Chinese is a difficult language to learn and it doesn’t help that virtually all electronic, Chinese/English dictionaries are designed for Chinese-speakers who are studying English. We found that the most common form of this type of dictionary, the root radical indexing system, is very difficult to use for non Chinese-readers. However, further investigation revealed that this system exploits visual affordances that non Chinese-readers are surprisingly sensitive to. Furthermore, the affordances highlight structural aspects of the characters that are used by experienced readers to identify the characters. Difficulties in using this system seem to be due mainly to missing information that non Chinese-readers require to use the system. We argue that a modified, electronic version of this system could be very effective for non Chinese-readers provided the missing information is supplied.

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Cognitive Science Technical Report Series
Department of Cognitive Science

Svoboda, Karel, & West, R. (2002). Using Affordances in Electronic Chinese/English Dictionaries for Non-Chinese-Speakers. Technical Report 2002-06. Cognitive Science Technical Report Series.