vocabulary learning tool for Nahuatl

Ian Robertson Ian.Robertson at asu.edu
Mon Jun 4 20:42:41 UTC 2001


For some time now I have been working on a relational database (in Access)
for organizing Nahuatl vocabulary, with the idea of using it as a basis for
a computer application that could serve as an electronic dictionary and as a
basic learning tool. I did make such an application (and use it frequently),
but I don't think it's quite 'user-friendly' enough for public
dissemination--at least not yet.

I recently became aware of an shareware program called Memler that does much
of what I originally had in mind, but is a lot more elegant. To make a long
story short, I submitted some of the material that I had already entered
into my database to Dmitry Vergel, who wrote Memler. [This includes all of
the vocabulary in the first 8 chapters of Volume 2 of Campbell and
Karttunen's Foundation course--about 650 Nahuatl-English vocabulary items.]
Dmitry has kindly converted this material into a Memler-format,
Nahuatl-English word library, which is now available at his website, along
with the Memler software:


Memler runs in the background of your computer; at set intervals, it springs
to life and gives you a short, multiple-choice quiz based on a vocabulary
"lesson"--a subset of the words selected from the larger word library. When
the quiz is over, the application just retreats to the background. You set
the intervals at which the program appears, the number of questions it asks
you, and how many times you have to get an item 'right' before it stops
appearing in the lesson.

I think that the logic behind Memler is that regular, but short, learning
sessions are more effective than longer, but less frequent ones. In addition
to being a learning tool, there is a dictionary form in Memler that lets you
rapidly look up and translate words in the word library--Nahuatl to English,
or vice versa. There is an editor for adding new items to a current library.

I think that Memler is going to be useful, but there may be some minor
problems in using it with the Nahuatl vocabulary list. For example, I used
diacritical marks to indicate long vowels; this means that words with long
vowels won't sort into what would seem a natural alphabetical order, and
this will probably have some effect on the way the "dictionary" feature
works. Ditto for my use of bracketed vowels in words like "(i)lcähu(a)".

In the meantime, I hope that Memler and the Nahuatl-English vocabulary might
prove useful to Nahuatl learners. I will be interested to hear comments from
any of you who care to try it out.

Best, Ian

Ian Robertson
Dept. of Anthropology
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ, 85287-2402
Ian.Robertson at asu.edu

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