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Trictionary (1982) is a 400-page trilingual English/Spanish/Chinese translation wordbook. It covers about 3,000 words in each language. The book was compiled by anonymous volunteers, mostly younger students from New York City whose native language was English, Spanish or Chinese. The compilation was done, as The New Yorker reports (10 May 1982) "by the spare-time energy of some 150 young people from the neighborhood" aged between 10 and 15, two afternoons a week over three years.[1] The project was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and work was done at the Chatham Square branch of the New York Public Library. The original idea was developed by Jane Shapiro, a teacher of English as a Second Language at Junior High School 65, helped by Mary Scherbatoskoy of ARTS (Art Resources for Teachers and Students).

Tom McArthur, in his 1986 book Worlds of Reference,[2] thought of the project as a future model for reference work creation: group collaboration, volunteer work and no single or named author. "I am considering something much more radically interesting: turning students on occasion into once-in-a-lifetime Samuel Johnsons and Noah Websters." [2] McArthur's observation was prescient, the project is now seen as an early model of social information processing.[3]


  1. ^ Alastair Reid, The Talk of the Town, “Triple Play,”, The New Yorker, May 10, 1982, p. 31
  2. ^ a b Tom McArthur. Worlds of Reference: lexicography, learning and language from the clay tablet to the computer. Cambridge University Press. 1986. pp. 181-83. ISBN 978-0-521-31403-9
  3. ^ "Wikipedia before Wikipedia", Dan Visel, if:book, The Institute of the Book, February 12, 2009

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