Back in 2003 I had a brief post linking to a site I said had Collins bilingual dictionaries; it doesn’t seem to any more, but the good folks at Collins sent me a link to their new site, which not only has their French, German, and Spanish dictionaries, it has translations into a bunch of other languages. Go to the page for crack, for instance; below the definitions of the verb and noun, the etymology (“Old English cracian; related to Old High German krahhōn, Dutch kraken, Sanskrit gárjati he roars”), and the synonyms, there are equivalents in Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, Croatian, etc.—and best of all, each one is accompanied by an audio file! This is something I’ve always hoped for, and it’s great to have it for so many languages. I couldn’t help but notice that the audio for the Vietnamese translation, vết nứt, was for an entirely different word (it sounds like “hey ho”), but the site is still in beta, and I expect the kinks will be worked out. Give it a try!


  1. I wonder how they make the choices for the languages they offer in the translations? I’m always intrigued by how seldom any South Asian languages are offered by services like this one. It seems like the only nod Indic languages get is the Skt in the etymologies.

  2. I clicked on “show more” by the Translations heading and got the following translation:
    British English: crack. A crack is a line on the surface of something when it is slightly damaged.
    Vietnamese: cô-ca-in crack, n.

  3. Looks like a lot of the translations of the second noun are wrong, they are translations of the drug instead.

  4. The Chinese translation given is 缝隙 fèngxì, but the pronunciation is for 裂缝 lièfèng. Both mean ‘crack’, although the second is closer.

  5. Hah! I should have tried the Japanese, too. The word given is すき間 sukima, the pronunciation is for 割れ目 wareme. Again, they both mean something like ‘gap’, ‘crevice’, or ‘crack’.

  6. The mismatch between the written forms given and the pronounced forms seems to be widespread.
    I tried ‘truck’, which in Japanese gives トラック torakku (written) and 無蓋貨車 mugai-kasha (pronunciation). The latter means ‘open wagon’.
    Similarly, the Vietnamese gives toa chở hàng (written) and xe tải (pronunciation). The first means ‘freight car / goods wagon’; the second means ‘truck’.

  7. Tsk. I hope they’ve got teams of elves checking on this kind of thing.

  8. I hope they’ve got teams of elves checking on this kind of thing.
    Back in the days of print, these errors would have been ascribed to typography gremlins. When scribes labored in their scriptoria, Titivillus got the blame. Maybe now pixel pixies will take the heat.

  9. marie-lucie says

    How come I had never heard of Titivillus! Thanks PO.

  10. Give it a try! I did, with “marplot”, fresh in my mind as I have just re-read “The Riddle of the Sands” by Erskine Childers for the umpteenth time. For those who know it, Dollman calls Carruthers and Davies marplots when they confront him in the denoument. Those who do not know it might like to try it. Though written in 1903, it’s still fresh off the page, fascinating and exciting, with some lovely Edwardian moments.
    Collins doesn’t have marplot – but then, as you said, it’s still in beta. Other online dictionaries do.

  11. I directed Collins here, via Twitter, and they told me that “the elves AND pixies are working hard”, and they (the elves and pixies) hope readers enjoy the site.
    The Riddle of the Sands is indeed fresh and exciting, as Paul says. I’d been meaning to read it for years before I finally did, a couple of years ago, and found it to be among the best written and most enjoyable and interesting spy/adventure stories I’ve ever read – not that it’s a genre I’ve covered much ground in.

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