Kernerman Dictionary News • Number 7 • July 1999

Back to Future

Ilan Kernerman

When Passport dictionary appeared it was called in this newsletter "a dictionary for a new age". The new age referred to, on one hand, the dawning era of information, communication, and globalization – bringing its need to learn English as today's lingua franca with fresh awareness to one's history and culture pertained in the mother tongue; on the other hand, this new age referred to an emerging young audience and its unique requirements – a different type of dictionary, a lively-active learning tool that is fun and good to use.

One of our reasons to initiate the Passport project was that many teachers of English in Israel, wanting to use a dictionary, prescribed a medium-level dictionary to primary school pupils. Teachers sometimes boasted that their students use an advanced dictionary, turning a blind eye to the harm it can do to not-so-advanced learners. Some of them still do, and some still don't use any dictionary at all at this level. But some are turning to use a dictionary that is expressly suited to meet the level and needs of their students.

So far, the most attention in pedagogical lexicography is consistently devoted to advanced English learner's dictionaries, although they actually cater for a minority of users (more users than learners of English). That may be caused by deeply-rooted misconceptions – due possibly to historical and commercial factors rather than didactic or realistic ones – leading to a virtual conspiracy of dictionary makers and users. In fact, only a few of the non-native learners of English are "advanced"; most of them are plain average, and ever more are on a yet lower level. This last "pre-intermediate" level has become vitally important in formulating foundations and habits for learning English and acquiring general reference skills.

Passport was surely not new in addressing beginner-to-intermediate learners, but it attempted to treat this level as a critical learning stage. It therefore approaches users differently, literally trying to speak their language in meeting a newfound language. It was probably the first international dictionary created especially for bilingualisation, so that it always remains basically missing and incomplete, until localised for the learner's language and culture.

A growing number of our publishing partners, who were keen about the dictionary but hesitant on its market prospects, are increasingly determined to follow their minds and undertake local versions. The pursuant flow of ideas in developing each language version leads to updating and revisions, which feedback the original data and keep it alive in modification for the next version.

Our recent venture with the Italian division of McGraw-Hill grew from their intent to accompany a new grammar book with a CD dictionary, for which Passport was a fine candidate. As the data was originally prepared only for printed editions, considerable restructuring had to be carried out to make it suitable for electronic applications. Several aspects of this process and of the ensuing product are discussed in this issue.

Since the Italian Passport CD appeared, more content and features were added, such as making it possible to record the user's voice and compare it with the default vocal pronunciation. This upgraded version already serves us as a base for the new Czech and Lithuanian editions, planned to soon join their respective printed editions.

K Dictionaries Ltd
10 Nahum Street, Tel Aviv 63503 Israel
tel: 972-3-5468102 • fax: 972-3-5468103