My least favorite part about reading Japanese dictionaries is all the madness: tiny fonts, jam-packed pages, single kanji that float around and explain things (e.g. what part of speech a word is, what particles are attached to the end). And to be perfectly honest, I’m a lazy man who doesn’t appreciate the whole having to physically pick up a book and actually find the word thing.
Enter Yahoo 辞書. This is a little trick that I picked up at work. Many of the Japanese people in the translation department (who basically play the mirror image of my role, i.e. E-J) use this, and occasionally they’ve sent me links from entries when I ask a question about a Japanese word.
Lots of great things about the dictionary. First of all, it’s digital, which means I only need to move my ten digits. Second, it has a clean layout with simple, easy to read definitions. If you’ve wanted to start using Japanese dictionaries but have been worried that you won’t understand the definitions, this is a great dictionary to start with.
Take for example the word 彷徨う. Plug it into the dictionary and you’ll see immediately that the reading is さまよう. Alternate kanji are さ迷う (which already provides a partial definition). There is a bit of the madness (［動ワ五（ハ四）］), of which I only recognize the 動 as a verb marker and 五 as a 五段動詞 (although I can’t recall the specifics of what that means), but it soon gives way to the clean cut definitions presented in an easy-to-read layout: 1 – 迷って歩きまわる, 2 – あちこち動く, 3 – 判断に迷う. I love it.
They occasionally provide examples of usage from great works of literature such as, in this case, The Tale of Genji…not that I understand them, but still a cool feature. You can also click on the tabs to access the thesaurus (類語) or J-E (和英) dictionaries for the word. Great dictionary. Just need to train myself to use it more often.
(Don’t forget to check out this past entry about how to read from context and use Japanese dictionaries.)