December 31, 2008

Dictionary update

A few minor corrections and updates have also been made to the French dictionary.

New worksheets: crosswords

In the French Worksheet PDF section of the web site, some new French crossword PDFs have been added. These crosswords are designed as a vocabulary aid to learners of French, and so are actually English-style crosswords. The words in the crossword are items of French vocabulary, but the clues are the English translations of those words. Each PDF file contains a variety of crosswords on a given theme (generally, different sizes of crossword, with 4 different crosswords at each size).

Feedback on these crosswords and indeed any of the French worksheets/exercises available available on the site is always welcome.

November 17, 2008

Site downtime tomorrow morning

Due to planned network maintenance, there are likely to be some brief interruptions to the French Linguistics site tomorrow morning. Interruptions will occur between 2am and 5am GMT -5, or between around 7am and 10am for users in the UK.

If before the interruptions, you have already loaded up one of the pages with interactive games or grammar exercises, these will generally continue to work provided that you don't close the page.

Apologies for any invoncenienve-- the maintenance is being carried out to the Internet infrastructure and is beyond this site's control!

November 11, 2008

Biographies added to French MP3 section

The French MP3 page, which lists a few recommended albums by French-speaking artists available in MP3 format, will be augmented over the coming months with biographies of various artists. Biographies have currently been added for the following artists:
  • Bénabar, the name a verlanisation of Barnabé, who combines styles of artists such as Georges Brassens with witty lyrics to reflect our modern times;
  • Jean-Jacques Goldman, one of France's most versatile and successful artists, from traditional rock to the more varied repertoire of Chansons pour les pieds;
  • Céline Dion, and her transition from 80s cheese to some of France's best-selling music of all time;
  • Christophe Maé, who made fame more recently, along with NRJ Music Award winner Grégory Lemarchal, whose career was sadly cut short by cystic fibrosis last year.

November 2, 2008

Text accentuation tool

Users of the French Linguistics site may be interested in a text accentuation tool published on our sister Español-Inglés site. The tool, which you can also add to your own web page, blog or social networking profile, allows you to add accents to a short piece of text with simple sequences (e.g. "e/" for an e acute) that can easily be typed from any keyboard. Thus, the tool is useful in cases where your keyboard or configuration does not normally support accented characters easily.

For alternative methods, see the French Linguistics guide on how to type accents.

October 30, 2008

English-French dictionary: improved handling of irregular verbs

The English-French side of the dictionary now recognises many more English irregular verb forms, bringing it in line with improvements made to the recognition of forms in the its English-Spanish dictionary.

Future improvements to the dictionary will include more dynamic help on how to translate inflected forms.

October 10, 2008

Update to mobile French dictionary

A couple of users have written to tell me that they were having problems with the mobile phone version of the French-English dictionary. (See here for the original blog post about the mobile dictionary version.)

I've made a couple of changes in an attempt to get the dictionary working on phones that were previously having the problem. Since there's such a wide variety of phones out there, I'd appreciate feedback from users as to whether they are stil having trouble.

September 27, 2008

Dictionary update

The latest update to the dictionary contains various corrections, new words and phrases, plus improvements to various commonly-referenced entries in the English-French section of the dictionary.

August 24, 2008

French dictionary update

The latest update to the French dictionary contains various new words and terms that have proven topical in recent news reports.

August 20, 2008

Fix to French pronunciation

Fixed a bug with the pronunciation feature of the French vocabulary section which had meant that words with accents weren't being pronounced correctly on some machines.

August 16, 2008

New vocabulary topic: writing a letter in French

A new section has been added to the basic French vocabulary section with information about how to write a letter in French. The section covers common letter openings, closing formulae and some vocabulary and expressions useful for writing a French business letter.

August 15, 2008

Review: 6000+ Essential French Words

6000+ Essential French Words (Living Language) is the latest addition to the French book reviews section of the web site. As explained in the review, the book offers an excellent range of detailed, up-to-date vocabulary, particularly for intermediate and advanced students.

August 14, 2008

Beta: flight deals to France

OK, not strictly to do with the French language, but people who speak or are learning French sometimes find themselves needing to go to France. Feel free to try out the 'flight deals' section currently being tested on the FL site. This new feature displays a grid of (relatively) cheap flights found between major US/UK and French airports (more to be added in due course). The grid format allows you to see various flight options at a glance to help you find the best option in what is often a crazy myriad of possibilities when booking a flight nowadays...

