Visual Dictionary
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  • VisualDictionary
  • VisualDictionary

Client Brief

Vocabulary is pivotal in learning English, but also one of the biggest obstacles to overcome, especially for beginners.

British Council realized, through observations made during classes and with their teachers, that an increasing number of students were sharing photos of unfamiliar objects taken with their smartphones, to learn the respective English term, pronunciation and spelling.

This gave rise to the opportunity to reach out to the students, in their moment of need, and make life easier for them by sharing the pronunciation and meaning behind an object, whose English term is foreign to them, in an accessible and relevant way.

Agency Response and Program

The solution unified an existing behavior with the convenience of an app, so that a picture can teach a thousand words.

By re-purposing a piece of technology built for mobile-commerce, the British Council created the Visual Dictionary app to aid students to improve their vocabulary.

Simply by taking a picture of any object, the app uses visual search technology to tell you what it is. Recognizing nearly 40 million images, the app instantaneously syncs with the Cambridge dictionary to provide the respective English pronunciation and meaning.

Snap a picture and improve your vocabulary in seconds. It was that easy.


During the initial test phase with the current batch of students at the British Council, the results were highly encouraging.

In just two weeks, a total of 303,753 words were searched on the Visual Dictionary app. This averages out to about 250 new English words taught to a student - a tall order to achieve with just in-class learning.

With every student now armed with this innovative, real-time mobile tool, the Visual Dictionary helped overcome one of the language’s biggest hurdle, thanks in large part to identify an existing student behavior, utilizing data, and the mobility of a real-time experience.