The Japanese dictionary: with you from your beginnings, always by your side through the hardships, and fighting with you to the bitter end. With such an important partner, you want to make sure that you’ve chosen wisely. With so many options of paper, electronic, and internet dictionaries, it can seem difficult to make this important decision.
But first, do you really need a dictionary?
Yes. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. You are learning a language. Japanese Level Up focuses on a lot on immersion-based methods, but you still need the dictionary. How else do you plan on getting through Anki?
How about paper?
No. Don’t even put one foot down that path. Paper dictionaries are relics of an ancient education system. They are time consuming to use, limited in depth, heavy, expensive, wear out, ugly, take up space, become outdated quickly, and give paper cuts.
And please ignore these 3 classic arguments paper fanatics love to present:
1. They are good starter dictionaries.
– If you had the full ability to wield either one, would you rather start with a wooden sword or Excalibur? Don’t start with crap just because you feel you aren’t ready.
2. I like looking at the words that appear before and after it.
– I guarantee that your love affair with this will fade quickly, and just in case you still have this passion, you can do the same thing with electronic or internet dictionaries now (under similar words, or words that start with the same kanji).
3. I remember words better by putting in the effort of physically looking it up.
– I really don’t know where to begin with this statement . . .
Please don’t use a paper dictionary.
How about electronic?
I’ve owned and abused 2 electronic dictionaries with my studies. They are portable, fast, modern, trendy, and have a very large database. While they carry a hefty price tag, usually around the range $300-$500, I was of the belief that it was worth it to have such a powerful tool at your fingertips. My favorite feature was the stylus built into most of the newer dictionaries that allowed you to look up the reading of a kanji you didn’t know. The electronic dictionary was at one time my dictionary of choice. That is until I realized the superior power of the internet dictionary.
– The sacred internet dictionary –
The internet dictionary possesses all the beneficial features of my once prized electronic dictionary. However it goes significantly above and beyond with some very valuable features.
– You can cut and paste words directly from any other website directly into the dictionary to look them up.
– You can cut and paste definitions and sample sentences directly into Anki sentence cards.
– They have much wider databases, with the most up to date modern, technical, and colloquial Japanese.
– The best ones gives you the candidates for the word you are looking for when you type in one character.
– There are often more sample sentences for you to input into Anki.
– You can use the stylus on IME to look up kanji you don’t know. You do this by clicking on the IME language bar, Japanese, and IME pad. You can then draw in the unknown character by using the mouse. I surprisingly didn’t know about this incredible feature until fairly recently, and it has rocked my world.
– You’ll never lose it, you have access it to as long as you have access to the internet, and it’ll never get stepped on causing you to buy a new one (worst moment of my Japanese studies).
– It is free.
Which internet dictionary is best?
I prefer the Goo Dictionary. The word candidate feature is what makes it really stand out above the rest.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.