An iOS Law Dictionary for English as a Second Language

Here is an interesting iteration of the standard law dictionary — one designed specifically to help legal professionals who are not native speakers of English. Available as an app for iPhone and iPad, TransLegal’s Law Dictionary¬†not only provides the definitions for more than 3,000 legal terms, but it also provides audible pronunciations and examples of how to use the term in context.

This app was developed by TransLegal and Paragon Software Group. TransLegal is a company that specializes in helping international legal professionals learn English legal terminology and usage, providing online courses and materials as well as an online Legal English Dictionary. Paragon is the same company that developed the mobile versions of the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law that I reviewed here in July.

The definitions contained within the dictionary are “the¬†product of thousands of hours of ongoing research carried out by an expert team of lawyer-linguists” and are regularly updated to reflect the most current usage, according to the developers.

Each definition includes an audio recording of the term, to aid pronunciation, and also an audio recording of the term used in a sentence. Most terms also include a “Phrasebank,” which are additional text examples of the term in context. Definitions sometimes include additional explanatory notes to help provide a better understanding of the term and also synonyms and alternative spellings. Some even discuss common mistakes in usage of the term.

The app provides several search options, including wildcard searching (such as “un*” to find words that begin with those letters), fuzzy searching (for when you are unsure of the term’s correct spelling), and full-text search (to search both terms and their definitions). You can also find a term simply by beginning to type it in the search field.

As I noted in my review of the Merriam-Webster’s law dictionary, Paragon is the developer of the PenReader handwriting recognition software for mobile devices. The TransLegal app includes PenReader, which means you can search for words by writing them on your screen with your finger or a stylus. It is easy to use and surprisingly accurate.

Another nice feature of this app is the ability to easily adjust the font sizes of entries and terms using a slider bar within the settings menu.

The standard price of this app is $24.99 (19.99 EUR or 17.49 GBP). However, through Oct. 6, they are offering it for an introductory price of $12.99.

Although this law dictionary is designed for non-native speakers of English, I can see it proving useful even to native speakers. Although it contains fewer and less-detailed definitions than a standard law dictionary, its use of terms in context can be illuminating and its explanatory notes and suggestions of common mistakes include tips that any lawyer might find helpful.

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