Improving our dictionaries step by step

When we started bab.la in 2007 we had the vision of creating the world’s largest dictionary. We know that this is quite a bold vision but our thinking was and still is: Aim high and see what happens. Looking back it was the right thing to do. We are now at 18 languages and 29 dictionaries which is quite impressive for a little more than 3 years work.

Continuous improvement with the help of our users
Since the launch we have worked on continuously improving our dictionaries. We believe in the wiki-approach, so we started off with letting users add their own words. Later we added a user editing function and a voting button for relevancy. Besides the wiki-approach we included additional functions such as the search filter, pronunciation (for some languages, more to come!), synonyms and so on. We are on our third ‘layout cycle’ and the usability experience has improved considerably. Many of these changes have been triggered by the feedback of our users.

Context sentences help choose the right translation

Some time ago we started to include context sentences for each translation. We do this by letting a computer program automatically match content from multilingual websites such as the European Union or the United Nations. The reason for this feature is easily explained by this example: With five translations on a searched word the normal user might be overwhelmed to choose which translation is the right one for his or her purpose. A sentence underneath every translation helps the user to understand the context in which the word is used and thereby to choose the right translation.

New beta feature to answer even more search queries
Unfortunately we don’t have translations for every search term entered by the users. Partially we just lack the content (we are working on it!), partially the search term is just nonsense (such as ‘asdfghjkl’) and partially the search terms are word flexions such as conjugated verbs. Unfortunately our system doesn’t allow us to search for these flexions and the corresponding translation in our dictionaries as there are many rules (and exceptions to the rules) to be implemented for each language. However, we can search our vast database with millions of sentence entries for the word flexion. This way you will get at least a partial answer to your search query by seeing entire sentences and their translations. As this is an automated function the results might not always be accurate. We chose to make this beta-feature available to everyone because we think despite its limitations it is too good to hide it. Rest assured that we are working on improving the feature as fast as we can. If you have any questions or suggestions in the mean time do not hesitate to contact us.

Andreas

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