Home » Language » Software for ‘reading’ foreign language texts (2)

Software for ‘reading’ foreign language texts (2)

Okay, Let’s look at Learning with Texts, and how to get set up and going with it.

A lot of information in this post is totally derived from this post over at DIY Classics. I 100% tell you to go and read that post. My aim is to supplement that post by giving some more specific details and talking through some of the details of FLTR and how to use the two sites.

Your first port of call should be the LWT page, which is full of a lot of information, including what to do if you want to set up your own localised version, which involves running a server version of it. That’s not most of us, and so thankfully Benny of “Fluent in 3 Months” fame runs a free hosting service. So next stop is to go to his website:

http://www.fluentin3months.com/wp-login.php?action=register

and register a username and password, then use this to go to:

http://lwtfi3m.co/

and use it to log in.

For all the set-up details, follow the rest of that post as DIY Classics (though note point 5 below), here is the link again. But if you are feeling lazy and want to stay here, here’s a brief run-down:

  1. Click on my Languages
  2. Click on the Green plus sign or ‘New Language’ and add Latin/Greek
  3. For dictionary, you want to add:

Latin: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?la=la&l=###

Greek: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?la=gr&l=###

I would delete the Google Translate URI because it doesn’t exist for Ancient Greek, and isn’t good for Latin.

  1. For Character Substitutions: ´=’|`=’|’=’|’=’|…=…|..=‥|«=|»=
  2. Especially for Greek, you want:

RegExp Split Sentences:  .!?:;•

RegExp Word Characters: a-zA-ZÀ-ÖØ-öø-ȳͰ-Ͽἀ-ῼ

These two values make sure that LWT correctly works out (a) what starts and ends words, and (b) make sure it uses the Unicode set that includes polytonic Greek characters. Both are important in getting Greek to display and function properly. Notice that the RegExp Word Characters is different from what DIY Classics said; I found that didn’t work for me.

  1. Select your Language from the home screen
  2. Click “My Texts”
  3. Click “New Text”, and enter a title, paste in your text, and tag it as you please.

Okay, you should be all set up for Greek and or Latin. Once you’ve done that, go to “read”, it’s the first icon listed on the text page. You’ll get a screen with 4 components:

LWT 1

In the top left is your LWT menu. Notice that it lists 839 “To Do” – those are untagged/unknown words in the text. Next to it is an “I know all” button. Basically click this is you know every single word in a text and couldn’t be bothered tagging them.

Below this is the reading pane. In this is the text you’re working with. You can see in the first screen shot that I’ve left-clicked on ἀπόστολος, which has given me several options.

In the top right pane I’ve got the option to edit this term; it’s listed as a new term, and I can add in both a translation, as well as some tags, perhaps I would add: noun, masculine, nominative, singular. Romaniz is for a Romanisation of foreign alphabets. At the bottom is a coloured status bar: 1-5 of unknown to well-known, then “WKn” for actually so well known you don’t want to worry about it ever again, and “Ign” for Ignore this term, useful if your text contains non words or words not in your target language.

The bottom right pane that’s opened up is the dictionary look up, based on what you listed in Dictionary 1 in the settings. In this case, it’s gone to Perseus just like I told it too. The bottom frame just works like an inset webpage, so you can click through to the LSJ or Middle Liddell entry as you please.

 

Foreign Language Text Reader

I also want to talk about Foreign Language Text Reader (FLTR). FLTR is like a slimmer, maybe-dumber, version of LWT. But its two greatest strengths are that it’s on your computer (without running a server!) and that it’s super simple.

For FLTR head to https://code.google.com/p/fltr/

Follow the download and installation instructions, they are pretty straightforward.

Open up the program and you’ll see a very basic interface.

First you’ll want to find the line of options that starts with Language, click on New, type in your language, say “Greek”, and then we want to edit the settings for the language.

Pretty much the settings are the same as for LWT, so here’s what I use for for Greek:

Char Substitutions: ´=’|`=’|’=’|’=’|…=…|..=‥|«=|»=

WordCharRegExp: a-zA-ZÀ-ÖØ-öø-ȳͰ-Ͽἀ-ῼ

DictionaryURL1: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?la=gr&l=###

You may want to come back and increase the text size later as well. I find the default is often too small.

