Haro Mherian is a 1990 graduate of UCLA, with a Ph.D. in Mathematics, and has worked as Software Engineer/Architect for more than 18 years. Currently, he is trying to get back to his “In-Armenian” multivolume Mathematics/Physics research work on one hand, while nurturing a startup Armenian Cultural web portal at www.hyspell.com, on the other. Asbarez caught up with Mherian to discuss the recent release of: HySpell Armenian Spell Checker for Microsoft Office 2007.
Asbarez: In few words, can you explain what HySpell does, and what it really contributes to the Armenian community around the globe?
H.M.: First, I want to thank Asbarez news for inviting me to this interview. In a nutshell, HySpell Armenian Spell Checker is a new Add-In to the Microsoft Office 2007 Word, which enables a Microsoft Word user to spell check Armenian text in both Western and Eastern Armenian dialects with Classical (Mesrobian) Orthography. Basically, it is the first of its kind regarding the Armenian language software platform.
Asbarez: Why do you say – “the first”, surely there are a couple of spell checkers that are still in use today, for example: PowerSpell, or if you remember Bytec Computers’ spell checker?
H.M.: Yes, there was a very good Armenian spell checker by Bytec based on Classical Orthography, but only for Western Armenian. This software is now obsolete. Also, recently, we heard of the release of another spell checker with the name PowerSpell, but this later one is implemented for Reformed Orthography, and has some limitations regarding performance. In any case, the platforms of both of these spell checkers, as far as I know are becoming obsolete. There was also a third attempt by Microsoft Language Team that released an alpha version of a spell checker, which again was in Reformed Orthography, and did not pass even 30% accuracy margin, pretty scary tool for a spell checker.
Asbarez: So, how does your HySpell spell checker excel in comparison to these other ones?
H.M.: Well, first of all, a spell checker needs to be extremely accurate. Otherwise it defies its purpose. Secondly, HySpell implements Classical Orthography, and understands both Eastern and Western dialects. It has a root-word dictionary currently exceeding 156,000 legal Armenian words, together with more than 300 inflection grammar rules. This means that it can span over 5 million legal Armenian word tokens, the largest lexical output known so far. In the next upgrade version, this lexicon-base will exceed 180,000 root-words literally bringing the speller’s accuracy to near 100%. In other words, you can learn Armenian spelling by depending solely on HySpell software.
Asbarez: You brought an interesting controversial subject to my mind. Isn’t it true that if we use spell checker tools, we will depend more on computers, and thus never learn spelling properly?
H.M.: No, I believe the contrary is true. This has been proven over and over again. Using a spell checker software tool does in fact improve the user’s spelling, as well as, the vocabulary base. It also makes writing an enjoyable experience by eliminating a lot of the tedious tasks of proof reading via dictionary books.
Asbarez: So how can HySpell help the Armenian user that can hardly speak Armenian let alone writing or typing in Armenian?
H.M.: Good question… I guess most Armenians sooner or later will get to this situation if they do not feel the need to use the Armenian language. But, to blame one’s kid for not speaking Armenian is the worst thing that one can do to preserve the usage of the language. This approach has already backfired on our communities and proven itself to be a wrong method. The correct approach is to spread the Armenian language elements over the media tools and gadgets, so that the youth can get into friction with these elements, and thus develop affection for the language. Armenian language is one of the most beautiful and developed languages.
Asbarez: If for example, iPhone comes with an Armenian keyboard, everyone will use Armenian with fun for text-message conversation.
H.M.: Yes, that is precisely the main idea. Anyways, getting to my point about the youth, it is interesting to note how the youth quickly learns and masters the usage of new gadgets or game software. Our problem is that whereas the new generation is using electron level media, we are trying to teach our youth with old paper and pencil media. Clearly, this methodology is doomed to failure.
Asbarez: OK, so let’s say one wants to use your software, where should she or he start?
H.M.: To get the software, you can buy and download directly at www.hyspell.com. It is quite affordable, and the introductory price is $50 per user license. There is also, a Professional version for $80. Both packages contain the spell checker and collections of new Unicode Armenian fonts, along with the Extended Armenian Typewriter keyboard driver. The system requirements are Windows XP, Windows Vista or 7, and Microsoft Office 2007 Word. Again, for more details visit HySpell website at www.hyspell.com, or send an email to [email protected] for further questions.
Asbarez: We were also informed that HySpell is available free of charge to all Armenian schools.
H.M.: Yes, that is true. My aim, besides trying to keep these Armenian language projects alive, is to spread the use of the Armenian language. To fulfil this goal, I have decided to distribute HySpell under Armenian School Free Site license. This means that all Armenian schools can get their site licenses free of charge, allowing teachers and their students to use the software freely on campus.
Asbarez: Superb, so what’s next for you?
H.M.: Right now, I am working on Armenian Thesaurus to be included in the next version of HySpell. Lots of improvements need to be worked out for the spell checker. I also need to work on hyphenation mechanism for the Armenian language.