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Electronic Dictionary question

Zenbone

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hello,
i am shopping around for a good english to japanese electronic dictionary. does anyone have any thoughs or opinions about where or what electronic dictionary to buy? i am completely cluesless...
thanks
 

JimmySeal

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I've come to believe that dictionaries are more of a crutch than a friend, but if you must get one, the dictionaries made by Sharp are, in my opinion, the best and most economical.
The only drawback is that the interface on Sharp dictionaries is all in Japanese so you may have some trouble if you are just starting out.
 

JimmySeal

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Well,

1. Dictionaries lead a person to understand a foreign language through their native language, thus strongly binding the new language to the first one and slowing down cognitive processes.

2. (And related to 1.) Learning through dictionaries causes the learner to make equivalents between foreign words and native words, causing considerable confusion. For example, each instance of the word "run" in these sentences:

The train tracks run along the river.
The train runs along the river.
I run my fingers through my hair.
Let me run the idea through my head.
I'm feeling run down today.
Run that idea by me again.

would correspond to a completely different word in Japanese (in some cases, "run" wouldn't neatly correspond to a single word at all).
Even if the learner is consciously aware that words don't nicely match up 1-to-1, learning via a dictionary will still form these unnatural connections in one's head. The best way to learn a word is to see it in situ and observe how it works, rather than using it through the logic of one's native language.

3. A person can read (and therefore learn/acquire new vocabulary) a lot faster if they're not stopping to check a dictionary every few seconds/minutes.

So those are the main reasons why I hardly touch any of my dictionaries anymore (except kanji dictionaries, to look up readings, not meanings).

I picked up these ideas mostly from the following two web pages, which I recommend to anyone who hasn't seen them yet.
http://www.english-learning.co.uk/voc.html
http://www.english-learning.co.uk/vocdb.html
 

Nall-ohki

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Well,
3. A person can read (and therefore learn/acquire new vocabulary) a lot faster if they're not stopping to check a dictionary every few seconds/minutes.

I would disagree with you on this point for a very specific reason:

For the beginner trying to speak to natives (as was the way I learned), discourse cannot proceed if you don't know the meanings of very simple words. During this period of development, NOT being able to continue a conversation is far, far worse an outcome. An electronic dictionary is your very best friend in this case.

Believe me, you're not going to understand the meaning of 「なお」 in conversation by just hearing it.
 

Kama

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I think Nall-ohki is right.

Lately I had a problem when speaking to a Japanese friend when she came to me. Everything was damn right until she said something I didn't understand. She then tried to explain me the word in Japanese (like the kokugojiten would do it) and when I still didn't understand, we had to use dictionary. Electronic dictionary comes handy then. It helps you also when you do know the word, you even know how to write it (but can't for a reason) but forgot the Japanese word for it.

Your 2nd point isn't valid either. I don't see any problem, really. You are talking about advanced learners and they have (english-english, japanese-japanese) their own dictionaries.

I think it's like "give up" and give in" you use only give up to a certain period of time, until you learn something about phrasal verbs.

you have to learn the basics from somewhere, and you won't learn it by talking to natives in a normal conversation, sorry.

3. if I don't check the dictionary how can I be sure what's the meaning of the sentence? for example, you say that this xx is broken. sure, great, you roughly know what does it mean (something is broken), but if you don't know Polish words good, you are not sure if the xx stands for a zipper or key lock (both have the same word in Polish). You have to know that this word has such meanings, otherwise you won't understand what is that person talking around. and the fastest way to learn it, is to check the dictionary.

I hope you understand what I'm saying :p
 

JimmySeal

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For the beginner trying to speak to natives (as was the way I learned), discourse cannot proceed if you don't know the meanings of very simple words. During this period of development, NOT being able to continue a conversation is far, far worse an outcome. An electronic dictionary is your very best friend in this case.
Patience is one of the most important virtues of a language learner, and patience to push forward when you're not quite sure how to express yourself is important. It is entirely possible to pick up the simplest of words and phrases just by talking and listening to people. I'll bet you anything that you've done it yourself.
Believe me, you're not going to understand the meaning of 「なお」 in conversation by just hearing it.
I can think of few words that would be easier to pick up from context than なお. Obviously a person won't figure it out on the first encounter, but they could very easily after hearing it three or four times.

