The Bilingual Corrector 2.0
Susan Carpenter Binkley - The College of Wooster
Product at a glance
Grammar Correction Software
French and English
Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced
Windows: 95b or c, 98, NT, 2000, ME, XP
IBM-compatible PC with Pentium processor
Windows: 32 MB
Hard Disk Space
Windows: 75 MB of available hard disk space
Needed only for installation
Printed: User's Guide and Installation Guide (two separate documents)
On-line technical support
all prices in CANADIAN DOLLARS
Single copy: $127 (~US$82)
Network license: Decreasing scale depending on number of stations, e.g.,
10-19 users: $51 per user (~US$33)
The Bilingual Corrector (Corrector) is a comprehensive tool to facilitate correct written expression in French and English. It is similar to French grammar checkers such as Antidote, Sans-Faute, and Le Correcteur, but offers more capabilities than these predecessors, most notably, its ability to analyze text that is written in English as well as in French. Because of its bilingual function, it cannot necessarily be considered merely the latest version of Le Correcteur. Its developer, Groupe documens (formerly Machina Sapiens), promotes the French portion of the program as being "based on" the technology of Correcteur 101 (User's Manual, p. 5) rather than as the latest release of that program. Its English module was developed for non-native speakers of English, primarily for French and Spanish native speakers.
Corrector's core function is akin to that of other grammar checkers: the user creates a written document and examines its grammatical content by consulting the various resources offered by the software. The text to be analyzed by Corrector can come from numerous sources. One may write directly within Corrector's text field, or in another software's text field, such as in Word, WordPerfect, Eudora, or PowerPoint. For the latter, Corrector will check the text via Symbiosis, a tool that allows the user to launch Corrector functions without departing from the original text-processing program. In such cases, the user creates a document in Word, for example, then accesses Corrector through the Symbiosis (Symbiose, in French) toolbar which appears in the Word window. This is a welcome feature because it permits one to use the normal text formatting of a familiar program, rather than requiring the user to create text solely in Corrector which offers few text formatting options.
The main features of Corrector, in both French and English, are the dictionaries, the verb conjugators, the sentence checker, and the whole text checker. Within each of these tools are numerous sub-tools. As advertised on the packaging, the "10 tools in 1" include: Symbiosis, correction, grammar, spelling, punctuation, definitions, synonyms, conjugations, full-text, and hyphenation. Several of these listed items are integrated into the dictionary tool, so it's a bit of a puzzle why the comprehensive dictionary is not explicitly promoted as a tool, but hyphenation, a rather infrequent concern in writing, receives top-billing.
CALICO has provided its readership with reviews of previous versions of Correcteur, of Antidote, and most recently of Sans-Faute. 1 I referred frequently to these reviews, particularly the most recent review of a French grammar checker (Kathryn Murphy-Judy's review of Sans-Faute) and the most recent of Correcteur (by Eugene Mogilevski) to guide my own evaluation of The Bilingual Corrector. Where weaknesses were discovered and strengths revealed in the other products, I have attempted to determine whether this product, too, suffers the same inadequacies and can boast of the same abilities.
The Corrector comes with two separate printed manuals: The User Guide and the Installation Guide. The User Guide is a professionally printed manual, whereas the Installation Guide appears to be a poor-quality photocopy. Nevertheless, following the instructions in the Installation Guide, I experienced no difficulties installing the product, and installation on both PC and Mac was uneventful.2
The Installation Guide also serves as a guide to using Corrector with other software through Symbiosis. It is not clear why the two manuals--the User Guide and the Installation Guide--are separate documents, particularly because the Symbiosis tool is such an integral feature and merits full explanation in the User Manual. In fact, the description of and directions for using Symbiosis are unexpectedly scant. This is unfortunate because I experienced a moderate level of frustration with Symbiosis and was unable to find documentation on the problems I encountered--namely how to launch Symbiosis in the first place. After repeated attempts, it suddenly began working, but I have yet to determine the cause of its dysfunction to begin with, as well as its sudden functioning later on.
I also encountered sluggish operation with Symbiosis. Symbiosis responded slowly, particularly when I attempted to shut it down; the screen hesitates on every occasion to quit the program, which is slightly bothersome because I must shut down Symbiosis separately every time I shut down Word.
Mogilevski noted in his review of Correcteur that because the interface language was in French, its potential use for students of French as a foreign language (FLE) was somewhat limited. The user interface in Bilingual Corrector, however, can be adjusted so that on-screen helps, comments, and toolbars appear in either French or English. This accommodation thus allows the program to be more flexible in its pedagogical role to English-speaking FLE students, as well as to French-speaking English as a Second Language (ESL) students.3
As with most programs produced today, users may access the menu items by pulling down the menu items listed across the top of the screen, or by clicking on an icon on a customized toolbar. The primary options available for the icon toolbar are:
Corrector is able to recognize whether sentences are to be analyzed in French or in English, so clicking on "Check Current Sentence" is usually all that is necessary. The program can be confused by cognates and punctuation issues unique to each language (e.g., the required space after a colon in French) so forcing a check in a particular language may be necessary on occasion.
