CAPL, an open multilingual photo dictionary


15 Responses to “CAPL, an open multilingual photo dictionary”

  1. Astragali says:

    How to explain a “Döner”? Get them drunk first, then feed it to them. No words necessary (and now I’m craving a doner kebab, and I’m not even drunk).

    I do like the “KISS” approach to the lexicon, though…

  2. penguinchris says:

    I think this is a great idea. I also think, though, that there’s a huge opportunity here that isn’t being fully exploited.

    This type of database is crying out to be wiki-like, so that people can contribute entries, help with translations to other languages, add metadata (keeping it simple is great, but some entries I viewed lacked any context), etc. This needs to be possible to do rather casually – like on wikipedia, there can be your group of core volunteers, but it should be dead simple for others to contribute right on the site.

    Case in point – I would love to contribute to a Thai section, with my own photos from Thailand that I would CC license for a good cause. I probably would only do a handful to start, but just having those there might encourage others to contribute, if it’s easy to contribute.

    Regarding metadata… one problem I often encounter when trying to translate things to or from Thai is that the various dictionaries I use (online and off) are written with different English dialects in mind. British, American, Canadian, and Australian words for the same things can vary wildly. Even within one region, there can be lots of different words for the same thing, different ways to express an idea, and so on. Very few translation dictionaries address this problem, including this.

    This has much wider potential use than as a resource for language teachers – it would be great if it were accessible for self-learners as well. Right now, it’s completely one-sided – it will be most useful for English speaking teachers.

    A final thought… the navigation now is pretty clunky. The animated menu effect is cute, but not very friendly to use.

    • capl says:

      When we started this project that was the main question. Do we created a system that is edited or a wiki style database where everyone can contribute.

      I agree we could have many more images if we opened it up but I think we would have a whole host of new problems in doing that including monitoring spam photos. Perhaps Wikimedia will create a visual lexicon section that is multi-lingual some day?

      Our approach has been to keep it simple, with limited search data and that model has worked in the way we wanted. It is one-sided as you indicate as the English descriptors are in American style English. That does limit it a little I admit, but we see the photos as a resource for teachers mostly to use in their classes.

      I don’t think any of the images will teach the language by themselves. They need a pedagogical context. And yes, some of the images are sloppy @dr. It is a work in progress and is growing as I type (as evidence by some of the fledgling sections)

  3. dr says:

    I only looked up one thing – coffee – and find that the entry for “coffee grounds” is a closed bag of something that *might* be coffee grounds, but also might be whole beans, or oatmeal, or nuts and bolts. Another photo, “ground coffee”, is also an opaque container, in this case a plastic jar. This seems excessively inaccurate (even sloppy) for something that is supposed to be helping language learners.

    • Jellybit says:

      I had the same negative experience for the only thing I looked up, “oatmeal”. Even if this is not fully open and wiki-like, there should be an easy way for users to help correct things, flag things as inaccurate/extremely unclear, something…

  4. lordvetinari2 says:

    You may want to add the possibility of collapsing all regional variations of a language into a single language entry.

    Try searching for “casa” (house) in ES-MX. Nothing. Search for the same term in Spanish from the Southern Cone and Central American and you get different results, most of which are valid for all Spanish variations.

    • capl says:

      Thanks, good idea. Spanish is an area where we are experimenting due to the linguistic and visual diversity of the Spanish speaking world. Right now we have projects for Peninsular, Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, Andean, and Southern Cone varieties underway.

      • SonOfSamSeaborn says:

        What’s great about bb and a few other blogs is that in the mix of readers you’ll find some fantastic photographers, many of whom I’m sure would love to take a simple, beautiful, high-resolution image that effectively represents the object.

  5. Godfree says:

    “language” is misspelled in the search box instructions.

  6. Oliver says:

    “Ticket cancelling machine” is a rather rough translation. Its a machine that stamps the time and date on a ticket or punches holes in it. You could call it a mechanical conductor.

  7. Oliver says:

    “Ticket cancelling machine” is a rather rough translation. Its a machine that stamps the time and date on a ticket or punches holes in it. You could call it a mechanical conductor.

    • kmoser says:

      “You could call it a mechanical conductor.”

      Except that ticket canceling machines don’t give directions, sell tickets, or announce the next stop. So they are not really mechanical conductors, except in a very limited sense.

  8. zapan says:

    The French area clearly needs a Québec section, since you will get a lot of submissions from Canada, where they really don’t speak a standard metropolitan french (whithout admitting it !).
    For example, An entry for the word “gosse” would be totally misleading : it means “kid” in standard french, but “testicle” in Québec french ! Same thing for knickers, named “culotte” in french and “bobette” in Québec french.

  9. Meghan Skiff says:

    I was a student when you first began this project, so it is interesting to learn about the progress that you’ve made, congratulations!

    As far as gaming or adapting to a mobile device, it would be cool if you could do something to align with the current trend in location updating. I was recently in China and used FourSquare to “check-in” to a variety of locations, ranging from technology parks to the Great Wall. As a starting point, you could even design a few badges that create awareness for CAPL. Later on, it could be an app where folks can take a picture of something and you can name what it is (can photo recognition software help with this? I’m not a techie, literally I don’t know). Or, integrate the images with some sort of country/region specific scavenger hunt.

  10. pato pal ur says:

    This is a great idea. I love it, but I have a suggestion that would improve the experience – there should be a “browse all” selection for each language in the Browse section. At the moment, it’s a bit of a hassle to go through all of the images at once in a given language.

    As for electronic media, I use podcasts in my own language classes fairly regularly. Mainly I use news reports (both audio and video) to give examples of authentic speech, native-level speed and vocabulary usage, and current events. Podcasts are also good for demonstrating the variety of English accents in a natural context. ELLLO has a huge amount of material for English listening practice, but it’s not very high-level stuff.

    Good luck with your project!

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