@Kama - I am having a lot of trouble understanding your post. Ironically, this serves as proof that a dictionary will not enable you to express yourself clearly if you don't know how to use the words naturally. I will try my best to respond.
Lately I had a problem when speaking to a Japanese friend when she came to me. Everything was damn right until she said something I didn't understand. She then tried to explain me the word in Japanese (like the kokugojiten would do it) and when I still didn't understand, we had to use dictionary.
People act like there's a desperate need to understand everything everybody says. Not only is this unreasonable, it's unnecessary. A creative partner will find ways to explain a word simply so that you can understand. Gestures and illustrations are very useful too. If that doesn't work out, as long as you are just having a friendly chat, and not conducting business or registering for a driver's license, the information is probably not that crucial anyway.

Your 2nd point isn't valid either. I don't see any problem, really. You are talking about advanced learners and they have (english-english, japanese-japanese) their own dictionaries.
E-E and J-J dictionaries are problematic to learners in their own ways, but my point is completely valid in regard to the use of E-J or J-E dictionaries (which you are saying people should use, correct?)

if I don't check the dictionary how can I be sure what's the meaning of the sentence?
The context of the sentence hints at the meanings of the words you don't know. This will not usually enable you to guess a word's meaning on the first encounter, but you can guess at what the meaning might be, and narrow it down through subsequent encounters with the word.

for example, you say that this xx is broken. sure, great, you roughly know what does it mean (something is broken), but if you don't know Polish words good, you are not sure if the xx stands for a zipper or key lock (both have the same word in Polish).
If it's just one word in Polish for two things in English, then I'd better get used to thinking about the concept as just one word right away, and not remember it in terms of two English words. But if someone is holding something in front of you and saying "this OOO is broken," then you couldn't possibly need a dictionary to figure out what a OOO is. It's right in front of you! And not only is the information conveyed successfully, you also get to find out what a OOO is without ever touching a dictionary.
 

jmwintenn

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As a beginner(since last monday),I took about 80 or so words and have commited about 45 to memory,and if I don't know how to use a word I want,I'll rephrase it until I can use the words I know. I only use a dictionary to grab a few more words to add to my list, I don't refer to it often.
 

Kama

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@Kama - I am having a lot of trouble understanding your post. Ironically, this serves as proof that a dictionary will not enable you to express yourself clearly if you don't know how to use the words naturally. I will try my best to respond.

I saw myself that my thoughts were chaotic, and that I probably didn't write clearly what I was talking about. ;) That's why I asked if you understand.

People act like there's a desperate need to understand everything everybody says. Not only is this unreasonable, it's unnecessary. A creative partner will find ways to explain a word simply so that you can understand. Gestures and illustrations are very useful too.

Illustrations, especially when you are outdoor sightseeing the city, wow, great idea. And how you make with gesture "constitution"?

Yeah, sure, you don't have to understand everything. Especially when the other person is awaiting your answer. Of course it's an option (and I used it) to explain me the word I didn't know, so I heard an explanation. Too bad when I ddn't understand the words she used as an explanation. I won't say my Japanese is good, it isn't, I didn't use it for few years in conversation, and rarely used it in writing.

For example, you wanted to say somebody blushed. So you say his face turned red because of embarassment. Let's say I don't know the embarassment word. You can turn red from few different reasons. It may be embarassment or anger for example. Or something really different.

E-E and J-J dictionaries are problematic to learners in their own ways, but my point is completely valid in regard to the use of E-J or J-E dictionaries (which you are saying people should use, correct?)

not only E-J, J-E but their own language dictionaries. Beginner needs dictionaries. You can't always say that you can always point or use gestures. Come on, it's really pointless, how long will you have to make gestures of every damn word to the beginner?

The context of the sentence hints at the meanings of the words you don't know. This will not usually enable you to guess a word's meaning on the first encounter, but you can guess at what the meaning might be, and narrow it down through subsequent encounters with the word.

But that's too long! And you can't be always learning words like this. You can even forget the first encounter of the word. And what, guessing from the beginning?

If it's just one word in Polish for two things in English, then I'd better get used to thinking about the concept as just one word right away, and not remember it in terms of two English words. But if someone is holding something in front of you and saying "this OOO is broken," then you couldn't possibly need a dictionary to figure out what a OOO is. It's right in front of you! And not only is the information conveyed successfully, you also get to find out what a OOO is without ever touching a dictionary.

but they don't need to be in front of you nor talk about things around you. What about telephone conversation? ah, great, you know that ooo means zipper. and then you hear I saw really huge ooo. It looked so great. We can see it together next weekend. what, you think. Sorry, you didn't check the dictionary, you don't even know ooo means castle. :D That's damn ineffective.
You want to learn every meaning of the word by context?
 

orochi

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I think the most important point is how you use the electronic dictionary. It can be used for good or evil, just like any other learning tool.
 

