...that gave birth to the Madura Sinhala-English on-line dictionary
by Anuradha Kodagoda
Name: Madura Kulatunga
Date of Birth:
23rd of March 1980
Home town: Matara
School: Royal College, Colombo 07
Education: Master of Science in Information Technology at Sikkim Manipal University.
Madura is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
"To children, the world and everything in it is new, something that gives rise to astonishment. It is not like that for adults. Most adults accept the world as a matter of course. This is precisely where philosophers are a notable exception. A philosopher never gets quite used to the world. To him or her, the world continues to seem a bit unreasonable - bewildering, even enigmatic. Philosophers and small children thus have an important faculty in common. The only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder…” This quote from Sophie's World by Jostien Gaarder, comes to mind when talking with Madura Kulatunga, an extraordinary Sri Lankan, who could easily be Sri Lanka’s own 'Zuckerburg',
Much like a kid with a lot to say and not enough time to say it, Kulatunga is the creator of well-known Madura Dictionary, a popular software among Sri Lankans, looking for Sinhala to English, or even English to Sinhala translation.
Born and bred in a Sinhala-speaking Buddhist family, Madura found it difficult to, speak, read or write in English. As many Sri Lankans struggling to understand another language, Madura too made copious use of the English-Sinhala dictionaries. But it was a time consuming process, and almost sidetracked his passion to be an English language pro.
Unwilling to let things slide by Madura was determined to find a solution to this problem. And after many endeavours, not all of them successful, he came up an innovative solution that will most likely earn him a place in history as the creator of the first online Sinhala-English dictionary in Sri Lanka.
"The past few years have mostly been about learning. I have been working on the dictionary project for several years, and what I have really learnt is that there are a few major technical barriers. They are not necessarily what I would have thought of at the beginning,” says Madura, explaining that there were times he almost gave up, because he thought he would never be able to overcome some the technical barriers. After a long fought battle he is now happy to have come up with a solution.
To become a software developer was never Madura’s childhood dream, as the computer was not part of the mainstream vocabulary during his growing up years.
His dream since age four was to become a pilot. Although today he could mark his imprints in the field of IT and earn a name as a software developer, to fly and airplane and make a perfect landing on a runway is still his dream.
Recalling his early fascination with computers, he says, “When the computer was introduced to us when we were schooling, I wanted to master the subject. Although many don't like computer programming, it was a key area I wanted to master,” adding that even without knowing much about computer technology, he realized it may open up unlimited avenues to utilize his creativity.
He says the internet at that time was an expensive and rare facility. He used to browse the internet in internet cafes, a popular pastime among youngsters at that time. And he got the idea of creating a website of his own while surfing the net.
The idea stuck and stayed with him for a while. However, even though he loved the computer and the internet, his struggle with the English language still continued to be a barrier. “Although we use English-Sinhala dictionaries, sometimes it is quite time consuming and discouraging. My idea of creating website of my own gradually transformed into creating a Sinhala-English dictionary,” he recalls, adding that the whole idea was based his need to overcome the language barrier.
Creating the required software was not easy. However, after two years of hardship, on November 23, 2002, Madura proudly launched the first ever software that facilitated the Sinhala-English dictionary, blazing a new path in Sri Lanka’s history of information technology.
The first user of his Madura Dictionary was his best friend from school, who also happened to be Madura’s role model in life. Madura paid his gratitude to his forever friend who is an inspiration in his life.
"He changed my life. He gave me the strength to believe in who am I and in my capabilities.
I'm forever thankful for the courage he has given me throughout life," says Madura.
The Madura Sinhala- English Dictionary is literally a household name today among many and several IT companies aware of the marketing value of this unique software have frequently urged Madura to sell his product for them.
However, Madura continues to rejects these invitations, deeming the project priceless because of his efforts and his courage in seeing it to fruition.
Professor Gihan Dias identifying Madura's enthusiasm and exceptional contribution to the IT industry in Sri Lanka and recently invited him to represent the ‘Symposium on Localised Systems and Applications’ held at the University of Moratuwa. At the symposium the presentation that Madura made was admired by the participants.
The Madura English-Sinhala Dictionary contains over 230,000 definitions and glossaries of technical terms. Doubling up as a thesaurus, it facilitates the translation from English to Sinhala and vice versa. It also has wildcards to increase the flexibility of search.
Free online service
The Madura English-Sinhala Dictionary is a free online services available on www.maduraonline.com.
Madura’s journey, which sought to help him overcome his handicap with the English language has now become a helpful tool for millions struggling to improve their English or Sinhala language skills, and is now available as a computer software, online website and android app.
The only child of government servant parents who are now retired, Madura likes to play cricket, swim and socializwe with friends. He describes himself as an ambitious, confident, practical and methodical person. His next adventure in IT is to develop and implement new projects of information technology that benefits the general public in there day to day life.