My Free and Open Kindle Formatted Spanish to English Dictionary

Over the holidays, I took upon myself a challenge. I’ve been fiddling around creating a Mobipocket format dictionary consisting of Spanish words and their English translations. I wanted to be able to set it as my primary dictionary on the Kindle and then use it for on-demand word translation as I gut through trying to read documents in Spanish. A few months back, I couldn’t find any unencrypted ones for sale although now apparently some do exist.

This seemed straightforward enough, so I did a little Ruby scripting (getting a crash course in Unicode characters in the process). I found these lists of Spanish word frequencies and wrote a script to parse them into one word per line. I then wrote a script to take lists of words from STDIN, check to see if they existed in the map and if not look them up from various online sources and add it, and then save it as a YAML file. It was most of a week including false starts and do-overs to finally run the whole list against online translating tools. From there, I created another script to take the YAML file and rewrite it as a (roughly) alphabetically sorted and tab delimited text file. With that done, I used these already available tools to take that file and create files suitable for Mobipocket Creator.

The upshot is that this Kindle formatted Spanish to English translation dictionary is available now to download, for free. [Update 2012/05/11 – I’d recommend you use Marc Sturm’s version as of today.] In order to use it, place it on your Kindle via USB or emailling it to your device. Go to “Home->Menu->Settings”, then “Menu->Change Primary Dictionary.” From that point, moving the cursor over a word will work like the dictionary used to with definitions, but with English translations of Spanish words.

I offer this to the world, for free, no strings attached. In fact, because of the Creative Commons license on it (described below) you are free to take the files and do whatever you want with them as long as you comply. Be aware of the following caveats with this dictionary:

1: This is a machine generated translation from various online sources. There is no guarantee of correctness for any given term. I did find and scrub some bogus racist translations that have been put into some online repositories, and there may be other erroneous or malicious terms submitted that have ended up in this dictionary. I warrantee nothing and can pretty much say there are some translations or source words that can offend delicate sensibilities. Over time I might try to find ways to improve this file, continue to fill out the dictionary word list and maybe even improve the translations that are already there. Keep watching this blog for future revisions.

2: There are still formatting issues for the dictionary popup lookup. While you will see your term first in the list, it will not stop at the following term. Any feedback on how to engineer the source files to make this work correctly can be sent to dave@evilgeniuschronicles.org or left as a comment on this post.

3: This book is offered with a Creative Commons license: BY-NC-SA For the required attribution, please provide a link to http://www.evilgeniuschronicles.org

4: This is a word-by-word dictionary, so you won’t get a translation for idiomatic phrases. That’s a downside. An upside is that because this was done word by word from frequency lists, conjugated Spanish verbs get their own entry and each get translated individually.

I’m glad to get any feedback on this dictionary, particularly on point #2. If anyone can describe how to reformat the HTML input files to make the dictionary popups not run together, I’d be highly appreciative. Beyond that, roll and have fun with it and let me know how it works for you. If someone can point me to directions on how to turn these source files into the equivalent version for the Nook, I’d be happy to publish that as well, although I’ll need volunteers to help me test it.

For me, I’m off to take another crack at Don Quixote.

[Update 2011/12/01] The long asked for source files have been committed to this repository at github. I don’t blame you if you can’t make heads nor tails of that as it stands, I certainly couldn’t. At my next available opportunity, I will document the process and try to improve the scripts. No timetable is promised nor implied, mileage may vary, secure your own mask before helping others.

Also, if you want to say thank you for this I ask for nothing other than clicking the Amazon ad in the upper right corner of this blog before you make a purchase sometime. It costs you nothing and kicks a few affiliate percentage points back my way. Thank you.

[Update 2012/05/11] Marc Sturm is the first person I know of to make a modification to this dictionary. He figured out how to make it work with the newer Kindles and has published his version. If you have a Kindle 3 or greater, I’d recommend using his version.

100 Replies to “My Free and Open Kindle Formatted Spanish to English Dictionary”

  1. Wow, this is one heck of a geek DIY thing to do. You rock, dude.

    It doesn’t matter if I never get a Kindle, just the fact you did this and are giving it away earns you major props from me.