JimmySeal

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Illustrations, especially when you are outdoor sightseeing the city, wow, great idea. And how you make with gesture "constitution"?

For example, you wanted to say somebody blushed. So you say his face turned red because of embarassment. Let's say I don't know the embarassment word. You can turn red from few different reasons. It may be embarassment or anger for example. Or something really different.
These are valid points, but the justifications against using a dictionary are still great enough that I think it's worth remaining patient through these small (and temporary) communication gaps.

You can't always say that you can always point or use gestures. Come on, it's really pointless, how long will you have to make gestures of every damn word to the beginner?
A beginner should be reading and watching movies/TV shows to learn language, so presumably the number of words they don't know will dwindle. If their only source of new knowledge is the people they talk to, they are a leech, and I won't speak to a person like that very long.

And you can't be always learning words like this. You can even forget the first encounter of the word. And what, guessing from the beginning?
I can, and I do. That is my only means of learning new words in Japanese (and it's going swimmingly), and any language I learn in the future will be through this method.

and then you hear I saw really huge ooo. It looked so great. We can see it together next weekend. what, you think. Sorry, you didn't check the dictionary, you don't even know ooo means castle.
I'd ask them what a OOO is, and in all likelihood they'd be able to explain satisfactorily. If not, well, whatever it is, it must be cool, so I'd say yes to the invitation :p
 

nhk9

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I think there are good arguments for using a dictionary and not using one.

The downside of using a dictionary is that sometimes one may try to look up each word separately. In otherwords, they might think too literally, and ultimately wouldn't be able to pick up the meaning behind the whole phrase. One good example is "Qu'est-ce que c'est" (What is it) in French. If a beginner tries to break down everything by looking up all the smaller words, it would just become all the more confusing, since there are 2 ques, 2 ces, 2 ests

Using dictionaries can have its advantage. For one, one can learn words quicker if say a Chinese person can associate the kanji "尚”with "なお”. Yes you can learn the meaning of the latter without using a dictionary by reading similar passages several time, but that's just not good use of time.

More importantly though, is that searching through a dictionary will allow one to identify things that he/she thought to be correct, mistakenly. The kanjis 結束 means totally different things in Jpnese and Chinese, so attention must be paid to these exceptional words.
 

maushan3

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I really loved these dictionaries. They have good that I am just too ashamed to ask other people their meaning. Slang usage, you name it. I don't know the brands, but the newer ones have more than you can ask for. They have sample sentences. Some sentences were just too awkward for a dictionary. Too kinky or pervy actually. Something that just wowed me.

Mauricio
 

Kama

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A beginner should be reading and watching movies/TV shows to learn language, so presumably the number of words they don't know will dwindle. If their only source of new knowledge is the people they talk to, they are a leech, and I won't speak to a person like that very long.

When I can, I watch NHK uncoded (but I have an acess to this only once per few months). but sure, they are talking about bakuhatsu and not showing details, just general info. This again, could be everything. And I wasn't sure what they were talking about until I checked dictionary.

I can, and I do. That is my only means of learning new words in Japanese (and it's going swimmingly), and any language I learn in the future will be through this method.

and not mine. I have to have the words/sentence written. I'm learning the best using the sight. My notes were always colorful, with images, etc. I operate on examples.

I'd ask them what a OOO is, and in all likelihood they'd be able to explain satisfactorily. If not, well, whatever it is, it must be cool, so I'd say yes to the invitation :p

Sure, but once again you ask about the same word. And you could check this.

There is always also the possibility that you guessed wrong, and will be using the word wrong way until somebody corrects you.
 

Nall-ohki

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A beginner should be reading and watching movies/TV shows to learn language, so presumably the number of words they don't know will dwindle. If their only source of new knowledge is the people they talk to, they are a leech, and I won't speak to a person like that very long.

You've actually made my point here: people won't talk to a beginner unless they make the conversation comfortable and interesting to the other speaker.

When the inevitable problem comes up in conversation where you cannot proceed without knowing a word, the electronic dictionary is a tool for allowing the conversation to continue. There's nothing more frustrating and disheartening than having a conversation end because of an inability to communicate a particular idea.
 

Uncle Frank

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Bump up for tonberry1

Hopefully the info here will help you.

