Kernerman Dictionary News • Number 8 • July 2000

Integrating a Dictionary into a Multimedia Language Learning Program
by Fay Ginzberg

[This paper is not available on the printed copy of the newsletter.]

English+ Millennium is the upgraded version of a multimedia learning program developed by Edusoft in 1991, and localized worldwide with support in 27 languages. It incorporates multimedia to create a learning environment in which the user can learn and practice all aspects of English, and covers reading, listening, speaking and writing, and provides practice in grammar and vocabulary development. The material is authentic English in life-like communicative situations, and the program includes a range of interactive activity types, speech recognition, topic-based guided lessons, a detailed report on the learner's progress, and a bilingualized English learner's dictionary.

The development team decided that there was a need to improve the dictionary that accompanied the original version of the product. In particular, they wanted a dictionary that dealt effectively with multi-meaning words and verb forms; that provided definitions that learners at a range of levels could cope with; that provided examples of usage in context, etc. In addition, teachers using the original program in their classrooms had asked for the option of shutting off the translation and having the dictionary function as a monolingual English-English dictionary.

After a survey of available dictionaries, it was decided to incorporate the K English Dictionary into the product. One of the most important features of this dictionary is that it is indeed a learning tool - the definitions are in simple English, and are not long or wordy, and the example in context is very useful for understanding the word, especially when it has a number of meanings. Another important feature is the inclusion of irregular verb forms as headwords in the dictionary. Thus a learner looking up the meaning of "brought" does not need to know that it is the past form of "bring" in order to find its meaning. The dictionary includes expressions and phrasal verbs - items that cause difficulty when not properly understood. Where relevant, additional information is provided. In short, this is a dictionary that can be of real use to the learner and contribute greatly to the language learning process.

In a joint effort, the database that had been developed by K Dictionaries was expanded and prepared for computerization and integration into Edusoft's product. The dictionary contains entries for all the words and expressions in English+ Millennium, which amounts to approximately 17,000 entries. The user can access either: through the dictionary icon in the program, or by right-clicking the mouse on an unknown word. This enables quick access while the user is reading a passage or doing an exercise.

When working with the dictionary itself, the learner types the word s/he is looking for in the input box. As s/he types, the program starts scrolling down the index of words until it finds the word being entered. The user clicks on the word and receives the entry for it.

The entry contains the following: an audio recording of the word, the part of speech, a translation of the headword in the user's mother-tongue, a definition, and an example of the word in context. The dictionary also presents other relevant information for learners, such as the plural form, the gerund, the past tense, irregular plurals, British usage, etc.

An additional unique feature of the dictionary in English+ Millennium is that users can learn to pronounce a new word and receive feedback as to the accuracy of their pronunciation. Using state-of-the-art voice recognition technology, users hear the word, record themselves saying it, and compare the sound wave of their recording with that of the original. They also receive a score based on their pronunciation.

A translation kit was developed to allow for rapid and accurate translation of headwords. The kit contains the word, its definition and its use in context, as they appear in the dictionary. However, the program also includes the option to operate in English/English mode without mother-tongue support, thus answering the needs of teachers who want to train learners in the use of a monolingual EFL dictionary. At the click of a mouse the native language support can be reinstalled.

In conclusion, this program demonstrates how the use of state-of-the-art technology and user-sensitive lexicography, in conjunction with a strong pedagogical approach, can result in a product that greatly enhances the language learning experience of today's learners.

About the author
Fay Ginzberg graduated in Linguistics and TESOL from Monash University, Australia, and Tel-Aviv University, Israel. For the past 15 years she has worked in the field of educational multimedia, developing a wide range of software and printed material for the teaching of English as a foreign language. She is a pedagogical manager at Edusoft, Israel.

K Dictionaries Ltd
8 Stricker Street, Tel Aviv 62006 Israel
tel: 972-3-5468102 • fax: 972-3-5468103