Le Robert & Collins Super Senior (2 volumes)
Grand Dictionnaire Français-Anglais/Anglais-Français
Reviewed by Françoise Herrmann

© 2000 HarperCollins Publishers and Dictionnaires Le Robert. (Second Edition)
2-85036-642-0 (France)
Vol. 1: 285-036-643-9 (France)
Vol. 2: 285-036-644-7 (France)
Vol. 1: 0 00 47433-X (U.K.)
Vol. 2: 0 00 472431-3 (U.K.)
$110; 75.00 €

With two volumes, one for each direction of translation, containing 750,000 translations, 500,000 words and expressions, 25,000 specialized terms, two thesauri (one for each language), a notional-functional grammar for each language, and a bilingual color atlas, the second edition of Le Robert & Collins Super Senior is top of the line among Le Robert bilingual dictionaries. Compiled using the fifth edition of Le Robert & Collins Senior, and researched using a 400 million word electronic corpus, this is a dictionary that constantly strives to improve and expand an already well established reputation for superior lexicography and reliability.

No doubt inspired by the electronic culture of user-friendliness, efforts are present throughout the dictionary to facilitate consultation. A three-column layout is used for the listing of headwords, which appear in boldface type. Separate semantic dimensions are clearly numbered, and for traditionally long entries, a summary menu with numbered sections is supplied under the headword. For example, the English entry for the word "mind" contains a menu indicating five grammatical categories or parts of speech (noun, transitive verb, intransitive verb, compound, and phrasal verb), which breaks up the article and supplies all the translations according to corresponding semantic dimensions (each boxed). Thus, for "mind" as a noun, translations according to the semantic dimensions of "brain," "attention and concentration," "opinion," "intention," and "memory" are supplied. These are followed by "mind" as a "transitive verb," with translations for such semantic dimensions as "pay attention," "dislike/object to," "care," "take charge of," "remember," and so forth, all the way to “mind” as a compound, which lists such items as "mind-bender" [révélation], "mind-reader" [télépathe], "mind-boggling" [ahurissant], and "mind” as a verbal phrase, which lists “mind-out” (as in "watch-out!") [Attention!].

While the menus used to remodel the presentation of long articles invoke traditional categories of grammar, such as nouns, verbs and compounds, Le Robert & Collins Super Senior has included, for each language, a modern treatment of grammar that is different in comparison to your other institutional dictionary giants, and a real bonus for translators. This modern grammar, appearing as a separate section at the end of each volume, termed "Language in Use" in English, and "Grammaire Active" in French, is notional/functional and cross-indexed with the main listing of the dictionary. For reference, the European Council developed notional/functional grammar in the late 1970s in response to practical issues of immigrant language learning and employment. It is a semantic grammar that categorizes language according to the uses to which it is put - termed functions and notions (Council of Europe 1976; Wilkins 1976). Thus, beyond verb and noun as categories of language, each word is seen as it is invoked in the larger context of language use. This grammatical system yields categories, such as "opinion," "agreement," "comparisons," and "requests." Every category invokes a repertoire of expressions, or possible ways of conveying the message of, say, "making a request," "expressing an opinion", and "expressing disagreement."

For translators, this grammar, and the 27 categories of usage offered, is a bonus because for each term indexed to the grammar in the main listing, a set of alternative, contextualized, and varied forms of language use are supplied. Thus, for example, say that you are looking up the translation of the term "furthermore" as an expression of "adding or detailing." You will find that it is cross-referenced in the main listing of the dictionary to the “Language in Use" section. In section 26.2 of "Language in Use," you will find no less than 12 of those wonderful cohesive devices, in French, that also function to express "addition" like the English term "furthermore." So that beyond a standard "de plus," you will also find some more elegant alternatives such as "en outre," "d'ailleurs," "quant aux," "à cet égard," "de même," "ajoutons à cela," and "à ce propos." In sum, while you may sometimes be reluctant to consult the traditional compact grammar included in your dictionary, preferring perhaps your own comprehensive resources, you will definitely find the grammar of Le Robert & Collins Super Senior useful, different, and interesting for all the alternative translations of expressions it supplies, each according to function or notion.

A similar kind of translation bonus has been included in Le Robert & Collins Super Senior in the form of a separate thesaurus for each language. The French thesaurus is based on the latest edition of Le Robert's Dictionnaire des Synonymes, with 21,000 entries and more than 200,000 synonyms. The English thesaurus is based on the Collins English Thesaurus, with comparable content. You should also know that Le Robert Dictionnaire des synonymes was the recipient of an Académie Française award. Accordingly, the main listing cross-references all the terms included in the thesaurus for each language, so that for each translation that you look up, and for which there are synonyms listed in the thesaurus, you will find a small "--> syn" box included. Again, for translators this is an invaluable tool, since so much of translation also involves finding the right tone, shade, and tint of a particular word, in view of the many constraints on language use such as audience, domain, and style found in all texts. Considering both source and size of the two thesauruses included in Le Robert & Collins Super Senior, and the bridges built across bilingual and monolingual references, this is indeed perhaps part of the reason why the term "Super" appears in the title of this latest edition of the Le Robert & Collins.

