Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM Dictionary (English-French / French-English)
Havas Interactive 2000, Larousse/HER 2000.
Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd. 1997-2000
Reviewed by Françoise Herrmann

If you ever thought that the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM bilingual (French-English / English-French) dictionary was just a featherweight digital version of your 7 lbs Shorter in hardcopy format, think again! And be prepared for some wonderful surprises. Based on the full text of the 2000 edition of the Harrap's Shorter, the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM is the fruit of a collaborative effort between Harrap's in Edinburgh (for editing of the hardcopy version) and Havas Interactive Europe for the development of the software and the production of the CD-ROM, in Paris. Thus, the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM offers the full text of the hardcopy Shorter and much, much, more in terms of harnessing some of the unique properties of the electronic medium to deliver new support features for translation.

Prior to outlining each of the novel translation support features offered by the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM, the following program specifications are of importance. The Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM runs on a PC system, that includes the minimum requirements of a Pentium 100 mHz processor, a CD-ROM drive, 32 MB of RAM, Windows 95/98/2000 or NT, speakers, and a 640x480 pixel, 256 color display. No Macintosh compatible version is currently available. Installation of the program on your system occurs via a standard installation wizard. The installation requires about 5 minutes to complete. And once the installation is complete the dictionary is stored on your hard disk for future access.

Once you have performed the installation (and you have re-started your computer) you will have two options for using your Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM. You can open the program from the Windows' Start Menu to use the complete set of features offered by the Harrap's Shorter application, or you can use the application in pop-up mode from the Windows task bar, directly from the text on which you are working, in desktop applications such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint or Outlook. Simply highlight the search word in your text and click on the Harrap's task bar icon for a translation, and the article entry of your search word. This pop-up mode is the first media-specific feature you will encounter. It will introduce you to the first major difference between your paper dictionary and the application you have installed. This is a popular feature, reported in informal on-line communications (NCTA, 2001) commenting usage of the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM in particular, and elsewhere (Mikheev, 2001). This feature is popular considering that it overcomes the somewhat effortful searching process, in both traditional flip-page hardcopy modes, and less mature electronic modes where the search word must be typed into the application, outside of the text on which your are working.

Out of pop-up mode, working from within the full version the Harrap's Shorter application, launched from the Windows Start menu, the second new, and major, media specific feature that you will discover consists of the audio recording of 60 000 words. That is, you will find that you can listen to a recorded pronunciation of those words listed in the main index that are displayed with a small loudspeaker icon. This is an immensely useful feature for all learners of French or English, and further for all non-natives who may, for example, experience occasional trouble with the rules of word stress in English, or the articulation of certain vowels in French (e.g.; nasal vowels and [y] as in "mur" [wall]).

The pronunciation supplied for these terms is Received Pronunciation (RP) for English, and Standard Parisian for French, with some intra-standard variations included for both languages. Intra-standard variations for English include, for example, the famous two pronunciations for the term "controversy" (CON-tru-versee, and con-TRAH-ver-see), as well as pronunciation for terms where grammatical variation is marked phonetically (e.g.; for terms such as "convict" and "contest" functioning as either verbs or nouns), and conversely where morphological variations are unmarked (e.g.; the unmarked plural and singular of ombudsman /ombudsmen, or Orangeman / Orangemen). Intra-standard variations for French include pronunciations for marked morphological variation (e.g.; the feminine and masculine forms of "plan") or for pronounced - unpronounced final consonants (e.g.; chantant / chantante; dépliant/dépliante).

You will enjoy the new-audio dimensions of your Harrap's Shorter application for the support these lend to the articulation of terms, and perhaps for the striking and enchanting difference of this feature, in comparison to the silence of your hardcopy Shorter. And once you have used this function you may also find yourself "stealing" it: that is, wanting still more to the tune of pronunciation according to major cross-regional variations of English such as Australian, American, and Scottish; and major cross regional variations of French such as Belgian, Canadian, and Swiss. That is, you may find yourself wanting to hear terms pronounced in those major cross-regional variations, and even in a few additional ones such as Jamaican or Caribbean English, or Senegal and Luxembourg French, since it is precisely in the domain of pronunciation that the most salient differences between major cross-regional variations lie, and furthermore in an era where globalization is no longer a myth and localization of translations is a requirement.

Additionally, your propensity for stealing this design feature may also be cued directly by the design of your Harrap's Shorter application where cross-indexing functions allow you to direct your searches according to a series of sub-indices, one of which includes regional language variations (Australian, American, Scottish for English; Swiss, Belgian and Canadian for French). That is, in general you may direct searches within your Harrap's Shorter application according to a total of six index options, each corresponding to sub-lists culled from the complete body of entries. These six search options include: the main index, phrases and examples, the full text, regional variations, abbreviations, and labels (language registers). Thus, for example, you may want to verify whether a term belongs to a particular register such as literary, old fashioned, slang or pejorative, each of which appear as options in the labels index. Or you may want to search for a phrase such as "option on shares", or "place an order" without having to consult the whole article on "option" or "place". And conversely, you may want to simply immerse yourself in one of these semantic spaces for a highlight of their lexical horizon. Together with the supra cross-indexing of searches according to French, English and Bilingual indices, and the speed at which all this occurs, this is media-specific virtuosity and excellence at its best. Compared to the linear rigidity of your hardcopy Shorter, the flexibility of cross-indexing stands as another major difference. And there is still much more.

