As announced in the press, Eurofield Information Solutions is now giving every school library in the USA a free copy of the Random House Unabridged WordGenius Electronic Dictionary. With 315,000 entries and 1.2 million word-definition combinations, Alfred Papallo and his colleagues at eis-usa.com are clearly justified in calling their program The Big Dictionary Project (BDP) and in hoping that school librarians, students, and parents will welcome it as an authoritative reference source and high speed learning tool.
BDP and Standard Worldwide American-Pronunciation English (SWAPE). . . . The major motivation for BDP is represented by the emerging status of American-pronunciation English as an international language for roughly two thirds of the people on this planet, including the 3 billion for whom "English" is either an official language or an officially sanctioned substitute.
For them, American pronunciation (our "flat A") is relatively comfortable and familiar via the world status of our Graeco-Latinate technical vocabularies (cardio-vascular, architecture, etc.).Thanks to vigorous borrowing (far more so than British English), SWAPE's word-definition combinations make its total vocabulary twice the size of European competitors like French or German, in which connection it's worth noting that this year's Olympiad was officially opened in SWAEP, not French.
High speed electronic learning. . . . As far as content goes,the Random House Unabridged WordGenius (RHUWG) electronic dictionary is basically the same as its printed predecessor.But when it comes to memorizing new vocabulary words (is there any other way?), the comparative studies I've done indicate that RHUWG is three times faster than print dictionaries producing preliminary command of 30-word lists, along with establishing a far higher level of connectedness between each word target and other features of Standard Worldwide American Pronunciation English (SWAPE)
Along with phonetic transcriptions in keyboard characters, e.g., /boht/ for boat, RHUWG offers an audio segment by segment pronunciation for each word-entry.Additional features include the date of a word's entrance into the language and its source: Old English, Norman French, Latin, Greek, etc.Related forms also appear, along with fast click-access to memory-relevant cross references, especially combining forms (prefixes, suffixes, etc.). Regarding these, it's worth noting thatSteadman's Medical Dictionary asserts that only 1,200 combining forms appear in 80% of its 107,000 word- entries.
Phonetics, etymologies, definitions, illustrative phrases and sentences, cross references, notes on usage — an electronic dictionary, especially one of worldwide scope, offers each learner a wide range of vocabulary connectedness to choose from in strengthening his or her personal memory of each word-definition target.As far as more sophisticated forms of learning go, the jury may still be out on the value of online electronic learning.But when it comes to learning new vocabulary words swiftly and retentively, today's electronic dictionaries demand serious consideration by any aspiring learner.
Vocabulary testing and the need for a word-difficulty rating scale. . . . Be it Jeopardy, crossword puzzling, or the Scripps National Spelling Bee, our most practical vocabulary-question format asks for a specific word that matches a specific definition, e.g., "What 10-letter word is defined in RHUWG as the stock of words used by or known to a particular people or group of persons?As indicated in Appendix A, a learning program can employ other formats, including multiple choice.But the word-definition format, thanks to its 1.2 million possibilities, is still the most authoritative and economical.
This format also gives teachers, students, and parents access to a consistent scale for rating and ranking the difficulty of any word-definition question.Consider, for example, the question, "What 10-letter word is defined in RHUWG as any more or less specific group of forms characteristic of an artist, a style of art, architecture, or the like?Here again, as with our first question, the correct answer is vocabulary.But most of us would agree that our second question is more difficult, especially when we discover that the position of its definition is 5, as opposed to 1 for the definition used in our first question.
Number of letters plus definition-position: this word-difficulty formula permits us to use RHUWG as an authoritative source for rating our first "vocabulary" question as 11 (10+1), and our second as 15 (10+5), along with ranking Q2 as proportionately more difficult than Q1.
This dictionary-based word-difficulty scale, incidentally, stems from the lexico-statistical work of George Kingsley Zipf, e.g. The Psycho-Biology of Language and Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort.I've discussed it in more detail in other publications with particular attention to our national concern with "standards."But as a practical tool for constructing lists and making achievement comparisons, this scale truly works at every level from third graders up to graduate students.
