary. Hurdle number 1: you cannot buy them in Europe. Solution? Korean online shopping!
We sat down, looked through the various types and brands and decided which one fits my needs the best (e.g. I don’t need a Spanish-Korean dictionary so why pay extra for one that has that?), I even called the customs clearance people to ask them about obscure import rules to be aware of, and we finally placed the order on G-market.

Then we waited.

After three days we could see online that the dictionary had been packed.
After another two days it left Incheon airport.

We figured it would register in Europe any time now. Delivery should take approximately a week.
And then… Nothing happened… We waited a bit more and my language partner tracked it regularly through her G-market account only to find a “your product is on its way” message. She found a regular tracking number so I could track it myself sometimes.
I waited a bit more, ending up learning the tracking number by heart from checking the delivery status every day (is that sad or just a sign of excitement?).

Still, the last registration was made in early December so where had it gone?

I called the post office to ask them if they knew anything, ending up spending quite a while listening to muzak interspersed with “fun facts” about the postal service (for instance, did you know that the Danish post workers hand out 25 tonnes of biscuits/year to stay on good terms with dogs who are unimpressed by the concept of mail delivery?). Eventually I got through and was told that from the parcel leaves Korea to it reaches Denmark, there is a blind spot when tracking packages. They don’t register the transit places online for me (or them) to see. Aha!

I tried to see if google could come up with some sort of international tracking so I could see how far from Denmark it was. It could. Result: a UK-based carrier. And there even was a phone number. It turned out that goods in transit were not registered at all. Even if they had had it, they didn’t now. I consolled myself thinking “it’s in the EU!”. Well…

Today my language partner told me she got a notification from the sellers that they had tracked the parcel for us since it hadn’t arrived on time: it’s in Turkey. However, they had asked the local carriers to hurry up. That actually made me laugh.

The little dictionary continues its travel. Hopefully it comes home soon.


4 thoughts on “The little dictionary that travelled the world

  1. alodia

    Hahaha! I wonder where else your little dictionary will travel before it reaches your hand. I hope it won’t do any more detours!

    I also used think that electronic dictionaries are a waste of money when there’s naver (nah! forget google translate!!!). But yeah, you won’t be online 24/7 (though I’m almost always online XD). And paper dictionaries eats too much time. I still think I won’t spend money on electric dictionaries but I’m thankful I have a phone with a built-in decent dictionary. I used it when I was in Korea and it’s very helpful when you’re out and away from your laptop (and you don’t have a smartphone!) and want to just quickly check translations. Now I use it when I read my novels for a quick look on words that I do not know. I know a ‘real’ electronic dictionary is way better than my phone-dictionary but for now I’m happy with my phone-dictionary. 🙂

    1. koreanlearner Post author

      Hehe, let’s see how long its adventure will take. Maybe it’s taking advantage of not needing visas to see the world. I wonder if I can see where it has been when it finally registers in Copenhagen, if they also include the transit points when they finally update that it has arrived in Denmark. If it also includes Bahrain and Australia I will be impressed.

      People who have a smartphone can probably get away with just using that to do most of the things, but I don’t have internet access on my phone so if I’m not at home, uni, or somewhere where they have wifi I have to rely on paper dictionaries. How come your phone has a built-in dictionary? That’s really cool! Did you buy it in Korea to get that?

      Google translate is a good way to get a laugh for sure, but I wouldn’t want it to be my primary dictionary. Imagine the horror of learning a word from there only to have a native speaker laugh so much that he/she needs physiotherapy afterwards to straighten out the back because of the stomach cramping together. I almost caused that yesterday because of a spelling mistake, no need to also run that risk because of an off translation 😀

      1. alodia

        I had one classmate in Korea (from the US) whose luggage travelled to different states and countries before it reached Korea. These inanimate objects really loves travelling! 🙂

        Yeah, got my phone in Korea – for free actually (had to pay 10,000won upfront but the phone had 10,000worth of prepaid credits – so tada! free!). Can’t use the phone back in the Philippines but can use all the other features including the lovely little dictionary. 🙂

        We also always make fun of Google translate when translating to our language (w/c is highly inflectional making it really difficult for machine translations). I guess the best way to make someone laugh is to use google translate in one’s native language. But I sometimes find it useful for some slangs that can’t be found in naver (if i’m too lazy to google search or use a 국어).

      2. koreanlearner Post author

        That must be a bit nerve wrecking. After all you actually *need* your things when moving abroad, otherwise you wouldn’t ship them.

        My dictionary has arrived in Danish customs now! 😀 Hurray!

        I also got my phones abroad (UK) so not all the functions are working with my Danish subscription, but they are useful anyway 🙂

        In Danish we have some words that make no sense when translated literally into another language. E.g. A lawn mower = a “grass hitting machine” if translated literally… I think google has caught that one, though 😀

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