    And if I do ever get a Kindle, you’ll have my thanks as well. šŸ™‚

  2. Tried it on my kindle. Works perfectly fine!! Many thanks! You’re a god!
    If ever you find it in you to do a French version it would be most appreciated.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you found it useful. I doubt I’ll ever do a French one because I care about Spanish and not about French. Someone else could take this idea and run with it for that one though.

  4. Oh, sorry for the crashingly obvious point-out; I was pointed to your site by a buddy, and I didn’t know you were already familiar with Calibre. I presume you already tried converting your mobi-formatted dict to epub? You needn’t publish either of these comments.

  5. Hi, thanks a lot for this enormous effort! But somehow, it does not worked for me. I followed precisely the instructions but there is no way Change Primary Dictionary appears to me. Am I missing something? thanks.

  6. Hello. I have the same problem as bruno. The option ‘change primary dictionary’ just doesnt appear for me. Any ideas?

  7. Thanks A lot

    I’m learning Spanish
    and it a great help
    with my kindle reading.
    It has more words than other dictionary.
    and also its a great help when i read
    with my iPaq

    Thanks Again
    Asaf (Israel)

  8. Wow this is an absolutely amazing piece of work! Thank you!

    Any chance of one coming for French?

  9. I just got the new Kindle 3. I installed the Spanish dictionary by USB, but, like others, there is no “Change Primary Dictionary” command in any of the Settings pages. I know there is a trick I have not learned, and am eager to learn Spanish while reading.
    Thank you for your excellent work.
    Peter Albert

  10. I get it. Once I am in settings I have to press “Menu” again to find “Change Primary Dictionary.” This is fantastic!

  11. Thank you for this. I was able to install without difficulty especially with the help of those who have gone before.

    Is there any way to achieve same function on my Kindle app for the IPad? The settings menu is much more limited than on the Kindle. Also, I don’t know where or how to put the dictionary on the IPad.

  12. Hi!
    I speak spanish and i want to know if it’s too difficult to do a english to spanish dictionary from these?
    Can you test these? i think that a lot of people would appreciate it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thank you.

    Your dictionary works great with the Kindle! Reading Spanish books on the Kindle is now a great way to improve your Spanish vocabulary.

  14. That’s a shame, your dictionary works better than the one I bought from Amazon. I’m happy though. šŸ™‚

    Thank you !

  15. i am considering getting a kindle, and this might be the thing that makes me decide to get one- been studying spanish by reading books, it would be great to be able to use this. is there a way to keep a running list of all the words you needed looked up in a book so you could go back and review them later?

    thanks,
    petri

  16. You just don’t know how much you made reading Spanish books in Kindle a lot easier. Amazon owes you a lot! šŸ™‚

  17. I installed it on my Kindle in 5 minutes, and it works perfectly. It makes reading Spanish books so much more pleasant.

    Thank you so much for making this application available to the rest of us.

  18. I’m a beginner and reading two books on my kindle: “A first Spanish Reader…” by Erwin W. Roessler and “An elementary Spanish Reader” by E.S. Harrison. I have been using the Miriam-Webster Spanish to English dictionary as my primary dictionary with these books. Now after downloading yours and using it for just a brief time, I find it really good, straight forward and helpful. Many thanks for all your work.

  19. Thanks you! This is exactly what I was looking for to help me maintain my Spanish while living in a country that speaks Arabic and getting no practice except in the summer! šŸ™‚

  20. Muchas Graces!

    I am traveling in Spain this month and find this diccionario extremely useful! Thank you very much for your efforts!

  21. Thanks a lot, a great tool as far as I could see rapidly, working perfectly. I’ll use it extensively for the next 3 months, so I’ll give you a ore complete feedback when I’m back and I’ve tackled Borges, Garcia Marquez and a few others.
    Thanks again!

  22. Que bueno!
    Muchas, muchas gracias hombre! Encontraba algunos en Amazon pero buscaba algo gratis, y gracias a ti, ya lo tengo!

  23. Thank you so much, just installed it, and works great!

    Are you aware of similar kindle dictionaries for other languages?

  24. Please somebody have a way to change the dictionary from English to Spanish in the kindle app for iPad ? I bought a meridian Spanish – English but the kindle app doesn’t allow me to changed. Somebody knows?

