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March 26, 2009 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Nihongodict is an AJAXy online Japanese-English dictionary. The list of matches auto-updates as you type. You can enter (or paste in) romaji, Kanji or kana, and use character maps for hiragana and katakana. Results can be bookmarked.

It's huge fun to play with, and a nice front end to EDICT, a freely usable dictionary (see license) with about 120,000 entries, largely maintained by one person (Jim Breen, Monash University).

If you need more there are alternatives online; see Denshi Jisho, Yahoo! Japan, or you can roll your own.
posted by kurumi (36 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Add NiceTranslator to the list, it covers 34 languages in a similar AJAXy manner.
posted by geekyguy at 11:05 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am already really, really, really following too many languages as it is -- but I decided to add Japanese after reading Khatzumoto's blog (aka: ajatt on Twitter). His primary "first step" advice is to dive into about 3000+ Kanji (using Heisig's "Remember the Kanji") via some spaced repetition system (SRS) of your choice (like ANKI (which comes with a set of Heisig flashcards pre-installed). Several support groups and a popular webpage (Reviewing the Kanji) have sparked quite a bit of interest.

This is exactly an approach I would have avoided a few weeks back, but I grudgingly confess that I've made some impressive progress. (Disclaimer: I have had quite a bit of Mandarin, but rudimentary Hanzi knowledge really only takes you so far.)
posted by RavinDave at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Don't forget Rikai.com and rikaichan!
posted by KokuRyu at 11:09 AM on March 26, 2009


YAEFE (yet another EDICT front end) I'm afraid.

The best dictionaries are the commercial ones, from Kenkyusha's to Genius to the Iwanami Kojien. The nice thing about these is that they are usually a standard format (EPWING) which can be read by a variety of front-ends, which means I can use these to look up words on my PC or my iPod touch, at my convenience, and even with handwriting recognition (provided by the host OS).

EDICT is great for what it is, but there is so much better out there that I wish it wasn't so widely used.
posted by splice at 11:30 AM on March 26, 2009


Well, EDICT is a great resource for beginning to perhaps intermediate Japanese language learners - it's far more accessible than the commercial dictionaries you mentioned. IME's handwriting feature is fairly useful, but at the end of the day I always go back to my old Canon Word Tank or Jack Halpern's kanji dictionary.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:45 AM on March 26, 2009


This is one of the nicer EDICT front-ends I've seen; I use JEdict and it's full-featured, but not especially pretty.

My go-to dictionary is a Sharp PW series (A Word Tank competitor, I suppose) and it has my heartfelt allegiance for its very flexible kanji lookup capabilities—if you know how to pronounce one or more components of a character, throw those into the the 部品読み field and you'll get a list of matching characters. Maybe this is standard-issue for decent electronic dictionaries, but I would frankly be unable to meet my deadlines without it.

And of course, no Japanese dictionary thread is complete without a reference to ALC, a source of both insight and lulz, and probably the next best thing to a Japanese spouse.
posted by pts at 11:53 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that EDICT uses wapuro romaji. Wikipedia is annoying because it uses Modified Hepburn, and that's a pain for searching. I don't know the keystrokes to create the extra characters needed.

When it comes time for a tyro like me to try to look up kanji, I've found this to be extremely useful.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:56 AM on March 26, 2009


KokuRyu, EDICT is actually useful for me in one way: with its EPWING version (or rather KANJIDIC and ENAMDICT) loaded on my reader, I can lookup kanji by SKIP code, which is rather useful. Other than that, you'll have to rip out my Green Goddess, which fits on my tiny electronic device, from my cold dead hands.
posted by splice at 12:04 PM on March 26, 2009


Chocolate Pickle, do yourself a favor and learn the SKIP indexing method. It's easy, it's rather intuitive, and it's always given me faster results than radical searches.
posted by splice at 12:05 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here is a short description of the SKIP indexing system. As an added bonus you will learn to count strokes, which is important if you want to eventually become literate, meaning being able to both write and read the language.
posted by splice at 12:07 PM on March 26, 2009


What is that? (Link?) I've never heard of it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:08 PM on March 26, 2009


