Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon

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Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon
CAPL logo.png
Type of site
Available in German
Owner Washington & Jefferson College
Created by Michael R. Shaughnessy
Registration no
Launched 2003
Current status active
Content license

The Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon is a dictionary database of images of various objects in a culturally authentic setting for language learning. All images are presented with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, allowing for broad academic use by language teachers.[1] The database is also useful for researchers in the field of applied linguistics, visual cognition, and automated image recognition.[2] The database averages 30,000 hits per month and has been incorporated into the curricula of many college and high-school level German teachers.[3]

The idea for the lexicon is partially based on Shaughnessy's experience with teaching materials that used American-based images and clip art to demonstrate German words and concepts.[4] By presenting objects in their culturally authentic context, the CAPL is designed to prepare students to live in the environment where the language is spoken.[4] The photographic entries are real photographs, not clip art, to force teachers to "teach terms for things that actually occur in everyday German life – instead of American concepts that have no direct European equivalent."[4]

The project was founded in 2003 as a pilot project with over 1,000 unique entries for the German language. The first images were collected by Shaughnessy in Germany and Austria through a grant from W&J College.[1] In 2006, it received a $200,000 appropriation from the U.S. federal government.[5] In 2008, the project was expanded to include more languages thanks to a $85,480 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.[3]

The CAPL was featured in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education[4] and has been recommended for use by the Goethe Institute, German Academic Exchange Office and the National Capital Language Resource Center.[3] The book The Bilingual Mental Lexicon noted the Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon's value in German language instruction for "naming and sorting activities, and in awareness-raising discussions."[6]


  1. ^ a b "About CAPL". Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon. Washington & Jefferson College. 
  2. ^ Park, Jane (June 18, 2009). "CAPL, the Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon". Creative Commons. 
  3. ^ a b c "Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon". Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education Grant Database. United States Department of Education. 06/01/2008.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d Read, Brock (December 12, 2003). "Professor's Web Site Uses Photographs to Teach the German Language". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 
  5. ^ "SENATORS SANTORUM AND SPECTER ANNOUNCE COMMITTEE APPROVAL OF WESTERN PA EDUCATION PROJECTS" (Press release). Office of Senator Arlen Specter. July 24, 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2012-08-09. $200,000 for Washington & Jefferson College in Washington County to support foreign language programs. Funding including the expansion of the Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon (CAPL), an online German-language picture dictionary, that provides undergraduate foreign language teachers and students with a culturally authentic, easy-to-use Web-based learning tool. 
  6. ^ Pavlenko, Aneta (January 15, 2009). The Bilingual Mental Lexicon. Multilingual Matters. p. 155. ISBN 978-1-84769-124-8. 

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