  25. If you publish something with a Creative License you should also publish the Kindle/Mobi source files. Otherwise nobody will be able to modify it or improve on it.
    For example, I could easily add an inflections index to it, that would improve the value of the dictionary, because it would show the definition of a base verb if you highlighted an irregular inflected verb and the definition of a singular noun if highlighted a plural noun etc.
    But without the source files this is impossible.

  26. I noticed that the Spanish frequency list has only 225,000 words. Do you plan on expanding on this soon? Ha ha

  27. I don’t think that insulting others who could actually contribute to your dictionary and make it better is a good idea and not exactly a sign of genius.
    Also I don’t think that you fully understand the CC licensing concept.

  28. I called you a dickhead because it really bugs me that you showed up to criticize using none@nowhere.com . Criticizing is a privilege for those willing to stand behind their words. I’m told my reaction to you makes me sound like the dickhead, so let me expand.

    1. Source code has been provided to half a dozen people so far who asked for it politely. Telling me how I’m giving this away incorrectly is not the way to achieve that.
    2. If the source code and source files were in publicly releasable form, I would have already released them. It will take a fair amount of time to get all that in a form I’m proud to release. Of the many irons I have in the fire, this is one of the lowest priorities. All the people I gave the source to had to acknowledge it wasn’t warranteed or good and that it would take a lot of them for them to work with it.
    3. You are flat out incorrect in your assertions about Creative Commons licensing, so in telling me I don’t understand it the onus is on you to be correct and you are not. I read the full legal code of the CC BY-NC-SA license from top to bottom and no mention of a requirement for source. For most of these works they specify, that isn’t even a defined quality. When Cory Doctorow releases books with a CC license, he is under no compulsion to release the origination Scrivener or Word file or whatever. So, telling me how wrong I am and how I don’t understand something when you are in fact incorrect bums me out.
    4. You want something from me, I want nothing from you. Common sense dictates that bumming me out is an ineffective way to get me to dump my precious resources into a task for you.
    5. The positive upside of this is that you are causing me to amend my comment policy to address anonymity. If you ain’t a whistleblower in fear of your job or a dissident in fear of your life, I am no longer accepting pushback from the anonymous. I am letting it hang out here so the minimum ante into this game is standing behind what you say.
    6. Assembling and publishing all of this remains on my list. At this time, if I had 1-3 days of effort to put into something, it wouldn’t be this. There are other projects I care more about and that are more timely. It will happen one day, I cannot predict when nor make promises.

    So there you go. You are factually incorrect and telling me I’m wrong anonymously I find an act of rudeness. Forgive me for reacting strongly to it.

  29. Hi! you are my hero, that is just what I want to do…I have a Ukrainian English.mobi dictionary installed, but it does not do lookups when I scroll over the word. I have encoded the book as ukrainian with html coding, but it still does not link to the dictionary. Could you please help?
    thanks!

  30. Hi!
    I have problems trying to download this great dictionary to my computer. My download always stops at 33%. Is it only me? Any idea of the solution to this problem?

    Some guy has made version 0.1a of this dictionary and I could not download that either. I have no problems with any other files.

    Can anyone help me?

  31. Intruder, did you set the book as your primary dictionary from the settings page? There is a special setting when creating the .mobi file to make it recognizable as a dictionary and thus available in that menu. It has to be unencrypted and a dictionary to do the rollover lookups.

    Pekka, the file itself is hosted at Libsyn. Unfortunately I can’t help you with download problems. Clear cache and restart browser? I dunno.

  32. I installed this on a Kindle 1, but it doesn’t seem to work. Installation was fine, it’s listed as the default, but I look up Spanish words, and nothing comes up. Even when I look up words I know are in the dictionary. Any ideas?

  33. OK, can someone help a tech idiot here. Twice now I have downloaded the dictionary to my computer, but I can’t seeem to transfer it to my Kindle3 šŸ™ I’ve been told open the C drive & the F drive & then drag it onto my Kindle, but somehow those don’t appear to be options for me. SOS, I have 2 books to read in Spanish that require frequent use of a dictionary (& I have more than a basic knowledge of the language). I’m frustrated cuz there’s got to be something here I’m missing – I know this isn’t rocket science. Thanks!

  34. This is awesome work – seems to work just fine to me. Thank you very much. No more reaching for the Spanish-English dictionary. Winner!

