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An Online Database of Illustrative Sentences for Supporting German Writing
This article delineates the general idea of an online German-Japanese sentence database, which is now being developed by the authors at Hiroshima University. The database will serve Japanese learners of German - in their German writing in- and outside the class as a kind of online dictionary with abundant illustrative sentences. The most-likely users are freshmen and sophomores who begin German newly after entering university. On the Internet, there are already plenty of German learning materials for improving passive skills, such as listening, reading, and some kinds of grammar exercises, but it is not the case with writing. For the training of the productive skills like writing, still very important is the role of a human teacher who can care for learners individually, particularly through giving feedback on learners' compositions or free writing assignments. But in reality, it is very difficult to realize under the present institutional frameworks of foreign language learning in Japanese universities: too little learning time (only 90 required hours for absolute beginners), and too big class size (with more than 40 students in a class), to name just a couple of factors. In order to compensate for such disadvantages, writing help devices on Internet have been developed at Hiroshima University (see Iwasaki 2004, Lauer 2003). The database project to be described here is a part of the general project for that purpose. The concerned database has the following characteristics: 1. It will consist of at least 100,000 German illustrated sentences, i.e., approximately 600,000 words by the end of academic year 2004. 2. It makes use of not only a plain exact word search but also some advanced searches, such as wildcard search, phrasesearch, AND/OR- search, and capitalization sensitive/insensitive search. 3. It is not only a German monolingual but also German-Japanese bilingual database that has the same number of Japanese counterparts together with a search function with Japanese key words in it. 4. It provides representative sentences with their sounds, which users can hear via Internet (in MP3 format). 5. It allows users to make a worksheet from the search result by virtue of functions such as sorting, making quizzes by replacing key words with blank spaces, printing, and so on. 6. It will be edited by remote control on Internet, so the collaboration of teachers in its maintenance and expansion is possible. Acknowledgement Our sincere gratitude goes to Dr. Fumiyoshi SHOJI (Assistant Researcher of the Distance Communication Section, Information Media Center, Hiroshima University) for his generous support in implementing sentence data and making the technical devices for our database on Internet.