New feature on Kamusi Internet Living Swahili Dictionary
May 24, 2005
FYI, an announcement from Martin Benjamin at Yale U. about the Kamusi online Swahili dictionary. It concerns an attempt to enable it to display results in different ways, which could be of more useful to users.
Sorry for the impersonal letter, but I thought you might be interested in something I've been working on recently, that just went live this weekend:
I'm happy to announce the launch of an important new feature for the Internet Living Swahili Dictionary: The Kamusi Project Grouping Tool. The Grouping Tool (Zana Jumuishi) solves the problem of how to arrange dictionary results for Kamusi users, which until now has been a substantial weakness for the project. As with most Kamusi Project features, the Grouping Tool will only be successful if participants use it to improve the data we make available to the public. The Grouping Tool is also an important step in our efforts to build a robust platform that can be used to develop resources for other world languages.
The basic problem that the Grouping Tool solves is one that Swahili teachers and students will find frustratingly familiar. For technical computer reasons, the Kamusi lexicon has always been displayed in purely alphabetical order, grouped by keyword. (Other Swahili dictionaries are arranged by "root" form, which can be even more frustrating.) Students go to www.yale.edu/swahili, do a search for a word, and get a list of results - then, rather than do further research to figure out which word is most appropriate for their context, they simply use the one at the top of the list.
With the Grouping Tool, if you have a working knowledge of both Swahili and English, you can go to any term in the dictionary, and with a few clicks you can arrange the results in a way that makes sense. You can group entries that have a similar sense, and you can rank the most important entries above the less common. When students are confronted with confusing choices, they can email their teachers and the teachers can group each keyword in a couple of minutes. Once a term has been grouped, the arrangement goes live immediately, and all future Kamusi users will benefit from a visually intuitive, logical display of the dictionary data.
We designed the Grouping Tool to be easy to learn and simple to use. Once you are registered with the Kamusi Project, you can access the Grouping Tool by searching for any word in the dictionary and clicking the "Grouping Tool" link above the search results. Your contributions will be credited on our Participants page after they have gone through an editorial review process (we review every submission to weed out errors and spam) - as with other Kamusi Project features, such as the Edit Engine and the Photo Uploader, participants are always acknowledged for the work they contribute.
More detailed instructions for the Grouping Tool, and a cool photo tour, are available at http://research.yale.edu/swahili/serve_pages/groupingtool_en.php(approve sites) . (Ukurasa huo utapatikana kwa Kiswahili baadaye kidogo...)
I hope you will find this new tool easy and useful. (I think it's more than that - I think it's a tremendously exciting lexicographical event - but that might just be my inner dictionary geek speaking :- ) ) If the community of knowledgeable users makes use of the Grouping Tool regularly, the online Kamusi can be improved substantially in a matter of months, making for a much better resource for everyone interested in the Swahili language.
The Kamusi Project has many more new features under development, including an online Swahili curriculum that will help learners at all levels, and that will be adaptable for many additional languages. If you would like to support the project, whether through your intellectual contributions or much-needed financial donations, you can find more information at http://research.yale.edu/swahili/serve_pages/donate_en.php(approve sites)
Please enjoy the Grouping Tool!
Kamusi Project Editor
Yale Council on African Studies
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