See the following for more details:
The above links show deals for August, but the pages link to other months.

August 11, 2008

New crossword and wordsearch categories

Some new on-line crossword and wordsearch themes have been added:
Note that to play these on-line word games, your browser must support Java. But in practice, most browsers already do.

August 7, 2008

English monolingual dictionary

Keen-eyed users will have noted that you can now search the (public domain) 1913 edition of the Webster Unabridged Dictionary on this site. This is one of the tools used in compiling the French-English dictionary; I decided to make the search publicly available essentially because I "may as well". At the moment, the interface is somewhat crude, but crude interface or not, the dictionary contains over 100,000 entries and is still a valuable reference.

Because the dictionary is old, certain definitions clearly don't reflect modern usage (see entries for car, van and computer, for example), whilst other words are simply non-existent. And certain of the examples, already belonging to somewhat literary language at the time, are now positively absolete. But it turns out that the meanings of many of the "difficult" or lesser known words that we sometimes need to look up while reading an English text have changed very little in the last century.

August 5, 2008

New vocab topic: Olympic games!

With the Beijing Olympics soon upon us, I guess there'll be a few homework assignments and classroom discussions cropping up on this topic. So I've put together a page of French Olympics vocabulary which may help out.

As usual, any suggested additions to the page/vocabulary sections are always welcome.

August 1, 2008

English-French updates

Various entries in the English-French dictionary have been improved over the last couple of days. Further improvements are on the way, with the aim that the English-French side will soon be more in line with the French-English side. Watch this space...!

Mobile dictionary on BlackBerry

A kind poster has brought my attention to a possible problem with the mobile dictionary on a BlackBerry. While I investigate, I'd be grateful if anybody else has feedback on this or any other issue relating to the mobile version of the dictionary, as I'm planning an update to the mobile version soon.

July 26, 2008

DGT Glossary terms incorporated into text translator

When you use the French translator tool, appropriate results will now be displayed from the DGT glossaries. The DGT glossaries contain terms of translations from various technical fields.

July 23, 2008

French-English text translation tool

An initial version of this site's automatic French/English translation tool is available. The tool is designed to complement the site's dictionary as follows:
  • The dictionary is intended for use by students, learners, translators etc who basically understand some French but need to find out about the translation or uses of an isolated word or phrase;
  • The translation tool is aimed more at English speakers who need to get the gist of an entire French text (or vice versa for French speakers with an English text), typically when they understand very little of the target language.
In practice, initial tests show that learners and users of the language are also finding it useful to look up phrases using the translation tool. You should just be aware of limitations of the automatic translation, and may like to take a look at the accompanying tips on using machine translation.

About the translation system

Many of the text translations are produced by Google Translate, a statistical machine translation system developed by Google which allows sites such as this to query and build on the translation system. However, this site's tool also builds some additional features on top of the Google system:
  • it is assumed that the language pair you are working with is French/English; the site will detect which of these two languages is being entered and translate to the other language;
  • some orthographic corrections are made to the input text which help to get a better result from Google;
  • in some cases, alternative inputs will be run simultaneously through the Google system when such inputs are known to improve the translation results (such alternatives and their translations are always listed alongside the original query);
  • in some cases, instead of using the Google system, a translation is pulled directly from this site's dictionary data. Note that the source of the translation is always clearly indicated.
The above features are being actively improved on the basis of the typical use to which users are putting the system.

Known limitations

The system works best on texts that are similar to the types of text that the system has been trained on. Google Translate is a statistical system, trained on sets of existing translations. In practice, this means the system works well on "the types of text that people tend to translate". For example, whole sentences or passages from commercial or technical texts work quite well. Isolated words and phrases, particularly when they have a "dangling" word such as a preposition, sometimes don't work as well. You may also find what you consider to be quite a "basic" phrase or question doesn't translate so well, because a phrase used in everyday speech didn't crop up in the material that the translation system was trained on.

July 13, 2008

French audio trial in phrasebook section

A new audio feature is being trialled in the French phrasebook section of the site. The audio is currently available on the following pages:
On these pages, you can listen to the computer pronounce the various words and phrases. If feedback from this trial proves positive, then similar audio will be added to other phrasebook sections and other parts of the site.

