Mon, 13 Mar 2000

'Linguist': A locally-made Indonesian-English dictionary

By Zatni Arbi

JAKARTA (JP): Have you often wished that there had been an English-Indonesian dictionary right there on your PC so that you would not have to leave your machine just to find the equivalent of the word "exchequer" in Indonesian? Or the equivalent of wakuncar in English? With an electronic dictionary you could find the translation in either language with only a few clicks.

Now that wish is delivered, and the genie is a local software company called PT Ciptasoft Prima. Linguist, the English- Indonesian dictionary, written by William D. Powell and his colleagues, carries a price tag of only Rp 110,000, which should give little incentive for end users to use pirated copies. Besides, as is the case with most other original software products, registered users will be able to get technical support and will always be notified of upgrades.


The CD-ROM with the program comes in a box, along with two manuals for English and Indonesian-speaking users. To install the program, all I did was insert the CD-ROM into the drive and wait for the installation utility to load. The serial number of the software was on a label stuck to the back of the case.

If you have limited space on your hard disk, you can install the program so that it runs from the CD-ROM. But, since it requires only 20 MB, I chose to install it on my hard disk so my CD-ROM drive is available for other purposes.

Once the program is loaded, it can be called by pressing Ctrl- L. This default activation key combination can be confusing if you happen to be working in Word, as Ctrl-L normally sets the text alignment to the left. But the hotkey can be customized, and I changed it to Shift-Ctrl-Alt-L. Alt-Tab also works. The interface can be changed from English to Indonesian and vice versa in a snap.

The collection of words that Linguist understands is stored in two different files -- the first contains the English entries and the second, Indonesian entries. Depending on your requirements, you can set Linguist to search the English dictionary first or the Indonesian dictionary first.

For example, since my mother tongue is Indonesian, I would set it to search the English dictionary first. So, to find the English equivalent of the word "semangat", I type the word in Linguist and it returns the words "test, spirit, enthusiasm, have enthusiasm, soul".

Now suppose I am browsing the Internet and come across the word "vicarious", and I type it in, Linguist will search its English table first. Because the word is English, Linguist will announce that it is unable to find the word. When I click on OK, Linguist will automatically search the Indonesian table and give me the equivalent that it finds -- if it finds any.

Linguist also includes variants of several Indonesian words. When you hear someone say Makasi to you, you can find out the meaning by typing the word and Linguist will lead you to the word terima kasih. You'll learn that makasi is the Indonesian colloquial form of "thank you".

We still have to use the mouse a lot in Linguist. For instance, if I want the English word for simpatik, I type the word in Word, double-click it to select it, click the right mouse button and select Copy. Then I call up Linguist by pressing the hotkey and then press Alt-P to activate Paste. I press Enter, and Linguist will return with the words "congenial, likable".

There will be a problem if Word's automatic spellchecker is active, though, as clicking the right mouse button will inadvertently give us the list of English spelling alternatives for the Indonesian word. I have to first click on Ignore all before right-clicking the word again to copy it to Windows' clipboard.

Linguist can also be instructed to automatically go to the entry that is the closest match to the word we have typed. I found this a very useful feature.

Room for improvements

In all fairness, we should realize that writing a dictionary is an enormous task. Therefore, it is not surprising that Linguist still needs some improvements here and there. Bill Powell realizes it, and promises that Linguist will be constantly improved.

What I would like to see, for instance, is separate entries for the English phrasal verbs. For example, when I received my copy of the latest Fortune and saw the word "dole out" on the cover, I thought I would try to find its Indonesian equivalent in Linguist. When I typed the words in, Linguist did not find it. However, when I typed in only the word "dole", Linguist gave me the meaning of "dole out" as part of the Indonesian equivalent.

English has a daunting inventory of phrasal verbs, such as break in, break out, break away, break into, break through, break up and break down. These are always a challenge for me as a non- native speaker of English, and I would rather have each of them included as a separate entry.

Another suggestion is that Linguist follow the method for entering the word or words found in Microsoft Bookshelf. In Bookshelf, anything that is typed will be automatically selected (highlighted) after the search process is completed. This way, when we type another word for search, the existing one will automatically be overwritten. We can enter a new word without having to erase the previous input, as presently the case in Linguist.

Also, in my version of Linguist, the word "entrepreneur" is translated into the Indonesian words of enterprenir, usahawan. I think the words wirausahawan and wiraswasta should also be included. As this dictionary evolves, I am sure it will become better and more complete.

Also, spelling should also be checked carefully. For the English entry "lay out" I found masukk penggalang (kapal). I believe this is a typo. It may be masuk ke penggalang (kapal). Over time, words should be broken into syllables, too.

Despite these shortcomings, however, I truly love Linguist. It makes my work much easier and for sure it will remain on my PC.

If you're a foreigner here and want to learn the Indonesian language, Linguist will be a great help at a very low price. The same is true if you're an Indonesian writer like myself.

The practicality of this Windows-based dictionary is so compelling that it is no surprise to hear that it gets pirated a lot in Indonesia; fortunately it sells very well in Australia.

A Spanish-English Linguist also is available, and Bill Powell and his group of Indonesian programmers currently are working on different languages, including Tagalog, Malay and Swedish. Keep up the great work, Bill! (