You’ve finally made the long dramatic adjustment from the J-E dictionary to the J-J dictionary. English is but a faint memory in the vast Japanese world you now dwell in. You are fully engaged 100% with the Japanese language and no handicap is required. You are far past wondering, “can I just use English this one time? I just need it for this one difficult word.” You’ve overcome the temptations. All is well and everything is the way it should be. Or is it?
English will occasionally experience a minor return from banishment. I believe there are 3 exceptions where English still deserves a home in your Japanese only world.
Exception 1: You require the exact English word.
Sometimes mere understanding of Japanese isn’t enough. You need to know what the exact English equivalent is. The most common occurrence of this is if you ever do any kind of translation or interpretation work. You can’t just translate the Japanese to a general English meaning, and sometimes you can’t guess the exact required word. You can’t get around saying “bond’s term to maturity” or “currency futures/swaps” by just generally describing them. Some words carry very specific meaning and require the exactness that only the J-E dictionary can provide.
Exception 2: You require the exact Japanese word.
This is the above in reverse. You want to know how to say something in Japanese. There are ways to look up a specific Japanese way of saying something by using a Japanese search in Google. But this doesn’t always achieve the results you want. You want to know how to say “velcro” right now in Japanese, and trying to describe it in a Japanese search just isn’t working out. The E-J dictionary will satisfy your need.
Exception 3: You don’t really even know the exact meaning in English.
There are plenty of words in English that you know when you hear them, use them, but couldn’t really explain them well if someone asked you. If you read an English definition and don’t know what word it would be, reading the Japanese definition won’t help you any more. This often comes up in science with biology (especially diseases), chemistry, and physics.
Don’t try to convince yourself that the reason you need to use English is because it falls into one of the categories above. This will lead to nothing worthwhile. Just because it is a complex or specialized word doesn’t mean you need English. If you are struggling with the word, try the following:
1) Use pictures with Google images.
2) Search through RTK, use the keywords, and try to piece together the word.
3) Read a lot of sample sentences online.
4) Look up the word on a website like Chiebukuro and put in the search bar “_____ ってどういう意味”, what is the meaning of ______. Native speakers have trouble with word meanings as well, and people are very good at simplifying difficult concepts on this website.
5) Do anything else that doesn’t involve English.
Remember: J-J is the rule. English is the rare intruding exception.