Then you need to add some texts. Personally, I add them via this method:

Each language will have a subfolder wherever you installed FLTR, open this up, and you’ll find a folder like Greek_Texts; save a text file (*.txt) in UTF-8 format in here, and you can use it in FLTR. So, for example, grab a copy of say, 1 Peter, put it into a text editor, switch to UTF-8, and then save to here. Open up FLTR, select Greek, and then select the text. If it hasn’t appeared, click refresh and double-check for it in the right folder. Here’s a screen-shot of some Greek text open with FLTR:

FLTR Greek

You can see that I haven’t used it a lot with Greek, as most of the text is blue, which means a new word you haven’t tagged. Green words are well-known, Yellow words are level 4, pretty well known; the colours shade down to a red which is level 1-2 not very well known. A left click will bring up two pages:

FLTR Greek 2

Firstly it will bring up the editing screen for that word, and you can edit this with relevant information; it will also open in a web browser the linked dictionary. A right click on a word brings up a smaller dialogue box, and I can edit from there as well, without having it force open the web-browser/dictionary option. Here’s another screenshot with a short text about Bonnie Prince Charlie in Gaelic; you can see I’ve worked both with Gaelic and with this text before, because most of the text is coloured in.

FLTR Greek 3

What’s the point? Or, Pros and Cons

A student helpfully asked me how this was better/different to using, say, morphologically tagged Bible-software, a la Accordance, BibleWorks, Logos, etc..

  • It’s personalised, and testable. Every entry is put in by you, and so it’s filled with whatever you wanted to include.
  • It’s geared towards reading and familiarity. It doesn’t mindlessly tell me all the information for each word as I scroll my cursor across, it colour-codes to how well I know the word, and what information I have included.
  • It’s faster than doing this manually. Reader’s editions are great, writing on paper is great. This lets you tag your own texts digitally, and it saves those tags across languages, which is great when you’ve encountered a word once, and then find it again 3 years later in a difficult text.
  • It’s easy to work with the same interface across multiple languages. This is my preferred way of dealing with foreign texts. I use it for Gaelic, Mongolian, French, German, Italian, and am exploring its use for Greek and Latin.

 

Cons:

  • There’s no real way to do actual morphological tagging. So every inflection of ἀπόστολος is going to be a separate entry. LWT does nothing to alleviate this. FLTR does have a little drop down when you’re entering a new word that lists similar words, so if you have entered, say, a different form of the word, you can more or less copy what you had elsewhere. I suspect there isn’t an easy way to fix this, since you would need some way of teaching the software to do morphology for multiple user-inputted languages.
  • It’s slow to get started. Opening up 1 Peter and seeing 839 new words to tag, if you already have some experience in Koine, is not a thrilling experience, because this takes time. If you were starting from scratch in a language, it would be more rewarding. But if you’re already ‘on the way’, then it’s slow to get going. But it pays off. This week I opened up a new Gaelic text I’d never tackled, and at least 90% of words were already tagged. This is the pay-off.

Conclusion:

So that’s it. I’d be interested in your feedback, if you’ve had some experience or if you go and try it yourself now. Let me know if you have any difficulties in set-up or need a hand.

 

Tips and Advanced usage

Tip #1: You can select a string of words as a group; this is great if you want to tag a whole phrase that, for instance, might function idiomatically.

Tip #2: FLTR allows you to select “Vocabulary” as a text. This will let you filter a range of vocabulary by ‘knownness’, from a specific text or all texts, with a number of entries, sorted either alphabetically, by status, or random.

Tip #3: You can also access your FLTR vocab as two sets of files in your main FLTR directory, one is a plain text, say Greek_Export.txt, while the other will be a comma separated version, Greek_Words.csv. These files aren’t very useful to look at, but they are the same as the LWT TSV export, so you can actually move between the two programs.

Tip #4: You can import these exported files (from FLTR or LWT) into an Anki deck, if that’s how you like to operate.


1 Comment

  1. Jacob says:

    I looked into this while I was learning Chinese; as it turns out, it is completely useless for Chinese, so I forgot it there and then. However, this should be great for Greek, I’m going to dig it out again now. Thanks!

    Like

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