You will discover yet another major media-specific novelty in your Harrap's Shorter application with the Converter. This Converter includes conversion functions for weight, temperature, surface area, volume, length, speed, size, and currency (from or into French, Belgian, and Swiss Francs, and Irish Pounds; from or into Euros). In the complete absence of such conversion tables in the hardcopy Shorter, do you remember looking for tables in your supplemental references, and pondering the conversion formula for degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit? The formula may have appeared as follows for a conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius:

59ºF = (59-32) x 5/9 = 15ºC

and as follows for the reverse, from degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit:

20ºC = (20 x 9/5 ) + 32 = 68ºF

You may have slightly simplified these formulas by converting fractions to decimals, prior to proceeding with your own computations. In any event you may now forget these complicated calculations for any text that requires those conversions since you can, with the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM Converter, simply click in your data including the direction of the conversion, to obtain the answer. And once again, as you begin to use this function and to enjoy and discover its possibilities you are going to want to steal it, or fly with it. For example, you will wonder why the Converter does not include more currency conversion possibilities (e.g.; from US Dollars to Euros), and since these are fluctuating rates of exchange, in contrast to fixed conversion rates, why the Converter is not linked to the www for all kinds of exchange rates, just as there are hyperlinks for selected terms in the main index. Similarly, if you do scientific translations, you will want to steal some more of this design feature, so that it includes for example conversions for catheter and urethral sound sizes (in addition to the current limits of shoes and shirts), or Réaumur temperature (in addition to Celsius and Fahrenheit), or decimal fractions in millimeters and microns of the British inch, or apothecary units such as the drachm and the scruple for conversion to grams. The Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM points to such possibilities without exploiting them, suggesting directions for future updates. And as innovative possibilities, considering that this a general bilingual language dictionary in contrast to a scientific, or specialized one, these are a far cry from shortcomings.

A fifth media specific feature of the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM consists of hyperlinks to the www. Several thousand terms listed in the main index appear with an @ icon functioning as hyperlinks to 600 Internet sites. This means that when you click on the @ icon above the article displaying the definition and translation of a tagged term, you will be connected to a web site that is related in content or activity to the term in question. Thus, for example when you click on the @ icon corresponding to the term "Hypertext" in the English-French direction of the dictionary, one of the sites to which you will be connected is the University Paris XIII Hypermedia Program of Studies. From then on you can peruse the site, which includes course lecture notes and course materials. Clearly, the advantage of such links consists in the gateway that is opened to an unprecedented wealth of source materials and contextualizations, all of which complement in a uniquely "live" encyclopedic mode the traditional definitions and examples of the term searched. Again, it is easy to steal this feature, wondering why such links are not far more numerous, or perhaps exclusive of sites in the United States and elsewhere worldwide. But then again, it seems only fair to consider this a well-harnessed electronic feature at the service of the translator's tasks, pregnant with the quantum leaps of future versions and updates.

A sixth media-specific feature of the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM consists of the Conjugate function. This function allows you to search the syntactic form of any verb in English or French. Considering that your hardcopy Shorter, in typical hardcopy tradition, only points you to the main patterns of the verbal system of either French or English, this feature comes as another welcome addition. You will no longer have to remember, for example, that although the verb "acquérir" [to acquire] ends in "-ir" it does not belong to the second group of verb conjugations, but to a sub-category "-érir" of the third group ending in "-re", and much less that this sub-category is defined in terms of its present participle ending in "-ant" in contrast to "-issant". Similarly, for English you will no longer have to gear into a cognitive overload mode to recite, "bereave, bereaved, bereft; draw, drew, drawn". Just type in your verb, and presto the Conjugate function will list all the forms you need, and never had an opportunity to ask. Add to the conjugate function a Grammatical search function, a seventh media specific highlight, and your typical hardcopy grammatical compendium will be strikingly enhanced with the navigational flexibility of click and search, or type and search, including a few hyperlinks in the grammatical explanations for non-linear consultation.

The Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM is a superbly designed application, precisely because rather than replicating the print mode, it surprises you with that extra dimension of novel features that pertain exclusively to the digital domain. The features that have been reviewed (the pop-up mode, audio pronunciation of terms, multiple indexing, the Converter, links to the www, the Conjugate and Grammar functions) are unique to digital medium that supports this tool. And as we have witnessed the wondrous and explosive development of software versions such as the trajectory of Microsoft Word version 1 to Word version 2000, there is a fabulous new set of possibilities that opens up in the world of tools in support of translation; hinted and stolen possibilities, where all that has been harnassed for the first time in the Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM will continue to mature, in ways that will amaze and surprise us further. Legitimately we can always gripe at the current immaturity of cross-referencing. That is, for example, the fact that it is not yet possible to click within an article entry to another, or for direct access to a conjugated form without having to invoke a separate function. But, in the R&D tradition of software trajectories, we should somehow rest assured that v.1 is infancy, and that we are merely participating in the design conversation that will propel updates and enhancements.

Before letting you discover for yourself all of the new media specific highlights of your Harrap's Shorter CD-ROM, there is one more surprise worth mentioning. The interface is just beautiful, replete with multicolored and enchanting icons, elegant mouseovers, lightening speed results, and ever so slick and smooth navigation. I guarantee that you will enjoy this application, and further, that you will find it immensely useful, far beyond the impracticality of lugging heavy hardcopy dictionaries under the palm trees at 95ºF (click 35ºC).

Mikheev, Alexandre (2001). "New tools for new times" in The ATA Chronicle, 30 (2), February 2001, pp. 63-65.

NCTA (2001). "RE: [Entre-Nous] Dictionnaires". On line communication posted to the NCTA Entre-Nous listserver, February 21, 2001.