SlovoEd foreign dictionaries are now available for the iPhone, adding an invaluable resource to the world's favourite smartphone

SlovoEd is part of the Paragon Software Group, and has spent 15 years specialising in foreign translation dictionaries for PDAs, Windows PCs and smartphones. Now those dictionaries have been ported to the greatest smartphone of all, the Apple iPhone.

There may be some variability in the breadth and depth of translation between SlovoEd's different language editions, as the database of words that the dictionaries use are supplied by different sources, such as Oxford University Press, Merriam-Webster, VOX (Spanish) and PONS (German).

We tried the SlovoEd Deluxe English-Russian & Russian-English Dictionary for iPhone, which deserves to be one of the better examples of the breed, if only because Paragon/SlovoEd is itself a Russian company, based in Moscow.

The app is a relatively hefty download at over 32MB, and is sold at a premium price (by iPhone app standards anyway) of £14.99. The size of the download reflects the inclusion of audio sound samples - more of which later.

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After installing on your iPhone, you'll need to activate the Russian Cyrillic keyboard through Settings/General/International/Keyboards. Then, when you fire up the app you'll see an international globe symbol on the iPhone's touchscreen keyboard, to the immediate left of the spacebar. Using this button you can quickly alternate between English and Russian keyboard layouts.

To translate a word between languages is truly simple. With the keyboard set to English Qwerty, just start typing out an English word, and approximations will start to appear in a vertical list. You can elect to tap out every letter; or once your word is in view from a list, just tap it once to be taken directly to that word's entry page.

And if you wish to look up a Russian word for translation into English, you tap on the international globe symbol to switch to Cyrillic alphabet keyboard, and start tapping out a word in the same way. Alternatively, since version 2.0, you can reverse translation directions with a circular arrow ‘switch' button added in the app's top right corner - although you'll still need to manually reset keyboard language for input.

A History button in the botton of the app's screen provides quick - and highly useful - shortcuts for words previously looked up.

NEXT PAGE: Impressive additions with v2.0...

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What we found particuarly impressive was the layout of word page entries, with subtle colour coding to help you around. A light blue colour on a letter m, f or nt denotes a noun's gender, while an emboldened red vowel in a word shows the syllable for correct pronounciation stress.

(Beware here though, as even our basic understanding of Russian noticed that the movement of stress when a word changes to the plural was not always illustrated - for example in the Russian word for horse/horses ('loshad'/'loshady') there was no indication that stress moves from the first to the final syllable.)

In the example of Russian verbs, we're told if we have a perfective or imperfective version, and are sometimes given a brief example (in green) within a sentence to help illustrate usage.

Tapping any word that appears within a definition will, in most cases, take you to that word's own entry, providing an excellent way to mine further into any subject.

Two other new features have been added in Version 2 to expand the app's capabilities. There's a Similar Words function, so that if you're unsure of a word's spelling you can tap in your approximation and let the dictionary find nearby suggestions. Alternatively you can put in an asterisk as a wild card character to fill in missing, unknown characters.

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And as a handy aide memoire to cope with the endless case endings of Russian nouns and adjectives, there's the new Word Forms feature, which lists changes in the six main cases, for both singular and plural nouns. And for adjectives, the masculine, feminine and neuter forms are listed, in both singular and plural form. In the case of the accusative case, for example, it even lists the older written form where relevant as well as modern spoken instrumental case endings.

A perfect app for the student of Russian then? A gloassary page to explain the abbreviations and other nomeclature, such as IPA pronunciaton of English words, would have been useful. Our main gripe, though, is the lack of a Russian sound module. Whereas Russian speakers can use this app to hear many English words read aloud, in good Received Pronunciation, there's no counterpart of Russian audio to hear these words pronounced accurately.

SlovoEd says it is working on this and hopes to complete a revised version with Russian sound module later this year, as well as a ‘flash card' module to help memorise words. These upgrades should be free to anyone who's already bought the app.

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict...

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SlovoEd Russian-English Dictionary Deluxe for iPhone: Specs

  • 48,355 (Russian-English) and 28,280 (English-Russian) entries
  • English sound module
  • Word Forms module
  • Wildcard Search, requires iPhone, iPhone 3G (formware v2.0 or above) or iPod touch
  • 48,355 (Russian-English) and 28,280 (English-Russian) entries
  • English sound module
  • Word Forms module
  • Wildcard Search, requires iPhone, iPhone 3G (formware v2.0 or above) or iPod touch

OUR VERDICT

For the student or speaker of Russian who needs a constantly available reference, the SlovoEd Russian-English Dictionary Deluxe for iPhone is an invaluable resource, one that will earn its place on your iPhone. It’s a well-featured yet easy to use app with which you can find words as quickly, if not quicker, than any paper dictionary.

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