The 16th Annual International AFRILEX Conference
UNAM, Windhoek, Namibia, 5-7 July 2011

[Abstract:] Reinhardt, H.A.: Requirements for an on-screen presentation of an electronic dictionary of German collocations for Afrikaans-speaking learners of German as a foreign language

The first impulse for the study described in this paper was provided by a small-scale analysis of the treatment of collocations in Trümpelmann and Erbe’s Woordeboek/Wörterbuch Deutsch-AfrikaansAfrikaans-Deutsch, 8th edition, 1983, the only available Afrikaans and German dictionary. In line with Pienaar (2006) and Gouws (1995, 1997) it was concluded that collocations are not satisfactorily dealt with in this dictionary, especially not with regards to language production. As a remedy it is proposed to develop an electronic dictionary of German collocations as opposed to a printed dictionary, which – mainly for financial reasons – is regarded to be out of scope for this particular language pair (Gouws, 1995, 1997 and 2007: 321; Reinhardt, 2011: 4, 155).

In this paper, we thus outline a few aspects of a proposed design of an electronic dictionary of German collocations, for Afrikaans-speaking learners of German. We focus on the data presentation (for example, screen layout) and on the interaction possibilities (search and browsing) which such a dictionary should have.

The primary user group of the envisaged dictionary are Afrikaans-speaking learners of German as a foreign language (henceforth called Daf-learners, where ‘DaF’ stands for ‘Deutsch als Fremdsprache’: ‘German as a foreign language’). For this user group it is particularly important to become aware of collocations and to be able to use them in written or spoken language production (cf. Reinhardt, 2011, sections 2.2 and 2.3). Therefore, language production should be the dictionary’s primary dictionary function (cf. Tarp, 2008).

To do justice to the targeted DaF-learner and the above usage situation, the envisaged dictionary should contain features of the following dictionary types: a dictionary of collocations; a dictionary for foreign language learning, which is, for pedagogical reasons, mainly monolingual – German (cf. Reinhardt, 2011: 35-37); an electronic (online) dictionary.

The data to be presented include the collocation (as a treatment unit), its linguistic properties (for example, morphosyntactic preferences, syntactic construction, etc.), and the relations a collocation has with other collocations or with other treatment units (cf. Heid and Gouws, 2006).

For on-screen presentation, we take inspiration from international standards for software usability (DIN EN ISO 9241-11: 1998, DIN EN ISO 9241-110: 2008), from usability heuristics as suggested by Sarodnick and Brau (2006) and Nielsen (c1995-2010, 2000 and c2005), and from practical tips by Krug (2006). Even though some of these heuristics may be controversioal, they nonetheless provide a starting point for a user- and usability-centered dictionary design.

The presentation should allow the user easy access to the data, without requiring lexicographic or linguistic background knowledge. It should enable him/her to concentrate on the lexical objects of the language he/she learns. The look and feel should follow functionality as known from standard internet browsers (for example, forward and back buttons).

Considering the above, a set of lexicographic and usability requirements is established and based on these, screen layout and functionality for the envisaged dictionary are proposed.

In order to achieve user satisfaction, the presentation follows a clear and consistent design: the screen area is divided into clearly defined areas and this layout remains consistent throughout the entire presentation of the dictionary (see annex). This approach allows the user to easily navigate within the dictionary site.

The homepage informs the user about the kind of information he/she can expect to find in this dictionary. It also provides an insight into which kind of functionalities the dictionary has to offer, namely how access to the data contained in the dictionary can be gained, and where different kinds of information can be found. For example, information on the dictionary, like help on its use and the sitemap, is always offered in area B while content is always displayed in area D.

The homepage suggests two different kinds of access to the data: search (to satisfy immediate and short term user needs in language production) and browsing (catering for the longer term user need of creating awareness of collocations and to facilitate acquisition of collocations into the user’s active vocabulary).

The following input is possible in the search field:

1. Ideal input: target language base (lemma form) – lexicographic reason: the collocation is to be lemmatised under its autosemantic base, cf. Hausmann, 1984: 401, 404; cf. Bahns, 1996: 40; pedagogical reason: the learner should work from within the language, Waring, 2000.

2. Ideal input: target language collocation (base and collocate in lemma form) – learner makes use of dictionary for verification of existing knowledge.

3. The above inputs demand errorless input with lemma forms of words. However, input with inflected forms should also be possible and spelling errors should be allowed (cf. Bank, 2010: 38). Such an approach would comply with the dialogue principles of a system needing to be robust with regards to erroneous user input. The dictionary

4. DaF-learners should be allowed to search via the Afrikaans (mothertongue or first language) base of an intended collocation, though such input would not be ideal (see point 1 above). Such a request would result in (a selection of) the (most common) German equivalents being presented, together with (a selection) of the (most common) collocations in which these equivalents occur. The user is allowed to expand the selections to show the maximum range of equivalents and collocations.

5. Lastly, the dictionary should allow DaF-learners to search for the collocate of the Afrikaans collocation. The user would then be presented with Afrikaans collocations, in which this collocate occurs as base (following the same lexicographic reason as provided for point 1 above) and as collocate. These are presented as links, leading to possible German equivalents. Again the presented selection of treatment units can be expanded to show the complete range of treatment units.

When search results are presented, a definition of the envisaged collocation is made available via a link, which allows the definition to be unfolded or refolded as the user chooses. Examples of use of the collocation are provided, and linked where appropriate. Where the definition contains collocations, these are in turn linked to their respective dictionary entries. If useful synonymous collocations are offered and linked to their respective entries, in order to enhance the user’s paraphrasing knowledge. If useful a link is provided by which users can view combinations of collocations in which the current collocation occurs. The user receives feedback on erroneous input via a ‘Did-you-mean…’-function.

Browsing the dictionary enables the learner to view collocations onomasiologically so that he/she can improve his language production skills on a long term basis (Gellert, 2001: 2). Search and browsing procedures can be combined to find appropriate collocations. The presentation will focus on providing theoretical background pertaining to design and layout decisions for the on-screen presentation of the dictionary, by referring to the above mentioned set of lexicographic and usability requirements. A walk-through of the search process will also be included, where the connection with the mentioned usability standards will be highlighted.

The requirements upon which the envisaged collocations dictionary for DaF-learners is based, are neither limited to the particular user group of DaF-learners, nor to the languages Afrikaans and German. Considering especially the multilingual societies in South Africa and Namibia, it must be emphasised, that the recommendations made here may just as well be applied to the usage situations of African and any other learner groups and languages.


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