July 10, 2008

Dictionary update: DGT glossary beta

Along with its sister Spanish dictionary and language site, entries in this site's on-line French dictionary have now been augmented with terms from the EU DGT Multilingual Translation Memory. The latter is a set of translated terms, phrases and sentences extracted from translations of EU documents. It thus covers translation of various legal and technical domains. At present, approximately 30,000 terms and phrases are included on this site. (Some long or repetitious entries have been filtered out.)

The terms from the DGT glossary currently appear in a table below the regular dictionary entries. At present, they are included for French-English lookups only, but it is planned that terms for English-French lookups will be added over the next few days.

June 12, 2008

Social bookmarking

The following shows % of bookmarks by social network made over the last month (figures include the French Linguistics site plus its sister Spanish site).

Dictionary audiences

The following table shows the top 5 source counries of visitors to the French Linguistics site and to its sister Spanish site. Figures are for the previous month. Visitors to the French Linguistics site:

Visits to French Linguistics
Country% Visits
US32 %
UK24 %
Canada15 %
Australia3.9 %
France3.2 %

Visitors to the sister Spanish/English dictionary and resources site (Español-Inglés) are shown below. The high figure for Mexico, the site's "home territory", may well be due to searches in that specific territory which put it in a comparatively high position for the search term Spanish Dictionary (the latter example from Live search with a country code of MX), and its large population and relatively good connectivity compared to other Latin American Spanish-speaking countries.

Visits to Español-Inglés
Country% Visits
US44 %
Mexico15 %
UK10 %
Canada4.2 %
Spain2.4 %

(One way of redressing the balance will be to look at dictionary directories specific to particular countries. Those where the dictionaries are currently listed such as Gimpsy's 'translate word' page or Directory 7's dictionaries page are arguably anglo-centric.)

French Verb Conjugator Widget

You may be interested in the new French conjugator widget, which you can use from this site or add to your Google desktop, web page or blog etc. To use it, see the widgets and gadgets page.

June 3, 2008

French Discussion Forums

You can now discuss things French on the new forums section of the web site. A number of forums are currently proposed, but I'm open to suggestions for new forums as appropriate:
  • The Dictionary Forum is intended for general discussion about the dictionary content that isn't focussed on one particular entry; for the latter type of suggestion, use the feedback option from individual entries as usual.
  • The French Grammar Forum is intended to be a question-and-answer, or general discussion, about points of French grammar.
  • The French Translation Forum is intended to cover issues relating to translation, although I appreciate there's some overlap with the previous two forums here. We'll see how things go...
  • The Language Teaching and Learning forum is intended to cover pedagogical issues (e.g. "what's the most effective way to learn vocabulary", recommendations of resources), not necessarily just in French teaching.
To post to the forum, you'll need to register with the site, but registration is quick (no awkward marketing questions-- just pick a user name and password!), free and can be anonymous (you provide a user name rather than real name, so you can easily pick a pseudonym). Note that the actual content of messages posted to the forums is public.

And now it's over to you...! Several thousand people use the French Linguistics site daily, and it will be fantastic if we can start to create more of a "community".

April 11, 2008

Downtime 11/04/08

An unexpected error caused parts of the site to be down today 11 April. Apologies for the inconvenience.

March 26, 2008

Bug fix: French-English computing glossary

A bug has (finally...) been fixed in the French/English computing glossary which meant entries were appearing on screen mutliple times!

February 26, 2008

New content: Bilingual Search Engine

A beta version of this site's new bilingual search engine is now available.

February 21, 2008

Mobile version of the dictionary

An initial mobile phone version of the French dictionary is now available:
  • The mobile version is designed to work on phones that support WAP 1.1
  • The mobile version contains some stripped-down entries to cope better with the smaller screen of mobile phones
  • At present, only French-English lookups are supported. (English-French coming soon!)
  • It is free to access (other than your mobile operator's cost to access the Internet on your phone!)
  • Suggestions are welcome as comments on this blog entry!

January 4, 2008

New content: French crossword games

Some French crossword games were recently added to the French Linguistics site. They are playable on line. Note that your browser must support Java 5 (or later) for these games to work.

Possible down time 5-6 January

It is planned that some upgrades will be performed on the French Linguistics site over the weekend of 5-6 January. During this time, there may be occasional periods when the site is down. This work is needed for some new content that will be added to the site over the coming weeks. In particular, some new features will allow users to personalise the way they use the site.