My new pet project Global Glossary (which I have introduced in a previous blog post) has been going from strength to strength for some time and has been acquiring new features gradually. So I though it would be a good idea to post a commented summary now of the most significant recent innovations. Here it goes.
One productivity enhancement which will be appreciated by translators and other folk who use Global Glossary often is the ability to copy and paste words and terms in plain text. In most online dictionaries, if you want to copy and paste a piece of text from the dictionary into your own word processor, its formatting comes along with it, including font, size and colour. This is annoying and sometimes hard to get rid of. In Global Glossary, you can click on the small clipboard icon next to each word or term; a small box will pop up and you can copy the term from there as plain unformatted text. When you then paste that into your word processor, the text will take on whatever formatting you are using there. It has always irritated me that no such feature is commonly available in other dictionaries. It is a small and simple enhancement but it can save you lots of time if you find yourself copying and pasting from Global Glossary often.
A more major innovation I have introduced recently is the ability to find equivalents via intermediary languages. The technology behind it is quite simple. When you search for translations of a term from one language into another, you will find, underneath the direct equivalents, a list of translation recommendations that Global Glossary has found by translating your search term into other languages and then into your target language. This will come in handy especially if you’re looking for something that has no direct equivalents in Global Glossary. Say you’re searching for Russian equivalents of the German word kläglich. Global Glossary does not have any direct translations of this word from German into Russian. But it does have translations of it into lots of other languages, and some of those translations have translations into Russian, so why not use those to, at least, suggest a potential equivalent?
Although this is a useful feature, people need to be aware that the suggestions it produces are merely that: suggestions. In a multilingual dictionary, when A is an equivalent of B and B is an equivalent of C, it does not always follow that A is an equivalent of C. Global Glossary uses some statistical automagic to bring up the most likely candidates to the top of the list, but even then, the results need to be taken with a pinch of salt. When in doubt, you can click the explain link next to each suggestion to see the route through which the suggestion has been obtained. With that, Global Glossary will hopefully be useful even for less densely populated language pairs. (By the way, the top suggestion Global Glossary makes for kläglich from German into Russian is печальный. Perhaps some German-Russian bilinguals out there will be able to tell me whether that’s a good equivalent?)
And by the way again, this “second-hand” translation feature works just like the synonym feature that Global Glossary has had for some time. In case you didn’t know, you can use Global Glossary to find synonyms (or more accurately: synonym suggestions) in the same language. This works by translating your search word into lots of other languages and then translating those back into your original language. Again, these are merely suggestions, merely potential synonyms. But, occasionally, this will help you find new and surprising synonyms that conventional thesauri miss. Also, it is a great way to substitute a real thesaurus in less-resourced languages where nobody has written a thesaurus yet.
What these two features (synonyms and “second-hand” translations) have in common is that they make smart use of the vast multilingual word network that Global Glossary has accumulated by harvesting bilingual glossaries from the web. While I was working on the “second-hand” translations, it occurred to me that when I’m looking for translation equivalents into a language I don’t speak fluently, it would be helpful to see, for each possible translation in the target language, what other words or terms it translated back into in the original source language. So I implemented such a feature in Global Glossary. Let’s look at an example. When you’re searching for translations of skull into Russian, Global Glossary will offer you two translations: череп and мёртвая голова. By looking at the back-translations, you will probably figure out from all the references to “crossbones” and “death” underneath the second one (мёртвая голова) that this term is connotationally coloured as it denotes the skull as a symbol of death and piracy, while the first one (череп) is more neutral. So, with the help of back-translations, Global Glossary will hopefully point you towards picking the right equivalent for the context you have in mind, even if your Russian is rusty. (Again, any Russian speakers out there may be able confirm or deny the conclusions I have made about skull in their language).
As I have said before, Global Glossary has at its heart a vast multilingual “network” of words in lots and lots of languages. Once you have such a network, there is no end to the amount of cool and useful applications you can build. The features demonstrated in this article are just the beginning. I plan to develop Global Glossary much further and, if my vision is fulfilled, it will one day be the Internet’s favourite go-to place for bilingual dictionaries.
On this note, I would like to remind everyone that all data in Global Glossary comes from freely available “copy-left” sources such as Wiktionary, OmegaWiki and many others. These projects are powered by unpaid volunteers who have devoted time and expertise to the creation of free lexical resources that belong not to any corporation or government agency but to everyone and no-one at the same time. One part of Global Glossary’s mission is to make the results of these people’s work more visible and to help the world appreciate their work.