LAROUSSE CHAMBERS CD-ROM Advanced Dictionary English-French / French-English
Reviewed by Françoise Herrmann

Havas Interactive 1999
Larousse/HER 1999
Distributed by Vivendi Universal Interactive Publishing France
22.70 Euros

The Larousse Chambers CD-ROM Advanced Dictionary of French and English is another bilingual multimedia dictionary tool developed by Havas Interactive in France, the mastermind software publisher behind Harrap's Shorter and Le Petit Larousse on CD-ROM. With 300 000 words and expressions, and 530 000 translations, this bilingual electronic dictionary is the largest in the Larousse Chambers collection of five French-English, English French dictionaries, extending, in increasing order of size, from the Mini (a traveler's dictionary) to the Pocket, the Petit, and the Compact (designed for highschoolers). The Larousse Chambers Advanced Dictionary was designed for advanced students of English and practitioners.

Consistent with all of the Havas Interactive electronic dictionary publications, the Advanced Dictionary presents a series of well-harnessed, media-specific features, in addition to the excellent lexicographic content of the dictionary. Among these features you will find: audio pronunciation of 30 000 English words, and 25 000 French words; complete hypertext modularity allowing you to navigate from one word to another within and across records upon a double-click; multiple search modes in the dictionary's various indexes; pop-up functions for searching directly from the application in which you are working without having to re-type the search term, an interactive conjugate function for searching all verb forms; and cut and paste functions for integration of information across applications. Included in the Advanced Dictionary, without media specificity, you will also find a grammatical compendium for each of the languages, a cultural guide, and a guide for correspondence.

The Larousse Chambers Advanced Dictionary CD-ROM requires the following minimum configuration: a Pentium 100 PC with 30 MB of space on the hard drive, 16 MB of RAM, Windows 95/98 or NT, a 4x CD-ROM drive, a sound card compatible with Sound Blaster, speakers and a mouse. Installation of the application includes standard options for complete or partial set-up, so that you can use the dictionary either from your hard disk or with your CD-ROM drive. When the application is launched, it opens as small window with the Splash screen shown in Figure 1.

In addition to the standard media specific features listed above, the Larousse Chambers Advanced Dictionary is replete with media specific perks that greatly enhance the application. For example, you will notice that you do not have to worry about correct orthography when typing your search word, nor do you have to bother typing accents in French, since there is a built-in spell-checker, inclusive of inflections, that greatly simplifies searches, whether typed or in pop-up mode. Similarly, you will notice in the preferences menu that among the various parameters (i.e.; for the language of the interface, the default search index, volume, and start-up configuration), you can also adjust font size of the records. This option comes as a blessing for all who complain about eyestrain due to microscopic font size of both print and electronic dictionaries. Additionally in the preferences, you can also adjust the layout of the dictionary interface, so that the screen splits either vertically or horizontally, allowing records to be displayed left to right or top-down, depending on your preferred consultation mode. And finally, as an added media specific perk, you will also discover a "Find" function allowing you to search for a word or phrase within a longer record. This function is particularly useful for polysemic terms since it allows you target your translation without perusing the whole article.

You will no doubt also observe that the interface of the Larousse Chambers Advanced Dictionary is pleasantly iconic and uncluttered. Opting for icons with mouseover explanations, in lieu of drop down menus, these offer extra navigational nimbleness. Toggling, for example, in and out of the dictionary search mode occurs by double clicking on the small "AD" icon on the left border of the Splash Screen, and once in the dictionary mode on another small contents icon at the center of the border. Similarly, "Previous", "Next" and "Find" functions, as well as a bookmarking function called "History" have all been iconized on the border of the window, allowing for immediate access to the requested information, while bypassing the usual steps of a drop down selection. (See the dictionary screen in Figure 2.)

In the dictionary search mode, you will discover three indexes: bilingual, French-English, and English-French, allowing for perusal of head words and their derivatives; and in addition to this standard organization of listings, a series of cross-listings for each index according to register (such as slang, informal, literary and formal), and regional variation (Scottish, American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand English; and Canadian, Swiss and Belgian French), all of which allow you to direct your searches, and to explore circumscribed lexical horizons. Add to these multiple search options, hypertext links for all of the items returned in a record allowing you to double click on any unfamiliar word for immediate access to its translation record, and you have an electronic dictionary that has optimized use of its supporting medium.

In an encyclopedic mode, typical of modern lexicography, some of the words and expressions of the Larousse Chambers Advanced Dictionary also appear indexed with a small "+" icon to indicate inclusion of a cultural comment. Thus, for example you will find additional cultural comment for such terms as "Westminster", "The Monroe Doctrine", and "Pearl Harbor" in English; and for "verlan", "dragée" and "Pâques" in French. These cultural notes seek to supply additional context for the terms indexed, and thus more information for appropriate translation.

In terms of the linguistic content of the dictionary, although this is a French and British product, you will find both American and British English spelling, and both American and English translations when such variation exists. Thus, for example, say you type "harbor" or "color", in both cases a single record is returned with both "harbor and harbour", or "color and colour" listed, each with proper indexing according to "Br" (British) or "Am" (American) English. Similarly, if you were to search for a translation of the term "camion" in French, a record indicating "lorry (Br.), truck (US)" for both British and American translations is returned, including British and American variations for derivatives such as: "camion de déménagement" [removal van (Br.), moving van (US)]; "camion semi-remorque" [articulated lorry (Br.), trailer truck (US)], and "Interdit aux camions" [No HGVs (Br. "Heavy Goods Vehicles"), No trucks (US)].

With a corpus of 300 000 words and 530 000 translations, you will undoubtedly find some missing terms and expressions, an absence of specialized and ultra-specialized vocabulary, and perhaps even miss having an encyclopedic dimension that is directly linked to the world wide web. However, beyond the unrealistic search for exhaustiveness, the normally restricted scope of general bilingual dictionaries, and perhaps the omission of gateways to the wealth of new information on the web, the Larousse Chambers Advanced Dictionary is still a bilingual dictionary that boasts excellent lexicography and equally excellent design, including some additional media-specific perks to enhance the pleasure of navigation and searching. Enjoy!

Fig. 1: Splash screen of the Larousse Chambers Advanced Dictionary French-English, English-French.

Figure 2: Dictionary search screen displaying results for the searched word "verlan".