In March I bought a Kindle Paperwhite eBook reader for my Japanese language acquisition. I think this device will be a huge help for getting me to read Japanese books. By reading books in Japanese, you can learn a lot of words that you won’t learn just from working in a Japanese office. You will learn the words that keep reappearing and you will remember the context that the word was used in. This is a better way than using some vocabulary study book.
I bought my Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon Japan, but I think there is no difference in the device no matter where you buy it. Only the price is different, and in Japan it is way cheaper. Once it arrives and you turn it on, you have to select the language of the system. To register it to the Amazon store, you have to connect it wirelessly. When I did that, it somehow knew that I had purchased it from the Japan store using my Amazon Japan account. I think it was able to determine that by my IP address. Anyway, I set the language to Japanese and it’s linked to my Amazon Japan account.
Then the Paperwhite downloaded 3 dictionaries automatically. It downloaded the Japanese-Japanese (大辞泉), English-Japanese (プログレッシブ英和中辞典), and English-English dictionaries. However, you have all your books in the Amazon Cloud online, and when I checked there, I found other dictionaries. French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, and Portuguese. I think those are all monolingual dictionaries.
There are also free books available. There are many books which are out-of-copyright and are available at Amazon Japan. It’s easy to find free books in the Japan store, not so easy to find the free Japanese books in the US store. Just use this path in the Kindle store -> Kindleストア › 無料本 › Kindle本 (or click on the link). Some of the free books are not out-of-copyright. I recommend those. The old books use a lot of Kanji you don’t see today and are harder to understand. The newer books might be free only temporarily, so I recommend you grab any that interest you even if you don’t have time to read them now.
So I was using the J-J dictionary to look up words that I can’t read. It’s very easy to do with the Paperwhite. You just hold your finger on a word until it is selected and then let go. The Kindle will automatically look up the word in the dictionary. It’s simple! Sometimes it’s slow. But way easier than any other method. Of course easier than using a paper dictionary. Easier than using a PDA. It’s even easier than using a hand-held electronic dictionary machine. Why? Because you don’t have to input anything! There’s no need to write the characters, no need to type the word, and no need to wade through results.
The only problem is that the Paperwhite did not come with a Japanese to English dictionary. Definitions written in Japanese can be hard to understand. And you often cannot read the words in the definition.
So, I began converting a subset of the entries that can be found on Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC site into a Kindle dictionary. I have included the words marked as priority words which are from lists of high frequency words found in Japanese. So if the word is not in that set, you probably don’t need to learn it. If you know all of the high frequency words already, then you should be using a J-J dictionary.
And now for the exciting announcement that I alluded to in my previous post, I have made that dictionary available on Amazon! I wanted to set the price to zero but Amazon doesn’t let you do that, so I set the price to the lowest price possible. You can download it for around $2 or 200 yen. I actually set the US price at $1.99 but in the search results I found it listed as $2 and on the actual product page it shows a price of $2.12. I don’t know why that is, so don’t blame me!
Well now the search shows the $2.12 price. Here is a link to search for it on the Amazon US store. Japanese English High Frequency Words Dictionary. And here is a search link for the Amazon Japan store. Japanese English High Frequency Words Dictionary. Let me know if those links do not work.
Here is a picture of the cover.
The US store has a LOOK INSIDE feature. You can see the layout of the book. I made it very clear and simple. Each entry is divided by a horizontal rule and the headword starts with kana (the pronunciation) followed by the word in Kanji (if available). Any extra frequently used readings or way of writing (Kanji) are included in double parentheses. Entries with multiple senses start with a circled number for each sense. Each translation after the first one begins with a bullet and is on a separate line. If there is only one sense, then all translations begin with a bullet.
When you download this dictionary, you need to set it as the default dictionary for Japanese if you want to use it to automatically look up words. In the popup that you get when it has looked up a word for you, the line breaks will have been removed. This is not something I have control over, but the bullets do separate the translations well. It should show only one entry, but sometimes the following entries also display in the popup. I’m not exactly sure why that happens but it’s not really a problem. Also, the Kindle somehow disinflects verbs before looking them up. So even though 振る舞い is an entry in the dictionary, the automatic look up feature will find 振る舞う instead, which by the way, has nearly the same meaning. You can go straight to the entry in the dictionary from the popup and then go to the previous page to find 振る舞い right before 振る舞う. So if you suspect that the noun version of the verb might have a separate entry, you might want to try that. You can also search for words in the dictionary by using your Japanese input-capable keyboard. I’m not sure if you need to have the system language set to Japanese or not for that functionality. But if you have a Paperwhite, you can input Japanese (at least if the device is set to Japanese).
Also, the entries in this dictionary are sorted basically with ひらがな coming first, followed by カタカナ and then 漢字. So all entries starting with ひらがな are listed before any entries starting with カタカナ. This is different from a traditional sorting which would sort by sound only. But the good thing is that all Kanji words starting with the same character are listed next to each other no matter how the word is read. So you will find all the entries for 人 listed one after the other, instead of in 3 different places just because it has 3 different readings. This is good for browsing. If you need to find a specific word but are not sure of the correct reading, you can use the search to input the first character by using a reading you do know and then converting it to the Kanji and you can go to that entry and look at the next or previous entries as well. The search results are pretty handy as well and will sort the results in the traditional (or expected) order.
To find this book in your local Amazon store, I recommend searching by the ASIN number which is listed below.
Here are direct links to the Japan and US store product pages for the dictionary.
I hope all of this helps. Let me know what you think, but be nice! Thanks for reading.