Writing a Greek-English translation tool

I want to translate bits of ancient Greek from time to time.  Since I don’t do it a lot, I have trouble remembering vocabulary and which part of speech or inflection it is. 

There are tools out there which help.  There is the Perseus look-up tool, although it is too slow to be useful.  There is the Diogenes tool, based on the Perseus dictionaries, which runs fine on Windows and is fast and useful.  But it’s not quite what I want.  There are various text files for the New Testament which are good, but… a bit raw.

I feel that what I want is something that gets rid of time spent looking in dictionaries.  It must save me the trouble of moving my head left-and-right between text and translation.  It must handle text in unicode Greek, and given me transliterations when I need them.  It must handle accents, and do something when they are wrong.

It doesn’t need some of the facilities of Perseus and Diogenes.  It doesn’t need a TLG, for instance. It might be useful to research a word in depth, and look at use in other texts, but what I need more is a quick idea of meaning and then onto the next word, so that I can understand the sentence, the thought.

For the last few months, as time permitted, I’ve been putting together a small Windows application which suits my special requirements.  I’ve tried in the past, but there has never been time to spend the day-after-day coding that wears down obstacles and refactors code into better form.  Issues of speed of loading are also something that can rarely be addressed quickly.

But today was something of a red-letter day; today I used it for something useful, and got an answer.  I pasted into it a bit of an inscription from Pessinus, and got a clear idea of what was being said, in a few words.

Of course I also got a clear message of some deficiencies that must, must be fixed now!  Nothing like real use to highlight these. 

But for the first time I got a clear idea that it will work, and will do what I want.

There will be licensing issues on dictionaries etc, but these I will have to look at and negotiate.  I hope to make it available as shareware, in a few months, if I can get permission.

4 Responses to “Writing a Greek-English translation tool”


  1. ikokki

    I think that several Greek universities have made some programs/algorithms for automatic translation. The problem is that the syntax of ancient Greek has little to do with the syntax of english, not to mention that ancient greek repeatedly get ambiguous

  2. Roger Pearse

    Syntax is quite a problem, which is why I’m not writing a machine translator. So I’m going to ignore the problem and let the user (me!) sort it out.

    But a human can deal with syntax fairly easily. It’s remembering the vocabulary and inflections that stymies most of us.

  3. Seumas

    Sounds like a good contribution. The venerable Whitaker’s Words vastly increased my speed at Latin translation, for the very reason I didn’t have to move my focus, flip through dictionaries, etc..

  4. Roger Pearse

    Exactly. I’m hoping to optimise stuff already available, to enable just such efficiency of working.



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