People who learned English as their second language usually make different mistakes than English natives. This can be attributed to a number of factors with the differences between their native language and English being a major one. Computer programs that correct spelling errors are nowadays provided for most operating systems. They usually use a dictionary and compare the words written by a user against the words in the dictionary. Only a few programs can check for grammatical errors and those that do are usually not sophisticated enough to be of great help.
Microsoft Research has created an online tool called the ESL Assistant which aims to correct errors that are typical for ESL (English as a Second Language) users. The tool is provided as a web form and as a plugin for Microsoft Outlook.
Microsoft Research ESL Assistant has been developed in Silverlight which needs to be installed to access the website. The website itself uses a basic layout. The top form is used to copy English text into it. The online tool will then check the text for errors and display these with suggestions on how to fix them in the lower form. Errors are underlined in the first form and it is possible to use the controls to go forward or backward. It is also possible to click on an underlined word or phrase to go directly to its suggestions.
Not every suggestion offered by ESL Assistant is correct. A check on Microsoft's Bing search engine displays a percentage ratio for all suggested terms which could be an indicator aiding in picking the right phrase. The final decision has to be made by the user.
The Microsoft Outlook add-in is compatible with Microsoft Outlook 2007. It will place a new button in the Outlook taskbar which will open the ESL Assistant website when it is clicked. The email message is automatically analyzed and corrections are displayed.
The ESL Assistant website contains the web form and the Microsoft Outlook add-in download.
Update: The ESL Assistant website is no longer available on the Internet. This also means that the add-in for Outlook is not available anymore.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.