To begin the sentence check, the cursor is placed at any point within the sentence to be verified. When the analysis is launched, a "results" window appears and displays the recommended, corrected text. The user's original text remains in a separate window and is not automatically modified. The results window displays several indicators in various shapes and colors to signal errors and to make suggestions (see Figure 1). These indicators include a summary of results (e.g. "one mistake found"); a "diagnostic symbol" at the beginning of the sentence (a red square means errors were found; a green circle means the sentence is correct; a yellow diamond cautions that sentence could not be fully analyzed); and a series of correction symbols superscripted above problematic words. These symbols highlight grammar and spelling errors, unknown words, typographical errors, possible alternatives, suggestions, and partial analyses. Double clicking on the symbols prompts an explanation bubble that briefly describes the error, caution, or suggested change.
The user must choose to accept or decline the suggestions according to Corrector's interpretation. Correcteur 101, as Mogilevski points out, allows for either manual or automatic correction. This explicit choice is no longer featured on Bilingual Corrector's menu, which implies Corrector's commitment to its role as an assistant to the writing process. The User's Guide furthermore reminds us on several occasions that the decision to change the original text resides with the user. It also advises writers to compose shorter sentences both as a service to the intended audience as well as to Corrector. This aspect is important to note because the Corrector can be subject to inappropriate suggestions or incomplete analyses, particularly when the sentence contains several clauses.
The Check Text and Check Sentence options allow the user to determine the degree of analysis to be performed. For example, to check the entire body of text, one can request a grammatical break-down of the text ("Complete" verification), or to see only certain types of errors ("Fast" verification).
The dictionary is bilingual. Words in both French and in English are presented with definitions, synonyms, hyphenation, and morphology (see Figure 2). This tool is one of the strongest aspects of the program. It contains extensive entries, furnishing the user with a lengthy list of synonyms for virtually any word chosen.4 Like its predecessor, Corrector allows the user to add words to the dictionary, such as proper nouns and newly coined expressions. One may also create multiple "Personal dictionaries" to be unique for different written projects. A Petit Robert and Bilingual French/English Larousse are sold separately for installation as well.
Corrector can render a full grammatical analysis of each sentence in a break-down that is reminiscent of a sentence diagram, but in textual form. Corrector's thorough explanation of a given sentence deciphers each word and ascertains its part of speech and role within the sentence. This information can be helpful, but may overwhelm the user who is not well-versed in grammar terminology (e.g., "adverbial of the coordinated elements," and "kernel of the main clause").
Verb conjugators are available in both French and English, but they behave differently. In the French module, one finds a complete, traditional conjugation table for the selected verb. The English module is interactive and requires the user to select the elements of the verb to be conjugated: person, mood, voice, tense, and so on.
The French portion also provides a link to ARGO (Abrégé des Règles de Grammaires et d'Orthographe), a thorough French grammar that opens within a Web browser window. Some error explanations in Corrector refer the user to ARGO for a more detailed grammatical explanation.
While past reviews of French grammar correction software have included error-detection statistics and comparisons of these figures with those in other reviews, I will instead provide comparison by committing some of the sample sentences used for previous review to Corrector's grammar check.
Mogilevski submitted the following passage to two Correcteur 101 versions; Murphy-Judy subjected Sans-Faute, Antidote, Correcteur Didactique, and M-S Word to this same passage. According to Mogilevski, this short, error-ridden essay contains 21 accentuation mistakes, 2 misspellings, one modality and two conjugation errors, three adjective gender agreement mistakes, and seven vocabulary mistakes:
Le film le plus reussi que j'ai vu cette annee c'est la seance d'"Une Pure Formalite". Ce film, tres bizarre, avait la puissance qu'on ne trouverait pas dans un film ordinaire. Gerard Depardieu, en tant que charactere principal etait excellente dans sa role.
Quand le film etait mis en oeuvre je me trouvais devenir confuse parce que le scenario progressait tres rapidement, entre les scenes. On ne pouvait pas concentrer sur les evenements individuellement, et il etait difficile de tenir l'histoire. Pour qu'on ait été pu comprendre l'histoire, on devait attendre jusqu'à la fin du film. Donc, c'etait la fin du film qui etait la plus importante.
Certainement l'essence de ce film remarqable etait revélé à la fin.
I first chose to check each sentence individually in Corrector--the "Check Sentence" option--and then clicked on "apply correction" to accept the proposed changes, which I have underlined below:
Le film le plus réussi que j'ai vu cette année c'est la séance d'"Une Pure Formalite". Ce film, très bizarre, avait la puissance qu'on ne trouverait pas dans un film ordinaire. Gérard Depardieu, en tant que caractère principal était excellente dans son rôle.
