Computerizing Chuon Nath

The first electronic Khmer dictionary is being distributed for free by the Buddhist Institute in the name of improving a younger generation's vocab

by May Titthara, August 15, 2008
Courtesy: The Phnom Penh Post

THE famous Khmer dictionary compiled by the late Supreme Buddhist Patriarch Jotannano Chuon Nath has been released in software form, according to Buddhist Institute director Nguon Vanchanthi, who has coordinated the effort to turn the old dictionary into a 21st-century language tool.

Buddhist Institute director Nguon Vanchanthi demonstrates how to use the new dictionary on his computer in his office on Wednesday. Photo: Heng Chivoan


"We have compiled the software dictionary because Cambodia's young generation are poor in Khmer language, and this dictionary will make it easier for them to improve their language skills," Nguon Vanchanthi said.

The software, which was released Thursday, will be distributed to all government ministries and departments, and will be freely available to the public.

But Nguon Vanchanthi said those wanting the software should bring a blank CD to the Buddhist Institute, where they can burn a copy.

"We don't want to sell CDs. We want all the users to get it from the Buddhist Institute, but we will allow them to copy it for their friends," he said.

Samdech Sangha Raja Jhotañano Chuon Nath (1883-1969) is best known for his effort to preserve the Khmer language by compiling an exhaustive Khmer dictionary and penning the Kingdom's national anthems, "Nokor Reach" and "Savada Khmer."

The new dictionary is based on the Khmer-to-Khmer dictionary Chuon Nath compiled from 1915, and contains 18,003 Khmer words.

It has taken 17 staff over two years to computerise the dictionary, in cooperation with the Open Institute, SEALang and the Cambodia National Language Committee. Nguon Vanchanthi plans to update the first version in a year to keep pace with technological developments.

Nouv Vithou, a manager with the Khmer Web Group, said that it is vital to have Khmer dictionary software but cautioned that the accuracy of the dictionary would determine its usefulness. "If the programmer makes mistakes, the user will learn the mistakes also," he added.

Spelling mistakes?
Nguon Vanchanthi said that there might be some mistakes in this first version, but that they would be corrected in later versions of the software.

"While we were working on it we couldn't find any mistakes, but when we reviewed it there were mistakes in about two percent of the entries," he said.

Davy, 22, a student at the National University of Management, said she was happy to finally have a computerised Khmer dictionary.

"I am so glad that we can now get a Khmer dictionary in our computers, because now [young people] have poor Khmer language skills," she said. "I hope we will stop making mistakes in our writing because when we are unsure we can check on our computers," she added.

Nguon Vanchanthi said the next step would be to program the dictionary to fit on a mobile phone. "I want to try and program the Khmer dictionary into hand phones because I want to make life easier for the Khmer people. We already have English dictionaries in our phones, so I think we need to do a Khmer dictionary as well."


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