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Despite us being well into the computer era, dictionaries are still an essential language resource for any translator. The dictionary-making industry has had to move with the times, which has rocked the boat quite a bit at established publishers such as Langenscheidt, but even so, it has managed to come up with electronic alternatives to paper dictionaries – and equally importantly, various ways of paying for them. Electronic dictionaries are now available as apps for mobile phones and portable e-readers like the Kindle, as PC software and as Web-based applications, for example. This post is about the latter, which are offered as paid services to which users subscribe (software as a service, or "SaaS").
One of the online dictionary services I use is MOT dictionaries and is run by a Finnish company called Kielikone. This firm provides various linguistic services via the Web that cater to people with an interest in translation and proof-reading, including Web-based dictionaries (e.g. via MOT mobile), machine translation (MOT translation) and online proof-reading (MOT proofing):
In addition to these three groups, Kielikone also offers its customers a small number of language guides, e.g. on English and Swedish grammar and on writing and spelling Finnish correctly, which caters to needs in their local market in Scandinavia.
Rather misleadingly, MOT translation is actually concerned with machine translation – from one of nine European languages and (Mandarin) Chinese into English and vice versa. Kielikone realistically admits that its MT system is only capable of making a "quick" translation of a text and is best suited to translating technical texts, instructions and news, i.e. material in which the focus is on content rather than style. In other words, post-editing is necessary to polish up the engine's translations (another task we human translators get lumbered with).
Rather than relying on MT's statistical algorithms, however, I prefer to use several of Kielikone's online dictionaries to help me translate my work. A wide range of monolingual and bilingual works are available, each of which costs a relatively small amount of money to subscribe to (around 15 euros for three months or roughly 49 euros for 12, for example). I've signed up for three German-English dictionaries, viz. MOT Collins German Dictionary, MOT Langenscheidt Muret-Sanders Großwörterbuch Englisch and MOT Oxford German Dictionary, and have an annual subscription, which is rather better value than a quarterly one. These electronic dictionaries are all based on well-known printed versions and have been licensed to Kielikone. (Installable versions for Windows PC users are also available, incidentally.)
To use the dictionaries you have chosen, you just log on to the MOT server via your Web browser using the user data that go with your subscription. It's very fast (and the connections I've set up have always been totally reliable). Set the language for the browser interface when you first start using MOT – it can be in English, German, Swedish or Finnish at the moment – and then pick the dictionary you want to use from a drop-down list:
If you set the system to search all of your dictionaries at once (by picking "Multiple dictionary selection" and clicking on the round plus symbol and selecting the works to be used), then when you enter a search term on the right, the results of your search will be displayed in a vertical list of all the dictionary entries that were found. The hits actually look much like those in a paper dictionary, with the entry being on the left and translations of it on the right together with sample sentences showing how the words are used (i.e. with contextual information):
Different kinds of searches are possible, depending on which option you select:
Like CD-ROM dictionaries, searches for terms can be done very quickly online, but I'd say the real advantage of subscribing to a number of MOT dictionaries is that you can see which dictionaries come up with hits instantaneously and the hits all appear on your monitor at once; there's no need to make individual searches in each dictionary as a universal search is done. So a system of this kind can save you time. Plus the fact that no maintenance is needed at the user's end, no system updates are called for and there's no need for any troubleshooting if anything goes wrong – this is all taken care of by the company providing the dictionaries over the Net.
So there's no hassle at all. What's more, you can try out additional dictionaries whenever you like, with no obligation to take out a subscription for them. If you find them useful, you pay for them and they get included in your personal software "suite" for immediate use. And if you decide you want to stop using your suite for any reason, you can simply cancel your subscription.
I thoroughly recommend "MOT dictionaries" as a translation resource as it's convenient to use, flexible and very helpful in many cases. Apart from including general dictionaries, the range also covers several commercial, technical and specialist dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Here's a sample:
If you'd like to try out the MOT dictionaries, get in touch with the Sales team at Kielikone and ask for a free trial.
- More on Langenscheidt's restructuring programme (in German)
images: screen shots from Kielikone's website; logo and other website images by courtesy of Kielikone Oy
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