(Ah. Race condition.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:08 PM on March 26, 2009


Splice: consider this: 辻
Is that considered a #3 or a #1?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:12 PM on March 26, 2009


謝意
posted by DreamerFi at 12:20 PM on March 26, 2009


Splice: How about this one? 悃
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:25 PM on March 26, 2009


This is an excellent post.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:27 PM on March 26, 2009


Chocolate:

辻 is 3-3-2. You get cases like this where at first you're not sure of the exact classification. But the part I think of as the "dou/road" radical is an enclosure of 3 strokes (it is not a real radical, I think). It encloses from the left and right. Enclosures do not have to be from all sides. They typically are to two or three sides. Knowing how to write the character of course helps a lot in reading the number of strokes.

悃 should be easy to see - left and right separation, and 3 strokes on one side, 7 on the other, 1-3-7 is it. However, it doesn't seem to be a Japanese kanji, at least I can't find it in kanjidic. Maybe I'm missing something.

One thing that really helped me with SKIP was the Halpern Kanji Learner's Dictionary. This had helpful notes where appropriate that such and such character shouldn't be looked up in this section but rather another. For example, if you read the latter character above as 1-1-9 and looked it up in that section, it would say the character is not 1-1-9 but rather 1-3-7. This was for most common mistakes. It was useful to me.
posted by splice at 12:52 PM on March 26, 2009


辻 encloses from the left and the bottom, I meant... Not left and right.
posted by splice at 12:53 PM on March 26, 2009


The SKIP method is a great invention, but the problem is that it leaves you stuck in the SKIP ghetto. If you want to be able to look up obscure kanji like 悃 (which does indeed have recognized readings in Japanese) you have to be able to use bigger dictionaries, J2J ones, which are organized around radical lookup.

(There's not much point in arguing about the best J2E dictionary, either. If you find yourself at the level where the differences even matter, it's time to graduate to J2J.)
posted by No-sword at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2009


No-sword, it must be a really exotic kanji. None of the dictionaries I have seem to find any word with it.

I don't get what you mean by the SKIP ghetto. I can't find the kanji, whether with SKIP or radical lookup. The only way I can look it up is with handwriting recognition, which on the iTouch is based on chinese characters, and I get no matches for it in any dictionary. I don't SKIP is the problem here.
posted by splice at 1:59 PM on March 26, 2009


SKIP is the problem in the sense that if you are reliant on SKIP and only buy dictionaries that include it, you're restricting yourself to a tiny subset of the huge, ancient tradition of kanji lexicography (a subset which apparently doesn't cover 悃, a fairly obscure character but still one you'd find in any adult J2J kanji reference).

It's like an E2J dictionary for Japanese readers organized by pronunciation instead of spelling--interesting idea, makes sense in a way, but a waste of time for anyone who wants to be able to use E2E resources one day, or even other E2J resources organized along traditional lines.
posted by No-sword at 2:20 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, I'd like to take this opportunity to puncture an old canard: "two women under one roof is the Chinese character for trouble". That's bunk.

But I was delighted one time to discover that , which is three copies of the "woman" symbol, means "mischief" and can also be read as "noisy".

(Hey, don't blame me! I only report the news.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:06 PM on March 26, 2009


Hmm, I did not know this meant that.
posted by rabbitsnake at 3:33 PM on March 26, 2009


I must admit I don't really have a complete adult J2J kanji reference. My kanji I lookup in either kanjidic or the Benesse チャレンジ小学漢字辞典 which is definitely not an adult reference, but has the advantage of being easier to read for a beginner and being pure J2J. I am not tied to SKIP, I can handily ref kanji by stroke number, radical, or reading. If I miss out on everything there's always handwriting recognition which is handy.

If you have a recommendation for a good adult kanji dictionary I'd like that. Still, I don't think SKIP is a total waste of time. It's not holding me back from using resources that don't make use of it. It's just a tool in the toolbox and it has its uses. It certainly helped me classify characters in my head, separate their various parts, count the strokes, etc.
posted by splice at 3:36 PM on March 26, 2009


This thread is a keeper. I'm halfway through the Heisig book (about 1,200 so far) and I'm needing a good dictionary more and more. This one is amazing. My (Japanese) wife often shakes her head at some of the definitions I get from the Jim Breen dicitonary, perhaps this one will work better.

