Kernerman Dictionary News • Number 16 • July 2008

Password – a productive dictionary family

Ruth Mägi


 
Ruth Mägi has been at the head of dictionary department in TEA Publishers since 1999. She graduated from Tartu university as a Finno-Ugrian philologist (major in Estonian philology) and continued her MA studies in linguistics (special interest in dictionary use) at Tallinn University. She has tested Estonian school-childrens’ dictionary awareness, comprehension and usage skills, andis currently preparing dictionary workbooks.

ruth.magi@tea.ee

 


I first saw Password dictionary some years ago when I was a university student. It was my brother’s book, which he received as a present. I remember that when I opened it I was quite confused by the structure. Who would put so much English language into an English-Estonian dictionary? I have to admit that I had absolutely no knowledge of any structural differences in dictionaries. At the time, I, like most dictionary users, never read or showed any interest in the preface or instructions for use. Why bother?

           

Later on, while already working on dictionaries, I came to understand the why part – and it still fascinates me. Now I’m happy to know that I’m not the only Password fan!

 

There are many dictionaries on the publishers’ and lexicographers’ shelves, but very few of them can be considered as both purpose-built sand purpose-served. I would, without doubt, consider Password and its family of products as just that.

 

The Estonian version of the semi-bilingual Password dictionary (PASSWORD Inglise-eesti seletav sõnaraamat / English Dictionary for Speakers of Estonian) was first published by TEA Publishers in 1995. It was a huge success among Estonians, which might somehow be taken as pure luck. After Estonia regained independence at the beginning of the 1990s, there were other things to achieve than publishing dictionaries, and at some point there were only a few English-Estonian dictionaries available on the market. TEA published Password at the peak of the demand for proper and reliable dictionaries. There were several reprints after its first launch and in 2006 TEA published an updated version along with a CD-ROM.

 

However, there would not have been such success without good content. Estonians have always been “language-oriented” people. Even during the Soviet rule, schools taught English, German and French, and we have had notable language teachers. Password’s idea of teaching the English language through English itself suited our public well, since almost everyone knew English to some extent. Estonian equivalents to English meanings simply supported learners’ comprehension.

 

I personally like dictionaries that entice you to think a little, and when I understand what the dictionary is trying to convey then I like it even more. Password is a dictionary that does not have a simple structure; rather, it has the simplest structure needed in order to convey meaning in an economical way. Everyone likes to be considered smart, and Password is for smart people.

 

Password has many advantages and it is multipurpose by nature. When I ask people why they use dictionaries, they usually answer that they want to know the meaning of words. So, providing English definitions along with Estonian translations serves this purpose well. Password is also a perfect dictionary for giving the most important meaning of headwords, for which derivative forms and phrases are also presented. It also provides definitional language in easy-to-understand English using a limited range of vocabulary for explanations.

 

There are many English language teachers in our country who have said that Password is a very good dictionary for teaching school children how to use dictionaries in general. (They have added that any kind of semi-bilingual type of dictionary is appropriate for this.) English is the first foreign language taught at our schools and will likely remain so in the near future. Thus, many users might need a monolingual English dictionary at some point in time. If translations are ignored, then Password can function as a monolingual dictionary. This makes it suitable for practicing monolingual dictionary use before moving on to true monolingual dictionaries where no translations are provided, since the basic structure of a monolingual dictionary has been retained in Password and is only ‘interrupted’ by translations. This kind of ‘interruption’ is not something users would mind; on the contrary, they sub-consciously need the translations in order to be fully sure of the meaning. In addition, there are many structural entry elements that teachers can point out to students,such as where to find derivatives, phrases, examples, cross-references, etc. I’m sure this teaching function can be considered to be one of the best advantages Password has over other dictionaries.

 

Having had such a good and long experience in publishing and marketing Password, we at TEA have come to the understanding that it would be a shame not to develop this line further and offer our public such a type of dictionary for different levels. Therefore, the whole semi-bilingual family has been extended, based on Password as the main product. This year we launched Junior Password (Junior PASSWORD Inglise-eesti seletav sõnaraamat / English-Estonian Semi-Bilingual Dictionary) along with a CD-ROM version. Originating from PASSPORT English Learner’s Dictionary, Junior Password is meant for users in elementary up to junior high school. It does not provide English definitions, but rather, presents example sentences and phrases that illustrate the context of where and how the word can be used. In this way, learners can put English into action right away. The Estonian translations are based on these sample sentences, so editors had a specific context in mind when translating the headwords from English to Estonian. Several side-meanings that were beyond the level intended for these users were deleted. This is an ideal dictionary for forming the first idea of semantic connections and differences between words. It contains many usage notes that link words and terms to each other and point to synonyms and antonyms. Junior Password can be considered as a compact, simplified version of Password.

 

In Junior Password we decided to exclude the Estonian-English index, which is an integral part of the Password dictionary. (However, we did include it in the electronic version.) Our idea was that kids at this level of language awareness are not ready to understand that this is NOT an Estonian-English dictionary. Given the structural core of Password, where there are many derivatives under a single entry, the index is relevant for supporting the significance of the key entry. However, Junior Password’s structure is very simple, and an index in this case would have made things more unclear to the user, since there is no sub-entry system. In developing the original Password, I rather develop an index specifically for an electronic version. There are, however, some disadvantages in presenting such an index, even for such a purpose. These include cases where the articles are split to component parts, or derivatives that become full entries. Thus, such an index may not be as as functional as intended.

 

TEA’s cooperation with K Dictionaries has proven to be both productive and profitable. Thus, we have agreed to develop two more titles within the Password line: Advanced Password for upper level learners, and Picture Password for younger ones. Both currently published dictionaries have been introduced to our public as members in an upcoming family of products. This will prime our market for customer acceptance of new products and allow users to take full advantage of the multipurpose features provided in the current offerings.  

 

Finally, I would like to suggest a possible idea for the future. Why not start a Password dictionary support centre? Among the many publishers who have localised the Password family of dictionaries around the world, it may be a good idea to consolidate our efforts and be able to convey to one another any good ideas for further improvements, as well as share issues and problems that may co-occur while working on the diverse languages that Password is offered in.

 

 

 

PASSWORD

Inglise-eesti seletav sõnaraamt

Eesti-inglise sõnastik-indeksiga

+ ePASSWORD CD-ROMil koos hääldusega

English-Estonian Semi-Bilingual Dictionary

TEA KIRJASTUS

Tallinn, Estonia

August 2006 (2nd edition)

1008 pp, 250 x 173 mm

Hardcover, incl CD-ROM

ISBN 9985-71-518-7

 

Junior PASSWORD

Inglise-eesti seletav sõnaraamt

Eesti-inglise sõnastik-indeksiga

+ eJUNIOR PASSWORD CD-ROMil koos hääldusega

English-Estonian Semi-Bilingual Dictionary

TEA KIRJASTUS

Tallinn, Estonia

February 2008

584 pp, 204 x 140 mm

Hardcover, incl CD-ROM

ISBN 9985-71-519-2