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Albert's Chinese Super Dictionary idea

Albert Woolfe at Laowai Chinese has written a massively detailed post about his concept for a Super Chinese Dictionary project. I think it’s something a lot of us in the online Chinese learning community have been thinking about for a while now.

I already know of one new Chinese dictionary that is on the way. I might have heard news that some sort of Chinese grammar project is being made somewhere as well.

Hive mind dictionary

Albert’s really gone into far more detail than I’d thought about for this Super Chinese Dictionary, particularly in describing how it wouldn’t just serve up content, but actually keep track of all sorts of information about its database and users, and use this to learn.

The idea is that the dictionary could begin to see patterns in all of the language use data its accumulating, and use that to serve better content.

That would be incredible if it worked out, but I think the logistics are pretty extreme. It wouldn’t just be a massive programming undertaking, but also require some serious, professional computer-scientist type work to really come to fruition.

That’ll need more than the community can provide, I think - some sort of major business needs to get interested and cough up the resources.

Basic content

Aside from that, there are a few more mundane content features that I’d like to see offered consistently within one dictionary (currently these exist but are spread across different projects, or just aren’t offered anywhere). My comprehensive content list for the Super Chinese Dictionary would be:

  • related words

  • antonyms and synonyms

  • words with same head character

  • words with same tail character

  • different romanisation options (mainly to allow searching in different systems)

  • pinyin (default)

  • bopomofo

  • Wade Giles

  • also show variant pronunciations, indicate which is commonly used vs ‘correct’ etc.

  • extra character information:

  • character breakdowns

  • mnemonics

  • similar characters

  • stroke order animations

  • wubi code

  • handwriting, different scripts and variant forms examples

  • example sentences

  • Plus links to search on Jukuu and Tatoeba

  • handwriting recognition

  • HTML5 if possible; Java is a pain to load every time

  • comprehensive definitions, examples for every usage

  • also give definitions in Chinese

  • measure words for nouns and verbs

  • parts of speech

  • verb transitivity

  • collocations

  • auto-suggest search

  • audio for every word, even every example sentence if possible

And some other requirements:

  • fast interface (almost entirely CSS and HTML, very few images)
  • load quickly (fast servers, CDN etc. - I say this because of nciku being constantly slow or inaccessible)
  • very community based: users should be able to easily submit content, maybe even be able to edit it too
  • be entirely creative commons licensed to allow free use across the Internet, including commercial use

  • learning resources:
  • user accounts - save searched words, let them download, request word lists etc.

  • tools, e.g. produce vocab lists from texts

  • exercises, flashcards, card-matching etc.

Got any more ideas for that the ideal Chinese dictionary would be like? Please share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

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