Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How my dictionary odyssee started and goes on …

Having to tell how I started my dictionary and language career, well I just use the occasion to do this publicly.

Many years back in time, when I was sixteen, I started to go to a school for foreign correspondents. There I studied English, French and Spanish. I took lessons in various other languages in the evening. When going to school I always had to carry 6 dictionaries with me: three monolingual ones and three bilingual ones, plus the “normal“ books. Back then no computers were around and I started to create tables on paper with the corresponding terminology. Then I thought “why isn’t there something easy to carry where all you need is in” … some years later I took a nonspecialist in computer sciences. This dates back to DOS 2.11, green font on black screen, software like dBase, Wordstar etc. The mouse was not there at the beginning, only after some time … and when we had our dBase lessons, I got back to my thought on a multilingual dictionary: I still had my tables and I started to create a first database with them, but still: it was only for my own use and it was hard to share data. Not many working with languages having the same ideas were around. I was too much ahead of time.
Around the year 2000 I had a first online dictionary created with LinksSQL, but still my colleagues were not ready for that step. I had a translation agency and shared glossaries that way, but it was too soon.
In 2004 I took over Adminship at the Italian Wiktionary, which was developing and needed some work to be done. At a certain stage someone added templates to it.wiktionary and there I started to talk with Gerard. All work was done more than once … it was done over and over again on so many open content Wiktionaries around. This was then the moment when the idea of an Ultimate Wiktionary, in a second moment called WiktionaryZ came up. But: no way to get this into the minds of people – probably again it was too soon. 
We talked days and nights and my thoughts from a translator's POV were very different from what non translators would expect. All these talks led to "we do need a database" and for those who cannot deal without it: we also need Wiki functionality. Gerard found funds and so a dictionary project, based on Mediawiki software, called OmegaWiki was programmed. Well much of the functionality of course was adapted to the sponsor's needs. 
For some very precise reason, which I am not going to explain, I left the project. At that time I already had many, many contacts in the field of less resourced languages and we went ahead making those dictionary plans even more detailed and perfect. Ambaradan started it's way. We tested a pre-alpha release during the KDE Multimedia Education Sprint in Randa 2010 with Agrovoc, which is really a lot of data and the engine went fine. It was taken offline again to add further functionality.
At the End of 2010 I went back to Germany and Bèrto, the programmer of Ambaradan went to the UK at the Beginning of 2011. Full time work slowed down development a lot and there is for now no chance to see the software live.
During the years from 2008 to 2010 we collected quite some data for two dictionaries, one of which is a Children's Dictionary. The data was collected in an offline excel table and loaded into a MySQL-Database. It was then released for vocabulary learning for Parley and other software.
Now, some weeks ago, I noted that OmegaWiki changed quite some into the direction I wished. Well: time to care about the project and add the data, try to create connections so that the data can be re-used ...
And at this point: there is more to come ... 

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