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japanese dictionaries

Yesterday I discussed Anki, a really great flash card program that will help you learn faster. Today we will talk about another very important companion to learning Japanese, a dictionary! This dictionary has more than just the ability to look up words, it can give you examples in sentences and help you find kanji as well.

I have used a lot of dictionaries in my Japanese studies over the years. I originally started out with a cheap one that was fine for the beginner’s class I was taking, but lacked too many words once I started reading more difficult materials. When I was a student in Japan I purchased a Denshi Jisho (electronic dictionary) that had the ability to input kanji by hand. It worked great, but unfortunately most such dictionaries are designed for Japanese people and so it didn’t contain readings for the kanji.  The Japanese dictionary for the DS had the same problem. “Kotoba” is a great free tool for the iphone, but many times the kanji input won’t bring up the right characters.

So now that I have given you a list of some of the disadvantages, let’s discuss what we really want in a good Japanese dictionary.

  • Should be easy and quick to find words
  • Ability to easily look up kanji (by either hand input or radicals)
  • As cheap as possible (free is always good)
  • Ability to see words in context
  • Ability to switch back and forth from English to Japanese
  • Ability to take it with you (not much help if you can’t use it when you need it)

Denshi Jisho is a dictionary that in addition to being free, also meets all of these other requirements. In fact, I have found it can actually find words that some of my other dictionaries (ones I paid for) could not. Since it is an online dictionary you do need to have internet access to use it, but since everyone seems to have cell phones this shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, Denshi Jisho even has pages designed specifically for keitai and iphone use. In addition there is also a forum you can use to ask various questions.

Take a look at the site and try it out. I think you will find it is a very easy to use Japanese dictionary. You can find the site here:

Denshi Jisho