  35. What a wonderful amazing tool this is! I’m moving to Mexico soon and am studying Spanish.
    I just bought a new Kindle and this program dispelled any doubts about it’s usefulness to me.
    Thank you so much!

  36. Thanks Dave for this interesting article. I now realize it is possible to create my own dictionary… as I am looking for a Finnish to English dictionary to help me learn Finnish. Would it be possible to document your steps or see your source code? I was wondering if you used the tab delimited format you mentioned before using the tools on the stardict-lingea site, as they seemed to mention a Lingea source format, and that is were I got a bit confused šŸ™‚

    Thanks again,
    Robert

  37. I’ve been using the dictionary for almost a year now and it rocks. Thanks. I was just checking if you had fixed the weird bug where it’ll display the next words but no biggie. I don’t usually comment, but when I see anonymous dickheads I feel obligated to give you the appreciation you deserve

  38. I just wanted to say thank you! I’ve been looking all over for something like this, and I really appreciate it!! You’re awesome!

  39. Hello dave, thank you for this great work.
    I’m trying to create a portuguese dictionary for my kindle 3.

    I have followed your explanation and tried to create a test dictionary with 3 words, but i end up with an empty dictionary.

    Would it be possible to have a sample with a few words just to have a model to follow and make sure i do things properly ?

    If you have time for that i would very appreciate your help

    Thank you, Muito Obrigado

    StƩphan TOTH

  40. Cheers Dave,

    Your generosity and excellent product have just made my day! Can’t wait to read Allende, Marquez and Zafon in Spanish. Muchisimas gracias!

  41. Thank you so much! You just made learning Spanish quicker and easier and then you gave it away. This is the way the world should work. Thanks.

  42. Great stuff, it works very well so far. I am studying spanish as well and was looking for one. I would be interested also in a Spanish to French dictionary. If I find lexicons already available and open source, I would be possibly interested in your scripts to help convert faster the files.

    A big clap of hands to you, thanks again.

  43. thanks so so much! i’m brushing up on my spanish this summer in preparation for my position as a volunteer translator in a free clinic at my university. about to start reading la casa de los espĆ­ritus!

  44. Can this work on the nook? Sorry I’m a rank beginner in this ebook stuff. Ive been waiting for this technology. Thank you for your work.

  45. Just found this, fantastic thanks. I’m also just about to start reading la casa de los espiritus. Thanks so much!

  46. William, sorry. The Nook doesn’t know how to read the .mobi formatted file. I have no idea how one creates the same sort of dictionary for the Nook.

  47. Sorry, haven’t been replying to the comments. Most of 2011 has been lost to new baby. To answer the frequent questions:

    1. I don’t know how to do anything on the Kindle for iPad. I assume it isn’t possible until someone tells me different.

    2. I will never release another dictionary in any other language unless I develop an interest in learning that language. Until the baby is older or unless I find myself fleeing the USA, that ain’t happening.

    3. I still have never assembled the source code into something worth releasing. It is on my list but far from the top. Baby.

    4. If the download doesn’t work, you have problems getting it on the Kindle, don’t see the option to make it the primary dictionary or aren’t seeing the translation, sorry my friends but you are on your own. It is possible to make it work, so have patience and read the Kindle docs if necessary. This is free to the world but I can’t be Kindle/download support to the world.

    Thanks to everyone for the kind comments. It was a whim to publish this and I’m glad people are finding value in it.

  48. Blessings on thee. I’m learning spanish at uni, and thus, have a number of books en espanol on my kindle.
    I WAS reading them in PDF with the English version open in Kindle for PC, but for the kindle itself, that’s not so easy.

  49. This is an amazing addition to the Kindle reading experience! And for people who have trouble setting this dictionary as the primary dictionary, try loading it onto Kindle by USB and putting it in the “Documents” folder.

  50. Excellent stuff Dave! I accidentally deleted my Mirriam Webster Spanish-English Dictionary, and after reinstalling it (I still had it in my Calibre library) I decided to see if there was a free one on-line. I found your link, and have just downloaded it, and uploaded it to my Kindle using Calibre (for those of you having trouble I’d recommend that free download – it probably took two minutes in total). It seems to be at least as good as the one I bought from Amazon, and for those having trouble making it the default dictionary, you have to press menu button, settings, and then menu button again. Thanks for putting in the effort Dave, and enjoy your time with the little one, they grow up all too quickly.

