Cool Multilingual Online Dictionary Software

Can something that’s cool keep getting cooler and cooler? Not sure about that, but that’s roughly what I want to say about the program(s) that my colleague Caoimhìn Ò Donnaìle is developing at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig as part of the POOLS-T project. As any teacher will tell you there’s a lot more to language learning than looking up words in a dictionary, and even when you’re just thinking about the vocabulary acquisition side of things it’s very important to look at the way a new word is used in context.

All of which makes me want to say Be Very Careful With Dictionaries. Yes, they can help, but overreliance on a word to word translation without heed to syntactic and semantic surroundings can lead you seriously astray.

Yet, having got the caveats out of the way, I have to confess that the work Caoimhìn has been doing, with support and encouragement from Kent Andersen and other European partners, is beginning to look really promising as another string to the independent learner’s bow. The programme is available via this link. The original plan was to develop something that would work with just the languages of the project partners (Danish, Dutch, English, German, Greek, Italian, and of course Gaelic). But when I last looked there were over 50, including Hindi (tapadh leat, a Chaoimhìn!) and Maori. Great to think it all started in our little Hebridean corner of Scotland, with a gentle nudge from Denmark where Kent has also been making great strides with his desktop version of a program with a similar function.

The development work is ongoing and feedback is welcomed from all quarters.

About Gordon Wells

Language learner and teacher (English, Gaelic, Hindi and Urdu). Interested in bilingualism and creativity. At home in the Hebrides.

Posted on 05/11/2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. gordonwellsuist

    Since this posting Caoimhín has now added Cree to the ever lengthening list of languages. Here’s an example page:

    http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/wordlink/?sl=cr-Latn&url=http://cr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maskisin

    Click on any word in the text in the left screen that you don’t know, and if there’s a dictionary entry for it it will appear in the right screen. Neat.

  2. Leigh Forbes

    This is a fantastic idea, and please wish Caoimhín the best of luck with it. It’s great to see such growing facilities for distance/independent learners.

    (Found your blog via the Radio Lingua Gaelic page, which is linked to your CV.)

  3. gordonwellsuist

    Time for an update on this, as the development continues apace and the two approaches converge, both using Caoimhín’s “Multidict” program. Check this link in the Island Voices blog.

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