Computer Dictionaries in Australia, China, and Asia

Jan 15, 2013 by

robert— a Wake up Call for American Parents. . . .

By Robert Oliphant, Thousand Oaks, CA… Phone: 805.370.9252. . . . More bio details at end of article.

Thousand Oaks, CA

TEXT. . . . My name is Bob and I take linguistic innovations seriously, especially when they affect grandchildren in the Boy Scout 12-14 bracket. So I was very interested ten years ago when some Australians under the leadership of Alfred Papallo produced a full scale computerized version (including sound) of America’s own Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.

The Australian “WordGenius” American English dictionary broke new ground with two key features: standard-print phonetic symbols and calibrated vocabulary testing. So I was not surprised when the Chinese 2008 Olympics dumped French for American English via WordGenius as an infectious world introduction to “spoken worldwide American dictionary English” (SWADE).

Big print on a computer will always trump tiny print in a giant book. So I was not surprised when Papallo’s WordGenius unabridged dictionary took hold all over Asia. This popularity has been especially noticeable as an increase of Asian candidates for American graduate schools, especially those signing up to take the Graduate Record Exam’s eight subject tests: — biochemistry, biology, chemistry, computer science, literature in English, mathematics, physics, and psychology.

It’s important to note here that our own American students continue to hold their own in the GRE’s three aptitude tests (almost eight million test takers each year). Rather, it’s the eight GRE hard ball science tests that foreigners go after (almost half a million of them last year) as money in the bank.

Right now (2012), the impact of this test-taking science invasion is showing up as an increasing audio-visible presence of Asian physicians and high tech experts throughout the USA, most of them with mint level “leadership” American accents. Less visible is the seething resentment of many American parents, especially those who willingly accepted over-inflated college tuition expenses (up 500% during the last 30 years according to the Economist): this on the assumption that their children’s earned degrees would open plummy career doors right away without the need to pass highly competitive GRE subject tests.

Give this parental concern (grandparents too), with GRE subject tests and other competitive measures, I feel it proper to insist that the best achievement option right now for our youngsters is direct education, ideally by a single tutor or family member. I also feel that age twelve is the ideal starting place. Certainly, though their children’s grades don’t “count” officially, most Americans will agree today that the 12-14 group is measurably packed with sharp adult-quality minds.

By way of openers any parent can easily start his or her 12 year old with spoken worldwide American dictionary English as presented in the WordGenius unabridged dictionary (EIS ComPress publications, $50). With WordGenius as a backup, any youngster can start with four hours a week of independent reading (less than most music lessons): this centered upon short biographies of scientists monitored by common sense turn-the-pages tests and calibrated vocabulary growth tests.

We can also use WordGenius as the basis for building personal confidence in public speaking: first through accurate phonetic transcription and then through reading and reciting English literature as presented in the Norton Anthology, a primary source for the GRE subject test. For enrichment, we can use specific issues of the ECONOMIST and even the New York Times crossword-proper name puzzle (still vested with traditional snob appeal).

To conclude: Lots of science-linked nonfiction (no novels), heavy duty pronunciation, recitation, and vocabulary testing, the Norton Anthology, and the ECONOMIST as a backup — that’s our menu as served up by either parent or outsider (most bright college students could handle it). But it’s also a public challenge composed of verifiable materials: there to be checked and criticized by suspicious eyes if challenged by outsiders.

To conclude: Logically I should pull out the nuts and bolts at this point, e.g. test formats and public speaking routes. But these are already available free of charge via NonpartisanEducationReview, EducationViews, and even “WordGenius Robert Oliphant.”

What’s truly useful here, almost as a break through, is the Australian dictionary breakthrough itself and America’s Asian wake up call. If these two headlines ring true for both parents and children, I’m positive the energy will be there, along with plenty of personal growth, impact upon others, and family pride.

By way of a closer: my LA Times this morning (12/11/2012) ran the following front page headline: CHINA INVESTS RECORD AMOUNT IN U.S. I honestly feel this investment and others are bound to bring more Chinese visitors to America and more contact with their fluent mastery of spoken worldwide American dictionary English (SWADE) — most of which sounds like an American newscaster speaking from Chicago.

Here’s hoping our worldwide genius of a language will continue to make us proud of ourselves!


About the author. . . . Robert Oliphant is an overseas veteran of WW2 and lives in Thousand Oaks. Up to age 30 he was a piano player and Hammond jazz organist who spent almost four years as one of the three “Original Krazy Kats,” after which he got a PhD in English Philology from Stanford and became a teacher at CSUN. His best known book is the anti-Alzheimer’s “A Piano for Mrs. Cimino,” which was a worldwide Reader’s Digest selection and a prize winning film starring Bette Davis that is still shown internationally in five different languages.


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Dear Young Friend. . . .

Computer Dictionaries in Australia, China, and Asia — a Wake up Call for American Parents

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