  51. As a software developer I’d be happy to help develop this dictionary further by writing routines to auto-compute verb conjugations based on what I learned from writing the Spanish Quick Reference – http://qism.blogspot.com/2011/01/spanish-quick-reference-v2.html – and also to correct some of the entries. Unfortunately, I know nothing whatsoever about Kindle dictionaries (or any other standard dictionary format) … so, well, that could be a problem.

  52. Dave, this is really awesome. However, as an early adopter of the Kindle Touch… I learned today that Amazon totally screwed up dictionary/language stuff on the Touch, and that neither your dictionary nor any of the paid ones are working for most books. Could you send me the source files so I can hack on it a bit and see if I can trick the Touch into using it?

  53. hey, congrats, this is really cool. Is there any way to expand the dictionary’s vocabulary? Will there be any upgrades in the foreseeable future? Thx again, great job.

  54. First thanks so much for all your effort. I downloaded the file and put it in my basic kindle dictionary folder. However Kindle has decided that it is an English to Spanish dictionary so comes up as a choice for english dictionarys only. for some reason it was not put alongside my default spanish dictionary. Help appreciated

  55. Hi all,

    I’m having the same problem as Herbrick above, which is to say that it is listing itself as an English dictionary on my Kindle 4. This is obviously no use, and frustrating to boot in a ‘so near yet so far’ kinda way. If any learns how to get around this (I even tried changing the metadata but that didn’t help), please let me know. In the meantime I’m using this dictionary http://blog.mikeasoft.com/2011/01/05/free-as-in-gpl2-translation-dictionaries-for-the-kindle/, which is far inferior as if there is ANY variation on a word then it is not included. That is, if the verb is in any form except the infinitive it won’t show up, and if adjectives/nouns are in plural form that won’t be any good either.

    Anyway, something for those who are having the same problems I am to use between stations.

    Paul.

  56. Hi!

    Tried your dictionary, but have some trouble.
    My kindle detects it only as a english dictionary and not as a spanish as it should.
    So i can translate english books to spanish but i need it to translate spanish books to english.
    Hope someone can say me what’s my fault.

    Greetings,

    Mo

  57. Here is a free French dictionary which is entirely in French. Although it does not give English -French translations, I still found it useful because I was able to get the sense of the word out of the context when using this dictionary.

    Because of this total immersion in the French language, I’ve gotten practice not only reading but thinking in French!

    http://www.ebooksgratuits.com/details.php?book=1396

    LITTRĆ©, ƉMILE : Dictionnaire LittrĆ© (1860-1876)

  58. Eldon, I don’t know. I don’t have a Fire. Why don’t you try it out and let us know if it works.

    Moraven, this sounds like functionality beyond my Kindle 2, so I have no idea. Anything Kindle 3 specific will require someone other than me.

  59. This looks fantastic – just what I need. Thanks for doing it! But I can’t work out how to set it as a default dictionary. It doesn’t appear in the list of possible dictionaries. Any help would be hugely appreciated.

    Thanks again.

  60. workaround for kindle touch:
    I haven’t figured out how to fool kindle into thinking that this is a spanish dictionary, but I can fool the kindle into thinking that a spanish book is really an english book. Then this dictionary will work with that spanish book.
    protocol:
    1. Put this dictionary on the kindle. Emailing it to your kindle address or transferring it via USB should work.
    2. Select it as the default english dictionary (from home, go menu -> settings -> dictionaries -> english and select “EGC spanish to…”). If this dictionary is not an option, restart the kindle and look again.
    3. Download http://calibre-ebook.com/. Use calibre to interface with the kindle and transfer a copy of the spanish book to your computer. Use calibre to edit the metadata for that book from Languages:Spanish to Languages:English. Transfer the modified copy of that book back to the kindle.
    4. Read the book on the kindle, and see if the dictionary lookup now works and uses this dictionary. It did for me.

  61. Dude, legend is probably the most appropiate word to describe you. Seriously appreciate this tool – you deserve an medel.

  62. THANKS! You made my day. And my Spanish literature course. Oh dear. Life saviour. And money saviour. I’m a bit drunk. I love what you did! Thanks.

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