The Khmer Writers Association and Cambodian literature lovers have volunteered to jointly launch a new online digital spell checker to verify the accuracy of Khmer language text as the Kingdom continues to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).
Project manager and Khmer Writers Association president Proeung Pranit said at a press conference on Sunday that the aim was to further modernise Khmer writing and enhance communications systems and publications, especially in the education sector.
He said the project had come about after observing the difficulties the average user faced when using Khmer in the digital sphere, and the mistakes and misunderstandings that occur among the general public, ministries and professionals.
Pranit said it was painstaking and impractical to constantly consult a dictionary.
“The project aims to promote, preserve and develop the Khmer language by making it easier to ensure accuracy, in line with the trend of Industry 4.0 industrialisation."
"It is a supplement to the modernisation of the national language in various sectors, both in national and international institutions, and will contribute to the modernisation of our digital systems."
“At first, the idea was to help authors. Later we realised that it was needed throughout society, so we started to develop a programme for everyone," Pranit said.
If influential people don't have a proper spell checker and continue to make mistakes, it will rub off on everyone, especially the youth, he said.
The project's technical manager and one of the programmers, Danh Hong, said the spell checker would derive its data from several respected sources, including the fifth edition of the Khmer Dictionary, technical lexicons and the glossaries of ministries and institutions, which have been approved for use by the Royal Academy of Cambodia.
For example, he said, the lexicon on climate change will use data from the Ministry of Environment, the Dictionary of Law and the Agriculture Glossary.
He said users will be able to access the spell checker at khmerwriters.com and enter Khmer text to review any spelling mistakes.
“The programme uses the latest technology and automatically checks words from multiple websites, including newly conceived words."
“It's nothing new for most of the world. It is long-established in all major languages. And a Khmer spell-checking programme had previously been initiated too, but it wasn't successful because Khmer characters are so complicated. But now we have tackled the issue again in response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Cambodia and the world."
“I have been coding the programme myself since 2013 and updating it every day, especially identifying new words on the internet,” Hong said.
The director of the Cambodian Centre for Applied Philosophy and Ethics Pa Chanroeun said the project would take two years, require a budget of some $40,000 and would need a full 10 years to become comprehensively up-to-date.
He said the team currently doing the research and programming were volunteers. The venture is run on a completely non-profit basis and, when complete, it will be available free of charge, Chanroeun said.
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport official Mao Suy Piseth, who attended the press conference on Sunday, said the ministry welcomed the project initiative.
“The spell checking programme will help us to correct errors in Khmer. Notwithstanding that, this is the first step. It is great progress and we are grateful to all who are volunteering,” he said.