Uncle Frank
 

Alma

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well, i have a question.. or two, or more...
😌
I tried to read this thread really careful (I am really tired right now), and now I do not what to think about electronic dictionary. well, even before, I wasn`t sure. sometimes I have feeling they are created to help japanese to learn english... am I right? well, for start, all I saw are completely in japanese.. what makes student of japanese extremely hard to use. on the other hand, everybody that study japanese have one and praises it... since i will probably stay in japan for years and since I plan to study more and more of japanese, I am thinking it could be quite useful (once you break into it)...
but... choice! like every single thing there is such a wide choice between dictionaries, and of course that makes me even more confused. today was just looking around and was amazed with everything and I found some really cheap ones.
like this one here http://casio.jp/exword/products/XD-SW6500/ (i hope that is the one) but the price was not like this one on this site ☝ (but half of it)
anyway... if anyone understand me 😌
my questions would be:
- is electrical dictionary good for student like me (eventually, I will continue my real studies here (architecture));
-even i think it could be quite hard to work with it now, I should be useful, right (eventually);
- what should i be careful about when I really decide to buy one?

😌 (i see my post is quite senseless and confusing, sorry... now I even doubted should I post it at all😊 but sure, I will)
 

Glenski

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Yes, they are made for Japanese learners of English. Look at the few that offer some English menus, and kick the tires to see how user friendly they are to your personal tastes.

Many now come with the stylus so you can input kanji. Unless your handwriting of kanji is fairly good, expect to make mistakes and get crappy search results. Perhaps this is an impetus to improve oneself. Also, see how much time the dictionary gives you to complete a kanji before it automatically does a search, and then find out if you can adjust that time. With mine, if you hold the stylus on the screen, the delay is infinite.

Ask for an English manual, whether in paper copy or download. Not all companies make them.

The foreigners that I know who own an electronic dictionary end up using just some of the bare minimum features. Don't let that and the price get you down. The important thing is being able to use the features you need almost right away, as soon as you buy it, IMO.

One more little feature to look for. Is the display backlit (or capable of it with the push of a button)? If you figure you'll be using the dictionary in a dimly lit room (meetings with presentations going, for example), this is very important.

Also, see if you can enlarge the size of the characters. There's nothing worse than trying to squint to read on an electronic screen.
 

Charles Barkley

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Now that I know how to use a dictionary well (I think this is an important skill that should probably be taught to new learners), I think its an invaluable tool. But I think this is not a skill that necessarily comes naturally, so here are a few tips, as well as dictionary suggestions for those starting out:

-Do not look up a word in English in a normal dictionary and then try to use that word in Japanese. This is usually going to be a waste of time. A lot of times, you will be using the wrong word for the context you are trying. Or, even if a word makes sense in that context, its not the kind of thing someone in that language would naturally say: there would be a natural, far more simple way of saying the same thing that would always replace it in normal conversation.

-If you must look up an English word seeking a japanese equivalent, use a dictionary like the Kodansha's Communicative English-Japanese Dictionary. This dictionary is made for English speakers trying to learn Japanese, and the entire focus behind the dictionary is to use natural japanese and not to force example sentences to match up with the words one is trying to look up. I highly recommend this book to beginners, or even to intermediate advanced learners. For beginners, its good for figuring out how to say things. For intermediate/advanced, you can look at english sentences, cover up the japanese, then guess at translations and see how they match up.

-The best way to use the dictionary is as an accompaniment to real japanese text. There is something to be said for it slowing down your reading, but I think if you forgo reading with the dictionary and making learning vocab/new kanji your aim, you will begin to lag behind in the acquisition of new words. What I do, and I think its quite effective, is I do two types of reading every day: fluency reading, where I read easier texts without looking up words (or if I look up the word, only to glance at the meanings, which with an electronic dictionary takes all of 5 seconds), and then vocab acquisition readings, which are much more difficult texts, with a number of kanji I can't read, and plenty of new vocab. When I do the latter, I slow down and really try to learn most of the new words kanji--I highlight them on the pages I am reading, then write the hiragana and definition in the margins. After ten pages of reading or so, I stop and review the highlighted words as well as past highlighted words from the same text.

-the best thing about a dictionary are example sentences. In fact this is probably the only good thing about a foreign language dictionary since explanation entries are usually very short (if you are high enough level and can use a J-J dictionary, reading those entries starts to become a great study tool) and there's no way to guess what context in which to use them. If you are looking up a word, make sure to carefully read the example sentences and see if the way the word is used there matches the way it was used in your text

-Don't use an electronic dictionary in conversation. I think this is always a crutch. Lots of japanese people do it and it breaks down the flow of conversation, makes it less interesting, and makes you begin to rely on it. Expressing yourself using simpler language and trying to figure out what people are trying to say even without being sure are probably the most fundamental skills for conversation.