WorldSpell™: the international testing of technological literacy. . . .Are we ready for a vocabulary Olympics using Standard Worldwide American Pronunciation English?Logically considered, our justification stems from the fact that English isn't "English" any more, and hasn't been since its "inkhorn" invasion and occupation by Graeco-Latinate technical terms about 500 years ago.A random check, for example, of the word histories in even a college-size dictionary (rough 70,000 entries) will indicate that over 80% of them are either borrowings from Greek or Latinate languages (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.) or coined from Graeco-Latinate roots.
Simply put, what's truly "international" about SWAPE is its immense vocabulary of precise technical terms for use in specific professions like medicine, banking, music, etc.Since it's mastery of these technical vocabularies that gives professionals their geographical mobility, many of them coming to us from distant exotic shores,Americans today, our children most of all, need to understand as much of these non-"English" technical vocabulariesas we can as a first step toward full participation in a worldwide market technocracy where what you know is increasingly more important than who you know, where you come from, or even your skin color — especially when an offshore phone call is involved.
As indicated in Appendix A, our word-definition "spelling bee" format will work at any level of difficulty.In addition, as indicated in Appendix B, we can heighten our international relevance by drawing our targets from the subject fields explicitly identified in italics by RHUWG.This means that any program director anywhere can use RHUWG as a tool for constructing an internationally acceptable and comparable test of what can fairly be called "technological literacy."
From single field-100 to multiple field 4,000. . . .By way of illustration, we can fairly give a group of fifth graders an international-level test on anatomical terms via the following instructions."Please be prepared to spell ALL of the eight-letter single-definition words (9-level difficulty rating).You can access these in RHUWG, including their full entries, by inputting 8 question marks in the headword box and the abbreviation anat. in the definition box."
As indicated in Appendix B, the action requested will produce more words than called for, e.g., derivative forms and multi-definition entries.But since the test itself will only call for a sample, e.g., ten terms out of roughly a hundred eligible candidates, it's thoroughly justifiable as a test that is explicitly fair, along with offering the test taker the opportunity to prepare for it in a personally responsible and productive manner, including printing up the full dictionary entry for each target.
A two sentence (41 words) template set of instructions that can be used with over a hundred different technical fields and a number-of-letters range from 8 up to 20 — what's here can be used for a WorldSpell™ ordeal with multiple-field study lists totaling 4,000 technical terms (5 times the size of the Scripps 800-word list).Or it can be used by a third grader working on his or her own for a few hours targeting only 100 word-definition combinations.
Upscale or small scale, all that's needed for a productive WorldSpell™ experience are the traditional components of vocabulary achievement: clearly defined targets,time (3 minutes per word-target), concentration (more important than intelligence, most of us will surely agree), and a good electronic dictionary to work with, ideally a full-service one.
TO CONCLUDE. . . . What's here can be fairly summed up in the phrase:dictionary-based high speed, high tech electronic learning.It takes a full service electronic dictionary to produce field-based lists and offer students high speed access to full service entries (etymologies, derivative forms, cross references, roots, etc.), along with the capacity to copy and print the entries which contestants will need to study in the event that they do not have full service electronic dictionaries of their own.Requiring only 14.7 mb of disk space, RHUWG is manifestly laptop friendly, even to participants in the One Laptop Per Child program.
This is not to say that dictionary-based high speed, high tech electronic learning represents the future of American education.Far from it, What's here, after all, focuses upon vocabulary — spelling, if you will — which gets relatively little attention in our schools and colleges: a tiny blue patch upon a very large coat of many bright and vivid colors, we might say.
But for K-8 youngsters, vocabulary is the yellow brick road to civilization, I feel, just as I feel that the Scripps National Spelling Bee has given us marvelous public service over the years in opening up that road to what might be called the supercalifragilisticexpialedocious club. . . . What's here simply takes the Scripps example and translates it into high tech Standard Worldwide American Pronunciation English for personal best learning and achievement.