Industry-leaders Paiboon Publishing have teamed up with Word in the Hand, Inc. to create a software version of their highly-popular Thai-English English-Thai dictionary. It seemed only a matter of time before Paiboon would embrace the demand for Thai learning software applications and create a software dictionary.
I got a chance to put the dictionary through its paces. Though I didn’t have a specific set of criteria from which to judge whether or not it was a good product, I did use it during my normal study sessions to see how well it worked in a “real life” situation. Let’s take a quick tour of the dictionary’s features and see how well it works.
This is almost a bit of a non-issue, as the dictionary is so minimally designed there isn’t much to worry about. Everything is laid out exactly as it should be, and the controls are very simple to understand and easy to use. The top navigation bar offers an input box for text, forward/back controls to navigate through your search list, and drop-down menu of your recent searches, a settings icon, and a help button.
The input box also offers an input method selector, which allows you to search three different ways:
- Find an English word
- Find a Thai word using Thai script.
- Find a Thai word using Thai sound (phonetics).
It doesn’t get more convenient than that. I was able to find every word I was looking for, using all of the search methods. When using the Thai sound (phonetics) search, a keyboard input sub-menu becomes available, which allows you to choose the special characters used in your phonetic input choice. Which brings me to the Settings menu.
In the Settings menu you have the option to choose any (or all) of twelve phonetic translations system commonly found in Thai resources. The lack of a single, universal phonetic system has been a sticking point in the Thai language community for a long time, so it was very smart on PP’s part to offer all of the systems so you can choose the one you are most comfortable with. (We all know which one I prefer.)
The Settings menu also allows you to configure your font sets, colors, and has an update tab to see if you are running the latest version of the software. Again, very simple and easy-to-use, with exactly everything you need and nothing left out.
PP seems to have included every word from their print version, claiming 42,000 words. I obviously didn’t check every one, but I trust that you’ll be able to find just about any word you search for.
Each definition includes the English translation, Thai script, part of speech, any associated classifiers, a sound clip of a native speaker saying the word, and perhaps the single, greatest feature they could have ever added…
My Favorite Thing
What can I say? I’m a huge Coltrane fan. I fell in love with the program on this feature alone; it completely makes it worth the already very reasonable price. The number one thing that I absolutely love about this dictionary is a “multiple font” view which, when opened, shows you the word you searched for in several Thai fonts that you will encounter in your travels.
I have to tell you, I absolutely can not for the life of me read some of the fonts they use for signs in Thailand. I get cross-eyed and dizzy and want to lie down for a few minutes. Having the ability to see words I’m learning in these fonts is a HUGE, dare I say MONUMENTAL help to me. Whoever thought up this feature should have a national holiday named after them in their honor. Seriously, it’s that big of a help.
Is There a Downside?
To be honest… not really. I found the scroll bar on the right side of the program to be just a little bit strange, but it only took me a hot minute to figure out how it works. The sidebar also offers an English letter menu that will jump you to words starting with that letter. I don’t know how much I will use it, but it’s a nice addition.
The only thing I really thought was missing was a submit button for the text input box at the top of the screen. Granted, when you are typing in a word to search for it’s easiest to just hit the [ENTER] key on your keyboard, but interface-wise it’s beneficial to have a submit button there.
At $24.95 (special price until July 31, 2010) the Paiboon Publishing software dictionary is an absolute must-have for all Thai language learners. I am sure that anyone who purchases it will get way more than their money’s worth, and I’m looking forward to any updates they provide. It’s an incredibly strong product for a reasonable price, and if you are interested in learning Thai you should purchase and download your copy right away!