I really appreciate the interest that ESL learner has in the subject of language learning. I look forward to our cup of espresso here in Vancouver one day.
What I mean my real content is anything that the learner is genuinely interested in and that was not written especially for language learners. I mean authentic content which is meaningful to the learner. It may a cook book, a history book or anything. Yes you can Google to find additional examples of new words in use. I prefer to find these examples in my reading and listening and have designed the functionality of The Linguist to make that possible. The examples are more meaningful and the learning is reinforced if the examples come from familiar contexts.
Obviously not everyone has access to The Linguist, and it only exists for English for now. As a compromise solution by all means use the handheld electronic dictionary. The question what will you do with the word once you have looked it up. If it goes on a hand written list, the chances are that you may only review that list a few times. Worse still, most students still use the conventional dictionary and their study is so slow and painstaking that an essential ingredient of breakthrough language learning is lost. That ingredient is intensity. Efficiency leads to intensity. Intensity is needed for a breakthrough.
As for the International Phonetic Alphabet. I do not use it. I want to connect the words that I see in the language with the pronunciation. I do not want to see a third phonetic script, especially one that I do not know and have no interest in learning.