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Some Suggestions to Improve Dictionaries Integrated into English Learning Apps

Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentation - typerForedrag og mundtlige bidrag

Se relationer på Aarhus Universitet

Sven Tarp - Foredragsholder

Fang Huang - Foredragsholder

Lexicographical products are increasingly integrated into other tools like e-readers, writing assistants, and L2-learning apps (see Bothma and Prinsloo 2013, Tarp et al. 2017, Bothma and Gouws 2020, and Huang and Tarp 2021). This paper is based on the reflections by the two last authors and will deal with dictionaries integrated into L2-learning apps. As a case study, it focusses on the Kaiyan OpenLanguage app that provides assistance for Chinese learners of English as a second language.
Digital applications to assist language learning are becoming increasingly popular. They typically incorporate one or two dictionaries to improve the service so that users avoid leaving the app to consult external resources. When studying the course material, learners frequently encounter difficulties related to words or word forms, which they either don’t know, are uncertain about, or just want to confirm. In such cases, they can immediately resort to the integrated dictionary by simply touching or clicking on the word they want to consult.
Integrated dictionaries are handier and more practical than the common dictionary apps because their users do not need to close the running learning app and start a separate dictionary app to look up words for more details. In this way, learners can easily get access to the relevant lexicographical data. By reducing the time spent on consultation, they can focus more on the workflow and learning process without being interrupted by the constant switch between different apps. Thus, the whole learning process can be more efficient with the help of integrated dictionaries.
From this perspective, the paper will look at the two dictionaries used in Kaiyan OpenLanguage app. Initially, it describes the functioning of the app as well as the two dictionaries that have different roles in the app. It then focuses on the one that is integrated into the course texts and can be activated by clicking on a word or a multiword unit. A number of deficiencies are discussed such as inconsistent treatment of words and senses, data overload, difficult access, and inconvenient location of the pop-up window that displays the lexicographical items. These deficiencies may impact negatively on the learners' motivation and the learning process in general.
The paper traces the detected problems to the database that sustains the dictionary as well as to the underlying programming and design of the user interfaces that filter the data offered to the users in the pop-up window. Three main types of problems have been found. First, the database does not contain all the words, multiword units, and senses that appear in the course texts, thus occasionally leaving the users with no response to their queries. Second, even when these items are stored in the database, they sometimes are not uploaded to the user interface when users click on them in the course texts. And third, all senses and parts of speech assigned to a specific word are visualized simultaneously in the user interface, thus creating the adverse phenomenon of data overload (see Gouws and Tarp 2017).
The paper then addresses the three types of problems mentioned and suggests alternative solutions. It starts with the user interface where the lexicographical data required to meet user needs are presented. Inspired by the classical Chinese Xun Gu tradition (see Yong and Peng 2007) and applying the principle of lexicographical contextualization as formulated by Tarp and Gouws (2019), it proposes the “ideal” pop-up window. This ideal is context-aware and breaks with traditional features of the dictionary article. The content of the pop-up window is reduced to an absolute minimum that merely consists of a short definition of only one sense (i.e. the one that is relevant in the concrete context), as well as a speaker icon, and a signifier (see Tarp and Gouws 2020). The inclusion of each of these items will be explained and justified. In the proposed pop-up window, even the lemma has disappeared. This classical item “seems to be completely redundant as the user perfectly well knows from which word the article has been accessed” (Tarp 2019). The minimization of the default lexicographical data presented to the users and the exclusion of irrelevant items prevent data overload and collateral consequences like user anxiety, frustration, and abortive consultation. The idea is to avoid a consultation process that interrupts the learners’ reading flow and focus on learning.
The paper will then explain how to achieve this carefully metered dosification of lexicographical data to the users. It requires a combination of programming and manual work which, in this case, is facilitated by a unique characteristic of the course texts, namely that they consist of a limited and controlled number of words.
Finally, the paper will discuss how the problems detected in the lexicographical database can be solved by means of interdisciplinary collaboration between app developers and lexicographers.

Bothma, T.J.D. and D.J. Prinsloo. 2013. Automated Dictionary Consultation for Text Reception: a Critical Evaluation of Lexicographic Guidance in Linked Kindle e-Dictionaries. Lexikographica 29(1): 165-198.
Bothma, T.J.D. and R.H. Gouws. 2020. e-Dictionaries in a Network of Information Tools in the e-Environment. Lexikos 30: 29-56.
Gouws, R.H. and S. Tarp. 2017. Information Overload and Data Overload in Lexicography. International Journal of Lexicography 30(4): 389-415.
Huang, F. and S. Tarp. 2021. Dictionaries Integrated into English Learning Apps. Critical Comments and Suggestions for Improvement. Lexikos 31 (to appear).
Tarp, S. 2019. Connecting the Dots: Tradition and Disruption in Lexicography. Lexikos 29: 224-249.
Tarp, S., K. Fisker and P. Sepstrup. 2017. L2 Writing Assistants and Context-Aware Dictionaries: New Challenges to Lexicography. Lexikos 27: 494-521.
Tarp, S. and R.H. Gouws. 2019. Lexicographical Contextualization and Personalization: A New Perspective. Lexikos 29: 250-268.
Tarp, S. and R.H. Gouws. 2020: Reference Skills or Human-Centered Design: Towards a New Lexicographical Culture. Lexikos 30: 1-19.
Yong, H. and J. Peng. 2008. Chinese Lexicography. A History from 1046 BC to AD 1911. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
29 jun. 2021

Begivenhed (Konference)

Titel25th International Conference of the African Association for Lexicography
AfholdelsesstedStellenbosch University
Grad af anerkendelseInternational begivenhed

ID: 216237357