-And finally, if a native speaker corrects the dictionary in his native language, he is right 99% of the time. Don't try to question her on it. If he tries to guess an english translation, this might be wrong, but if she's sticking to japanese to explain how to use something in japanese, assume the dictionary is mistaken.
 

Dogen Z

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today was just looking around and was amazed with everything and I found some really cheap ones.
like this one here http://casio.jp/exword/products/XD-SW6500/ (i hope that is the one) but the price was not like this one on this site ☝ (but half of it)
anyway... if anyone understand me 😌
my questions would be:
- is electrical dictionary good for student like me (eventually, I will continue my real studies here (architecture));
-even i think it could be quite hard to work with it now, I should be useful, right (eventually);
- what should i be careful about when I really decide to buy one?

That Casio looks like a really sweet machine with written kanji input and the ability to add more dictionaries with an SD card. However, it seems a little too advanced for a beginner. You won't be using many of the functions until maybe 2 years down the road. By that time, there are sure to be even better e-dictionaries.

It may be wiser to buy a simpler machine such as the Canon wordtank c-50. It's suitable for advanced beginners to intermediate students. The kanji dictionary is old fashioned--you'll need to count strokes and learn radicals but this is a good way to learn kanji IMO. And it is more than 10,000 yen less than the Casio (Amazon.com japan price). Also, it has an English menu that makes it comfortable for beginners. (I just got one for my sister and Amazon.co.jp delivered it in 1 day for free! It's about the same price at Bic Camera if you use the Bic Camera point card system.:))
 

Alma

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Glenski, Charles Barkley, Ocean Dude, THANK YOU!

I will keep in mind your advice!

Ocean Dude, I know, at this moment this kind of advanced machine is too much for me... but my problem is that I will start with university classes and my research quite soon (in April), and then I will need it a lot. Since I see all kinds of sales right now, I thought it could be good to buy something now, and, at least, get to know how it works.

still, some thing often confuse me - I do not know differences between dictionaries, but price. I see sometime, some have different English-English dictionary (Cambridge, oxford or Longman), but still, is that the only difference... and prices vary a lot, too...

😅
 

Dogen Z

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still, some thing often confuse me - I do not know differences between dictionaries, but price. I see sometime, some have different English-English dictionary (Cambridge, oxford or Longman), but still, is that the only difference... and prices vary a lot, too...

I don't think you need to worry about the E>E dictionary; any one will do. The most important dictionary, at least for me, is the J>E dictionary, and there are 2 basic choices, Genius and Kenkyusha. Both have good example sentences but the Kenkyusha has more listed items, up to 480,000 for the latest edition. There should be more technical terms, that you need, in the larger dictionary. The same should be true for E>J dictionaries.

As for J>J dictionaries, I've read that Kojien is better than Darien but I don't think I could tell the difference at my present level. You should keep in mind that EIJIRO with over 1.5 million entries is available for free online or you could download it, or you could buy it on a disk at a computer store. It's also available in EPWING format to load onto handheld dictionaries and PDAs.

It might be a good idea to wait until classes begin and ask one of your classmates which ones they like or ask a salesperson if they have any designed for engineers/architects with lots of technical terms included.
 

Alma

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thank you for clearing everything about this, english-english and j-j and j-e :) it is really helpful :)

and I will wait more before buying, so if anyone have some other advice, I am listening! :haihai:
 

Mikawa Ossan

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I haven't read everything yet, but I'll respond anyway. 😅

How good are your Japanese reading skills? If you can read fairly well, I would recommend getting a dictionary WITHOUT English menus, etc. I would also personally recommend not getting one with a stylus A) as that is just one more thing to lose B) not having one encourages you to learn the radicals, stroke counts, etc.

Also make sure it has the dictionaries you want! In my humble opinion if the dictionary does not have a GOOD J-J dictionary (Koujien or Dairinji (or whatever the heck that one's called...😅)), a J-E dictionary, an E-J dictionary and a Kanji dictionary all together, it's a waste of money.
 

Alma

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thank you Mikawa Ossan! I really appreciate every word I read on this thread, it is helpful! :)
btw, I haven't even saw dictionary with english menu☝

🙂
 
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