Quand le film était mis en oeuvre je me trouvais devenir confuse parce que le scénario progressait très rapidement, entre les scènes. On ne pouvait pas concentrer sur les événements individuellement, et il était difficile de tenir l'histoire. Pour qu'on ait eu pu comprendre l'histoire, on devait attendre jusqu'à la fin du film. Donc, c'était la fin du film qui était la plus importante.
Certainement l'essence de ce film remarquable était révélée à la fin.
In addition to the above notations, the following words were flagged with either "warnings" or proposed "alternatives." Corrector highlights these with an exclamation point and red arrow, respectively. I have listed the headline for the cautions, but not the full explanation given by Corrector:
With this passage, Bilingual Corrector fared roughly the same as Correcteur Didactique (see Murphy-Judy for detailed results), but better than Correcteur's 2.2 and 3.5 versions in both automatic correction and detection only modes (see Mogilevski for detailed results). In fact, Bilingual Corrector and Correcteur Didactique produced virtually the same analysis. It performed nearly flawlessly with accentuation, spelling, and adjective agreement errors, but still has difficulty analyzing more complex expression such as "je me trouvais devenir confus" and "pour qu'on ait été pu." It issued more warnings than necessary, cautioning the writer on "film" and "attendre" when these were in fact used correctly.
With the option, "Check Text, complete verification," Corrector gives the same analysis as above, but the results appear in a window that is very different from the "Check Sentence" results window. Although I found the latter preferable aesthetically, the former has the advantage of supplying a long pull-down menu of phonetically similar words to choose from (see Figure 3). I then could correct "Formalite" with "Formalité," an option not offered in the "Check Sentence" mode.
When I put this passage through "Check Text, fast verification," rather than sentence by sentence, there were fewer false alarms. But the lack of a full grammatical analysis (i.e., a "complete verification") meant that agreement errors such as "sa rôle" and "excellente" were undetected, as well as a few spelling errors. Thus "Check Text, fast verification" functions essentially as a quick spell checker.
I submitted several other bodies of text as well, short and long, in both English and in French, including a few that I downloaded from Websites that provide students with free essays. I found no outstanding differences between the program's analysis of texts in English and of those in French. There were some differences, as one would expect, such as in the following two examples:
In general, Corrector seems to fare best with simple sentences whose errors are straightforward. Writing that is very error-prone, has odd word combinations in error, or attempts to be stylized (or convoluted as the case may be, such as in the downloaded free essays!) clearly confuses the program. In such cases, it either recommends incorrect changes, or completes only a "partial analysis," where it warns the writer that it cannot fully analyze the sentence. A poorly written paper remains a poorly written paper after Corrector's analysis, except for the most obvious spelling, verb conjugation, and agreement mistakes which are usually identified appropriately by Corrector.
French grammar correction software may have reached a plateau with Bilingual Corrector. As comparison with Antidote, Sans-Faute, and Le Correcteur reveals, the degree of accuracy in grammar correction does not seem to improve dramatically with each new product or version of that product. Advances at this stage, therefore, may not be in the field of error-detection per se, but in the features that such software can offer to the user, and how the program presents its findings. The various options--the whole package--is what makes Bilingual Corrector appealing: correction in both English and French, extensive dictionary features, grammatical tips and explanations, reference material, and of course, the ease with which a user can access these features. The interface, instructional design, and intuitive layout make the program relatively effortless to utilize. The fact that Corrector puts the onus on the user to make changes, and forces the user to be an active participant in the revision of a text, renders the product a solid resource for pedagogical purposes.
Scaled rating: (1 low, 5 high)
Implementation possibilities: 4+
Pedagogical features: 5
Use of computer capabilities: 4
Ease of use: 4
Over-all evaluation: 4
Value for money: 4 (individual copy) / 5 (site license)
1. Kathryn Murphy-Judy, "Sans-Faute Writing Environment," CALICO Software Review, (calico.org/CALICO_Review/review/sansfaute00.htm); Jack L. Burston, "A Comparative Evaluation of French Grammar Checkers," CALICO Journal, 13, 2-3 1995-96; Eugene Mogilevsky, "Le Correcteur 101: A Comparative Evaluation of 2.2 versus 3.5 Pro," CALICO Software Report, September 1998 (calico.org/CALICO_Review/review/c10135.htm); Jack Burston, "Antidote 98," CALICO Software Report, January 1999 (calico.org/CALICO_Review/review/antidote00.htm).
2. The majority of the testing for this review was performed on a Macintosh PowerBook G3.
3. Continuing my difficulties with Symbiosis, I was unable to adjust the help language to English even after repeated attempts to alter it.
4. Since I installed Corrector on my computer, I have found myself referring to its list of synonyms rather than to the thesaurus tool in Microsoft Word.
Susan Carpenter Binkley (Ph.D., French, The Ohio State University), is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of French and Instructional Technologist at the College of Wooster. She recently served as Language Technology Specialist for the Five Colleges of Ohio Consortium, funded by a grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation. Her current research projects are in the use of digital video with native language speakers.
Reviewer contact information
The College of Wooster
Wooster, OH 44691