Monthly Archives: March 2013

New online Arabic dictionary now available as part of ATbar.

There is a consensus that Arabic dictionaries,
whether printed or electronic are not user-friendly.
Rather than being tools for learning, they are a
hindrance. Their complexity and their presentations are
not conducive to learning. Consequently, their impact
on vocabulary acquisition, even though not formally
assessed, is highly negative. (Belkhouche et al, 2011)

The authors of the paper go on to say that “the printed Arabic dictionary provides a low quality, a poor presentation, a disorganized structure, and an unscientific approach. A cursory browsing of Arabic dictionaries on the library shelves highlights these deficiencies.

Nawar and Magnus have completed the work on a new online Arabic dictionary. This has now become part of the standard Arabic ATbar and we would be very grateful if it could be tested as much as possible.

Arabic dictionary

Nawar tells me that “the dictionary database includes data from two modernized Arabic dictionaries (for word look-ups) and one traditional dictionary for root look-ups. More data can be easily added in. The dictionary plugin does not only use exact match to search for words and roots in the database, but also, it uses a light stemming algorithm to increase the reliability of the search. Prefixes and suffixes and the definite articles are removed if exact matching does not return results. The order in which these prefixes and suffixes are removed is not random but based on knowledge in the language and has been tested before for applications in information retrieval.”

The method used by Nawar was based on a paper written by Halabi et al (2010) on “A Hybrid Approach for Indexing and Retrieval of Archaeological Textual Information

The suggested hybrid retrieval approach employs various clustering and
classification methods that enhances both retrieval and presentation, and infers
further information from the results returned by a primary retrieval engine,
which, in turn, uses Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) as a primary retrieval
method. In addition, a stemmer for Arabic words was designed and
implemented to facilitate the indexing process and to enhance the quality of

The dictionary database was then set up by Magnus to link with any words selected on a web page and depending on the choice of a root or the word for a definition – results are shown in what is hoped to be the most helpful way possible.

We are incredibly grateful to the work of Nawar and his brother as well as Magnus as we feel this is a first in terms of how a dictionary can be presented as an online browser plugin to support those reading Arabic texts.   We are aware more dictionaries can be added and possible improvements can be made,  but we need feedback as to how useful this dictionary is to users.  Please leave comments! 

Arabic Speech Now Recognized by Google

Whilst looking at all the speech recognition apps and software available for those wishing to use Arabic speech recognition there has been some very good news and as a result I am copying the entire blog written by by Nina Curley, March 11, 2012 from Wamda

“Developers throughout the Arab World should be excited- Google’s quiet rollout of Arabic voice recognition continues to create new opportunities for localized apps.

Voice Search, an app which allows users to search by simply using their voices, launched in December but has now expanded to recognize speech in eight dialects, including, as we understand it, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Qatari, Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian, and Palestinian Arabic.

“I’ve never been this excited about a product in my life,” says MENA Product Marketing Manager Najeeb Jarrar, who was on the in-house team that worked for over two years to hone the app.

Google not only tackled a different algorithmic issue, from an engineering and linguistic perspective, he notes, but also built a product that will open up new ways of searching on the web and new opportunities for developers.

Here’s how it works: when you click the search button, your mobile device records your speech as a sound wave, and transfers it to a Google server, where it is compared to billions of sound waves to determine its meaning. Your sentence is then parsed by keywords and compared to billions of keyword combinations. Google uses the best keyword combination to return the results to your phone, all in under a second, depending on your internet connection.

“It’s as accurate as if you tried voice search in English,” says Jarrar. Voice Search also works in Google Maps to return place results.

To maximize its accuracy, the team worked hard to make the app robust, testing it while having local native speakers read popular queries in a train station, in a public cafe, or near echoes, so that it could detect speech patterns despite machine or human noise.

The app, which runs on Android and a feature in the Google Search app for iPhone and Blackberry, will also continue to get more accurate as its learns. If it doesn’t understand the user fully, Voice Search will offer a list of suggestions based on the closest matches, which the user can choose from, thus helping to improve future results.

Most importantly for entrepreneurs, Voice Search in Arabic will open up  to localize apps, make programs simpler to use, and increase accessibility for less tech literate populations. Because Arabic voice recognition is included in the Google Voice Search API, developers can just load the API and select the dialect of their choice.

Some of the ideas that I saw recently pitched at Startup Weekend Amman and QITCOM could certainly benefit. “Maybe we’ll start seeing games where [people] are playing simply by speaking,” offers Jarrar.

Especially where those games or apps are educational- it would be great to see this space use Arabic Voice Search to expand flexibility when it comes to including different types of learners.

Demo below [Arabic]. The Google Voice application for iPhone is available in the iTunes Store and for Android as part of Google Play.

Nina is the Editor-in-Chief at Wamda. You can reach her through Wamda, on Twitter @9aa, on FacebookGoogle+ or at nina [AT]