And if I may slightly hijack here: has anyone found a good kanji app for the iPhone/iPod Touch? Namely one that allows practice of the Heisig kanji?
posted by zardoz at 3:44 PM on March 26, 2009


This one is amazing. My (Japanese) wife often shakes her head at some of the definitions I get from the Jim Breen dicitonary, perhaps this one will work better.

See, this is why I originally posted. You won't get better result. It is exactly the same dictionary, just with an AJAX front-end. Most (if not all) Japanese-English dictionaries you find on the web will be based off Jim Breen's EDICT.

And if I may slightly hijack here: has anyone found a good kanji app for the iPhone/iPod Touch? Namely one that allows practice of the Heisig kanji?

I personally use Anki for the iTouch, although it's a jailbreak version and not in the app store. I haven't checked lately but anything compatible with Anki would be a plus since you can synchronize your progress between the iTouch and your personal computer.
posted by splice at 3:55 PM on March 26, 2009


great post. 旨く出来た
posted by hooptycritter at 3:58 PM on March 26, 2009


btw, ajatt's latest tweet recommends a rather novel Firefox plugin that provides passive Kanji practice while you're doing other stuff online. Check out: Kanji-lish and tell me that isn't deviously clever.
posted by RavinDave at 4:33 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eh, I mostly just use the Kangorin that happened to get bundled in my electronic dictionary. When I want to look up REALLY obscure stuff I use a reference specifically for that. Unless you have special academic goals I don't think it matters too much which one you use as long as all the kanji you want are in there.

I guess I responded to the wrong part of what you were saying--I apologize for that. I don't mean that SKIP is worthless or that every learner should be using adult J2J references as their only tools. My first kanji dictionary was Halpern's SKIP-based learner's dictionary, in fact! But I outgrew it almost immediately (in the sense that I was reading stuff that contained common but non-joyo kanji) and, in retrospect, I'm not convinced that I wouldn't have been better off just learning the radical system to begin with.
posted by No-sword at 4:40 PM on March 26, 2009


Great post and thread—thanks to all you Japanophones!
posted by languagehat at 5:13 PM on March 26, 2009


I'm a big fan of ALC, but that's mainly because I do a lot of financial translation and every so often come across some obscure kanji or compound that I need an English gloss for. However, specialized fields require specialized dictionaries. I use this Excel spreadsheet as a kind of poor-man's reference, but the best part is that the translations are official.

For a general 和和 reference, Yahoo! JP's dictionary is not bad, although the 和英英和 functions are limited. For 和英四字熟語, this page is rather comprehensive.

Thanks for the link to Anki, by the way. I'll have to try it out on my iPod touch at some point. I've got 漢検 software for my DS, but I hardly ever carry it around with me so having essentially thousands of flash cards at all times would be great.
posted by armage at 5:42 PM on March 26, 2009


wow, Kanjilish is awesome!
posted by zardoz at 5:52 PM on March 26, 2009


I'm not sure how I'd survive without ALC.
I also rely far too heavily on EDICT, unfortunately.
posted by nightchrome at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2009


My go-to online is http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp -- it's meant for Japanese people, but it has J-E, E-J, and J-J all available for free. It's not perfect, but it's darned solid.

Also, put another mark in the "EDICT is really not very awesome" column, would ya?
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:47 PM on March 26, 2009


Whoa, kangilish is really gonna mess with my rikaichan...
posted by ikahime at 9:34 PM on March 26, 2009


Just to be contrary: let's not be too hard on EDICT. It's fallen behind, but it was awesome in relative terms once. (It was better when it had fewer words but a lower average nonsense content per word. Then Here Came Everybody. Thanks, wisdom of crowds!) And the fact that it's basically free is still awesome. If Goo, ALC, etc. went out of business tomorrow, I don't believe for a second that any of y'all haters wouldn't go crawling back to the EDICT tribe.
posted by No-sword at 11:43 PM on March 26, 2009


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