Dictionaries whether they are paper or electronic are invaluable resources to the language student. Here at 1 on 1 Mandarin, many students are big fans of the Pleco software available for your Android device or iPhone. However there are times when Pleco doesn’t give a definition for a word you are looking for. What now?
There are a few internet dictionaries that i sometimes go to. These include: http://www.wordbuddy.com and http://www.yellowbridge.com both of which have useful features for the language learner, but i also sometimes go straight to Google translate (http://translate.google.cn/?h
Using google translate requires a little caution, sometimes the translations are a little spurious, but currently* there are two features that can help you understand the correct meaning when other methods have failed. Hovering your mouse curser over a translated word and clicking allows you to see alternative translations, and at the bottom of the screen there is a button to click that allows you to see example sentences of words that you have looked up. These examples are drawn from various places on the web, so ideal for finding out the meaning of words that have only recently come into popular usage.
*I say currently, because in my experience Google have the habit of introducing neat features for a period of time and then removing them. Hopefully these features will be here to stay.