Digitalizing an entire Spanish dictionary

Hello there!

As a Spanish teacher, I am planning to digitalize my Spanish dictionary “Diccionario del estudiante (secundaria y bachillerato)” into five Memrise courses for German learners: 1) verbs, 2) nouns, 3) adjectives, 4) adverbs, and 5) interjections.

Goal of these courses and learning mechanisms
The main goal of these courses is for the learner not only to know which percentage of verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs and interjections they already know in comparison to ALL the verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs and interjections in the dictionary (since Memrise tells you exacty how much percent of the course you completed), but also to teach the words alphabetically and, furthermore, in a thematic order, contextualized with example sentences, with pronunciation, input images, definitions and synonyms.

After inserting all verbs in alphabetical order with German translations, example sentences, etc., I will use that database to create thematic levels inside of the same courses, so learners won’t need to look for other Spanish courses that teach words that they already know. The goal is to have one course with ALL verbs, etc., used in the standard Spanish register (not the ones used a hundred years ago or just in certain dialects) and inside of that course making the database learnable in alphabetical and thematic order.

Practical example
The verb “poner” will be taught with an input image (taken from flaticon with the premium license) showing someone putting a glass on top of a table, for example, playing a pronunciation file taken from forvo, showing the definition taken from, showing three example sentences taken from spanishdict like “¿Dónde _____ las llaves?”. These example sentences will always be shown as attributes with the required verb being cut out, so that learners have a context to place the verb into. Furthermore synonyms like “situar”, “colocar”, etc. will also be accepted when asking that verb.

Problems these courses will solve
I have seen it so many times in community created courses that Spanish words are being taught without a system. One time the word “father” is being asked and you write “el padre”, another time the word “mother” is being asked, you write “la madre”, but in the second case, “la madre” is being marked as incorrect, because the course creator inserted the translation “madre” for the word “mother” instead of “la madre”.

Another problem with Community created courses is that many of them don’t accept synonyms, so that you have to write the exact same word, although many other variations would be correct. If the verb “to drink” is being asked, one course might only accept “beber”, although “tomar”, etc., would also be correct. I don’t know all synonyms to every word myself, but I would use wordreference synonyms to add all the synonyms to a word that are shown there, for “detrás” it would be “detrás de”, “por detrás”, “por detrás de” and “tras”, for example.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that in the first “data base gathering” using the dictionary, I will only add words that I already know and use (having a C1/C2 level in Spanish), which will be around 15.000 words in total. I won’t add phrases like “¿cómo estás”, only lemmata (“hacer”, “decir”, “por”, “además”, “alto”, “bajo”, “la casa”, “la manzana”, etc.).

Arising questions
I am not sure in what way this could be against copyright, since all sources are accessible at any time on the internet and I will mention them in the beginng of the course. I know that the input images from flaticon will not pose any copyright infringement due to the premium license that allows me to use their images in the same way as the pronunciation files taken from forvo will not pose any problems due to their license. With the definitions from, however, and the example sentences from spanishdict, I’m not sure. I guess I will write them an email asking for their permission.

Collaboration and feedback
Last but not least, I’m open to collaborations and feedback, I’m using Excel, so that anybody with the excel files can bulk add the words into their courses. That way you can exchange the German translations with English ones or French, etc. ones.

1 Like

Personally, I don’t like this approach. I’ve seen quite a few courses that utilize this approach, but to me this seems very unnatural. I avoid such courses.

This however seems very adequate. Over the past 4+y I have been studying a whole bunch of official Memrise courses where you’ll find words and phrases in a somewhat thematic order and where the context is often created by teaching words first, then integrating them into a sentence. I do think that’s what sticks best.

My approach to this is consistency: either all nouns are to be preceded by their (in-) definite article (indefinite seems more appropriate due to contractions in many languages such as French) or none.
With Memrise it would also be possible to define alternative translations (i. e. with or without an article), but I never fancied doing that, so I might be wrong as to whether this could solve the general problem.

This is a particular nasty problem, particularly in large courses (i.e. the various “5k words in …”). I have been working on this one for quite some time and I’m constantly on the brink of giving up due to the way the author added TONS of alternatives in “not this and neither that” lists which - in most cases - results in all attention being drawn away from the word itself. It also takes way too much time to read. I’m really only continuing the course because I’m over 60% through and don’t want to start over in a different course … :slight_smile:

If I’d attempt to create a lengthy course, I’d probably try an approach where I would

  1. try to convey a meaning along with the word (such as part of a sentence) and
  2. divide the course into separate databases and/or separate courses (much like Memrise’s 7 courses for each language) - this should avoid triggering Memrise’s algorithm where you are presented with all (valid!) variations of a given word at the same time (i. e. in MC-tests)

All of the above is just my 2c, of course!

Whatever you do and however you do it: viel Erfolg dabei, ich bin gespannt! :slight_smile:

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Hi Olaf!
Thank you so much for your reply!
I will definitely follow your advice on the separate data bases! :slight_smile: