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University Libraries computers break language barrier

The computers at the University’s libraries are speaking a new lan-guage — actually, several languages.

Input Method Editor (IME) software on the libraries’ computers will now let students input text into word processing documents, e-mail, Internet search engines and database searches using the characters or scripts from non-English languages while still using a standard keyboard. The program includes characters in both traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Hebrew.

At the start of this semester, Xiuying Zou, Asian Studies librarian, taught a seminar to introduce the new option to some of Binghamton’s graduate students. The ability to use the characters of non-English languages is expected to be an academic asset for many students who can now prepare study notes, search databases and conduct research without having to translate text into English as they work, Zou said.

The program also provides students the option to effectively research databases created in those languages.

For example, using Chinese characters when searching a Chinese database can greatly enhance search results, Zou said. Searching a database for articles on poet Du Fu with the Roman characters results in just seven articles. A second search, using the Chinese characters for the poet’s name, brings up 154 articles.

“If you have no ability to put in the characters, you won’t be able to use these databases,” Zou said. Access to IME also has emotional benefits, making it easier for students to keep in touch with friends and family at home.

“They really want to communicate in their own language, especially when they have someone at home who doesn’t really understand English, and that is very common,” she said. “Back in China, the older generation may only read (Chinese) characters.” IME is part of the Microsoft operating system used on the library’s computer system. There was no additional cost for the software.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08