Review: Three-Way Thai–English English–Thai Talking Dictionary for Windows PCs
May 15, 2010
Benjawan Poomsan Becker, Chris Pirazzi, Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand, $24.95
- I know a little about dictionaries. I have 7 Thai/English dictionaries at home and I use at least three online ones as well. I write the column Thai Language/Thai Culture for the popular website http://womenlearnthai.com/ , so I am pretty dependent on a good dictionary. Since this new PC based “talking dictionary” has resided on my desktop I find it the most convenient of the group. I love my “book” dictionaries of course and have them scattered in most of the rooms of my house. But with a PC based dictionary I don’t have to leaf through thousands of dictionary pages, or be connected to the Internet. For the serious student of the Thai language, especially up to the intermediate level, you couldn’t start with a better or more convenient tool to enhance your studies.
Ajarn Benjawan Poomsan Becker, well-known for her excellent Thai language study materials, Thai for Beginners, Speak Like a Thai, Improving Your Thai Pronunciation, etc., as well as Thai and Lao compact dictionaries, and lots more, is one of the forces behind this new PC based Thai language learning aid. Two years in the making, this dictionary is full of the stuff that I have long had on my wish-list of features. Ajarn Benjawan’s linguistic expertise, along with the computer genius of her collaborator, Chris Pirazzi, have created what I feel is a must have addition to my Thai studies library.
The current Three-Way Dictionary has 42,000 entries. And the same as in their other dictionaries, Paiboon includes Thai classifiers for nouns. But it is the special features packed into this software that make it really fun to use. Here are just a few:
It’s a talking dictionary
Each word is accompanied by a high-quality sound recording of Ajarn Benjawan, giving you its correct pronunciation. Look up a word, clicked on the speaker icon and there will be Ajarn Benjawan saying the word to you in her perfect pronunciation. It’s good to be in the 21st century.
The same system developed for the Three-Way Pocket Thai Dictionary is used here – English to Thai, Thai to English, Sound to Thai. Besides entering an English word and getting the Thai returned, and vice-versa, you can also enter an approximation of a Thai word’s sound (Search-by-Sound™) and the dictionary will guess which word you might be looking for. It usually gets it right.
- Multiple Pronunciation Systems
Although it is probably best to learn to read Thai, many beginning students will start using phonetic pronunciation and transliteration guides. As there are dozens of systems available, deciding which one to use can be a dilemma. The Three-Way Dictionary has a very good solution to this dilemma. It uses all of them. You can toggle between the transcription systems of thai-language.com, thai2english.com, Mary Hass, as well as Paiboon’s own pronunciation guide systems, and many more, and end up using the one you are most comfortable with.
This is a feature used by some of the latest search engines as well as Windows 7 which begins to search as you are typing. In putting this dictionary through its paces I found that all I needed was to type a few letters, in either English or Thai, and the word I was looking for would already be displayed. Here’s one example: I needed to look up the Thai word for “maid”, and by the time I got to the “i”, the dictionary had already found the Thai word I was looking for. This is a big timesaver, especially when looking up Thai words.
Typing in Thai
Let’s say you want to look up a Thai word. If you found this word on the Internet, all you need to do is copy and paste it into the search box, and the translation will be returned to you. But what if you need to type a Thai word instead? Typing in Thai is probably the last thing you want to do. The dictionary solves this problem by giving you a fairly easy to use typing tool. All you need to do is click on the Thai letter and it will automatically appear in the search box. Click a couple of more letters and the word will probably already have been returned.
42,000 entries sounds like a lot but when you reach an advanced level of Thai you’ll probably find that this is a lot less than you will need for your studies. If you are trying to decipher a Thai newspaper, then you most likely will be relying on a large paper dictionary, or some of the better online dictionaries. Up to intermediate level, the dictionary will satisfy most needs. Beyond that, and there will be problems. The good thing is that there are plans to double the number of entries by the end of the year, and the updated version of the dictionary will be downloadable for free.
The Three-Way Dictionary is downloadable. For a closer look go to http://word-in-the-hand.com/ , where you can download a trial version for free. Paiboon/Word in Hand plans to double the number of dictionary entries by the end of 2010. There will also be an iPhone version later this year. Currently, all purchasers will be allowed free upgrades for life.
My advice? Play around with the trial version to see what you think of this new software dictionary. I believe that if you are a serious Thai learner, you will put this dictionary to good use. Especially if, like me, you are on the computer for a large part of the day.