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.)
動ワ五（ハ四） is not madness! You take that back!
– 動 = verb (as you say)
– ワ = final consonant of stem is /w/ (or 0) (by example: “negative is さまよワない”, basically)
– 五 = 5-dan verb (as you say) — means that you have samayoWA(nai), samayoI(nagara), samayoU (hito), samayoE(ba), samayoOu (yo), i.e. all 5 vowels are used in the conjunctions, as opposed to “taBE(nai), taBE(masu)…” vowel-stem verbs that don’t change this way
– （ハ四） = “In classical Japanese, this was a 4-dan h-stem verb”: was さまよ(はない)、さまよひ(ながら)、さまよふ(人), さまよへ(ば). (I.e. 4 vowels are used, /a/ /i/ /u/ /e/. This is the class of verbs that became 5-dan once Japanese started using /o/ in some conjugations too.)
I think this is just what I need. I’m starting to find that there’s a lot that’s not in my 英和 dictionary and I’ve been starting to make the transition.
Matt – Okay, okay…I take it back. I think I’m just bitter because as far as I can remember not once did a sensei give me a simple explanation like that. I learned the different verb types in my first year class, but only in terms of basic conjugation. I think that’s way too soon for it to make complete sense. The idea should be reintroduced at a more advanced level.
Facebook friend Wake says: I had played with the Yahoo dictionary before but it frightened and confused me. This helps clear things up. In the example phrases (「盛り場を―・う」) I assume that I am to replace the ― with 彷徨.
Do you use the Rikaichan plug in for Firefox? Yahoo 辞書+ Rikaichan = Japanese understandability powerhouse.
Yup, you plug in the word in question into the “–“. Hadn’t ever bothered to install Rikaichan, but finally got motivated too. Looks like it will be pretty useful!
Daniel L – I completely agree. I will often use it if I think the English dictionary isn’t expressing some part of the word. Usually the Yahoo dictionary helps out.
Have you used Google’s language tools? I wonder how it compares or how good it is?
Tornadoes28 – Nowhere close. Yahoo’s dictionary is a full-fledged dictionary. Google’s language tools are machine translation.
I’ve really liked jisho.org, for being extremely lightweight while having links to related info.
Hey, can someone do me a solid? I’m trying to get the mobile version of the yahoo dictionary on my mobile, and it keeps routing me to the regular yahoo dictionary. I have a new-fangled Google phone, so it may not be detecting that I’m on a mobile.
on this page they have a barcode: http://dic.yahoo.co.jp/promo/