Latest update: Bing have changed their links yet again. This is the 4th or 5th time they done it, and I no longer use Bing and will never use it again. I'm trying other online dictinaries like Baidu and Youdao, as well as Jukuu for example sentences.
Update: Since originally writing this article, the Bing dictionary has changed its way of making links for words... again. Which means all the links I originally put into the article don't work any more. And it no longer provides results for the € symbol... at all. Not a single one. So I don't feel Bing is as good as I used to think.
Microsoft's Engkoo/Bing is a great free online resource for ESL students, especially Chinese ones. Dictionary, thesaurus, translator, example sentences, pronunciation audio, even videos. I often put Bing links for words in my posts so that students can get more info on them But like anything in life, Engkoo/Bing is not perfect.
For example I wanted to give a Bing link to my students for €, the symbol for the euro, the common currency of most countries in the EU.
A search on Bing didn't provide a definition or explanation, but it did offer many example sentences, e.g.:
"It is a question of fairness," he said, arguing the public sector had contributed more than €4,000bn in guarantees to help banks.
One difficulty for my students is how to say that symbol €, so I clicked on the little speaker icon at the end of the sentence to hear it pronounced. Try it for yourself!
The pronunciation was fine... until it got to the symbol and numbers. Then it became a disaster.
Let me make something clear here: the pronunciation of example sentences isn't done by a real person but by computer software, and apparently they forgot to program the software to understand how to say numbers & money in English.
English speakers write currency symbols before the number, but know to say the currency after the number. We also know some letters at the end of a number are an abbreviation of a larger number, and we know to say the larger number, not just letters.
The quantity of money in this example is €4,000bn. An English speaker would see that and pronounce it as "four thousand billion euros". But the software said: "euro four... zero zero zero B N". A total disaster.
The number in digits: 4,000,000,000,000
Then there's another problem: most English speakers wouldn't express that number as four thousand billion. Once it you get to that many digits, we change from billion (often abbreviated as bn or B) to trillion (often abbreviated as trn or tn or T). A confusing problem with numbers in the West is that there are 2 ways of deciding how many digits quallify as a billion, a trillion etc.
Most Europeans (and older Britons) use long-scale names for numbers. E.g. 1,000,000,000 would be said as "one thousand million".
But most modern English-speakers use short-scale numbers. E.g. 1,000,000,000 would be said as "one billion". Click here for info on long- and short-scale numbering.
So really an English speaker would say that number as "four trillion euros" (and write it as €4 trillion or €4trn).
I found the original article in English (requires free registration with the Financial Times) where the example sentence comes from, which also says "€4,000bn". This is possibly due to an error translating from a European language like French (the language of the city of Strasbourg, where the article was written) or Portuguese (the mother tongue of José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission). "€4,000bn" seems to be a mistake combining both long-scale and short-scale naming in one number. So this mistake seems to be the FT's fault, not Bing's.
G.A.L.E.S.L. / joe3
Some tips and links on learning English.