This article reports on a survey conducted in 2009 among students registering for their first year of study at the University of Namibia. The aim of the study was to determine these school leavers' concepts of 'a dictionary' and to what extent they perceive dictionaries to be of potential help in satisfying needs for specific types of linguistic information. Furthermore, the survey attempted to determine if the variables of frequency of dictionary use, exposure to dictionary pedagogy at school and dictionary ownership had any influence on respondents' concepts of 'a dictionary'. In comparison to the literature and other similar studies, this study takes a new approach by measuring respondents' concepts of dictionaries against a pre-constructed dictionary profile based on validated assumptions while focusing on the pre-consultation situation instead of on a reflection on past dictionary consultation procedures. The findings indicate that Namibian school-leavers do not grasp the complete information potential of monolingual dictionaries. Also, although school syllabuses of language subjects require dictionary skills to be taught, about a third of the respondents were not exposed to dictionary pedagogy at school, while those respondents who were exposed to some form of dictionary pedagogy do not demonstrate a substantially different concept of dictionaries from those who did not undergo dictionary training. This result questions the quality of dictionary pedagogy where it does take place. The effects of frequency of dictionary use and dictionary ownership on respondents' concepts of dictionaries also seem to have been minimal.
Keywords: Concept, Definition, Dictionary, Dictionary Ownership, Dictionary Pedagogy, Dictionary Profile, Dictionary User, Frequency Of Dictionary Use, Information Potential, Lexicographically Relevant Needs, Lexicography, Questionnaire, Usage Research, User Needs, User Research