Add yet another big bonus in the form of a 25-page bilingual color atlas, divided between both volumes, and you will have completed a tour of the super features of this bilingual dictionary. The atlas is also particularly translator-friendly since, rather than supplying two monolingual atlases (one for each volume), it is truly bilingual, with maps displaying information in both languages. Consequently, you will find English-speaking countries (including the Americas and Oceania) in the French-to-English volume, and French-speaking countries (including Africa and Asia) in the English-to-French volume. While you may raise an eyebrow at this somewhat arbitrary division of the world, with Physical Europe in one volume and Political Europe in the other, you will be delighted at the ease with which you can locate translations, since all places (i.e., countries, capitals, cities) and geographic characteristics (i.e., mountains, rivers, deserts, and oceans) appear in both languages, wherever pertinent. What is more, you will appreciate the graphical quality and clarity of the maps.

Beyond the most obvious super bonuses of Le Robert & Collins Super Senior, the qualitative lexicographic dimensions of this dictionary are tops. Robert & Collins dictionaries, and this dictionary in particular, pride themselves upon supplying users with a true picture of naturally occurring language use. This dictionary accomplishes this through extensively researched terms based on two language databases, containing a combined total of 400 million terms, culled from a wide variety of media. These databases, compiled by Collins and Le Robert for each language, supply both what is included in the dictionary and the translations that are selected for inclusion. The results are apparent in several ways.

First, you will find up-to-date inclusion and translation of terms such as "snail-mail" [courier poste], "webzine" [web-zine], and "chat-room" [forum de discussion] in the domain of the Internet; "extreme sports" [sports extrêmes], including "bungee jumping" [saut à l’élastique], "mountain biking" [VTT- vélo tout terrain], and "white water rafting" [rafting] in the domain of new millennium sports; and "getaway" [escapade], "frequent flyer program" [programme de fidélisation], and "red-eye flight" [avion ou vol de nuit] in the domain of tourism. It would probably be unfair to point out terms not included, such as "chad," "9/11," "bioterrorism," "roam-time or roam-minutes," or "dotcoms," since most of these particular terms were thrown into common usage subsequent to the publication of this dictionary, and would only point to the futility of trying to claim exhaustiveness or some measure of victory in keeping up with the linguistic frontier. The reflection of language that is provided is bound to be selective and time specific in an endeavor to effectively claim a measure of truth, reliability, and authenticity.

Second, you will benefit from the concordance research, which is included in the listing. A good example, in the English to French direction, appears in the listing of translations for the term “cancel,” which lists the following collocates, in square brackets for each translation: [+ reservation, room booked, travel tickets, plans] annuler; [+ agreement, contract] résilier, annuler; [+ order, arrangement, meeting, performance, debt] annuler; [+ check] faire opposition à ; [+ taxi, coach or car ordered, appointment party] décommander, annuler; [+ stamp] oblitérer; [+ mortage] lever; [+ decree, will] révoquer; [+ application] retirer; [+ ticket] (= punch) poinçonner; (=stamp) oblitérer, and so on, including collocates in the domain of math, [+ figures, amounts] éliminer; (= cross-out, delete) barrer, rayer, etc. Similarly, in the French-to-English direction, you will find, for example, for the term “prévoir” (to anticipate) the following collocates: [+ évènement, conséquence] to foresee, anticipate; [+ temps] to forecast; [+ reaction, contretemps] to expect, reckon on, anticipate. This contextual information, directly gleaned from concordances in the 400 million-word corpus, supplies invaluable assistance to translators who are searching for tight correlations in the target language that reflect precise and common usage.

Third, you will find excellent indexing of the terms listed: according to style, with several levels for colloquialisms (including "Danger!" for slang that is likely to offend); according to various subject domains, such as botany, physics, or the Internet; and according to whether the term is specialized or in general use. Additionally, as this is a French and British product, you will notice that the headword listing contains both American and British spellings, and that American terms are generously included both as headwords (10,000) and in translations. Thus, you will find listed such American terms as "Emmy" [Oscar de la télévision américaine]; "turnpike" [autoroute à péage]; "skid row" [cour des miracles, quartier des clochards]; and "pocketbook" [portefeuille, sac à main]. Similarly when you look up translations for French terms such as "métro" and "biscuit," you will be happy to find American and British translations indexed respectively: [(Brit.) underground, (U.S.) subway]; [(Brit.) biscuit, (U.S.) cookie].

Finally, you will also find an excellent treatment of abbreviations in the main listing, which provides both expansion and translation. For example, for the abbreviation "MRI," you will find: (abbrev. of Magnetic Resonance Imagery) IRM [imagerie par résonance magnétique]. Add still a bit more in the form of "Cultural Notes," which appear as gray boxes in the main listing. The "Cultural Notes" supply additional information for culturally loaded terms. Thus, you will find notes for terms such as "Affirmative Action" and "Smithsonian Institution" in one volume, and "DEUG/DEUST" and "Sécurité sociale" in the other. And last but not least, you will find complete verb conjugation lists and conversion tables, to conclude this tour of Le Robert & Collins Super Senior.

Le Robert & Collins Super Senior is far more than just the latest version of a bilingual dictionary with a tried and true reputation for superior lexicography. This edition includes an expanded corpus, a thesaurus for each language, a bilingual color atlas, and a notional-functional grammar for each language. As the title indicates, this is indeed a super edition. Enjoy!

Coste, Daniel, Janine Courtillon, Victor Ferenczi, Michel Matins-Baltar, and Eliane Papo. 1976.
Un niveau-seuil. CREDIF & Eddy Roulet, Council of Europe: Strasbourg, France.
Wilkins, D.A. 1976. Notional syllabuses. Oxford University Press: London, UK.