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  • Review of the Franklin Spanish Professor: Model BES-1840

    by Adam Sugerman

    Imagine yourself strolling through Madrid's Retiro Park, craving some popcorn. Rather than extracting a bulky English-Spanish dictionary from your backpack to ask the vendor the cost of a bag of palomitas de maz, you pluck out the Bookman II, an electronic dictionary that fits into one's hand, to find out, not only how to place your order, but to convert the Spanish peseta to the U.S dollar as well. Now imagine yourself leaving the park and wondering about the pockmarks in the Puerta de Alcala, where you hear a word that you have never encountered. You enter the word-as you think you heard it-into the Bookman II and the machine returns a series of terms that comes close to your typed version. After choosing the desired word, you could press a button and a human voice clearly enunciates it. The only drawback with this feature is that the machine's voice sometimes has trouble with certain sounds-including the "rr" and the "n"-and occasionally places the stress on the incorrect syllable.

    For travelers and for students studying Spanish or English as a Second Language, the Bookman II is a convenient, hand-held machine with a variety of features not found on other electronic Spanish-English dictionaries. For example, the grammar guide describes the functions of adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, negative sentences, nouns, prepositions, pronouns, questions, and verbs. Each grammar section includes a superficial explanation of the topic as well as numerous examples to help elucidate the concept.

    The machine also includes the conjugation of verbs. For instance, if you type in "live," the Bookman II gives the user a choice between using the word as a verb and as an adjective. Once the verb choice is selected, the electronic dictionary provides you with four different Spanish verbs from which to choose. After making your selection, you receive the verb in the simple present, the preterite (the past), the present progressive (I am proving), and the participle forms (have lived, had lived). Unfortunately, the subjunctive moods as well as the indicative imperfect tense (I lived; I used to live) are not included.

    The Bookman II is perhaps most valuable for the traveler because it includes practical phrases in the following settings or situations: emergencies, business communications, telecommunications, travel, hotel, restaurants, health, shopping, and sightseeing. Each phrase includes the Spanish and English translations as well as a recording of each statement. I envision travelers who through traditional means cannot articulate a message, finding a particular expression and playing back the recording.

    For the traveler on the go who knows no Spanish, I highly recommend the Bookman II. For serious students studying Spanish and ESL, I would not recommend replacing a printed dictionary or other reference materials with any electronic dictionary. But the Bookman II is certainly better than any other electronic dictionary I have encountered, perhaps because I encountered fewer errors than I had found in other hand-held electronic dictionaries. (Note that printed dictionaries-especially second printings, and beyond-contain far fewer errors than their electronic counterparts) The Bookman II is more than just a gimmicky electronic toy. It is a tool worthy to be in one's language-learning arsenal.

    Adam Sugerman has lived and studied in Madrid and Buenos Aires. His extensive travels have included most of South America as well as Europe.

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