When I first arrived in Japan I bought two dictionaries. The first was ‘Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary: Japanese-English English-Japanese’ by Kodansha, as listed in my recommended Japanese books list to the right. Using Hiragana and Katakana to search for words is better than using roman letters and the dictionary provides good example sentences for many words.
[Credit to TheHY for his recommendation of this dictionary.]
However, due to my erratic study habits, most of the time, if I was studying, I was out and about, sipping coffees in Excelsior and browsing over my other expensive Japanese books. This made the Kodansha dictionary a little redundant most of the time as it’s pretty heavy. More of a study-at-home dictionary.
What I wanted was a second dictionary – a portable and convenient electronic dictionary. There were many electronic dictionaries on the market, most of course designed for native Japanese people. So, many of them were too difficult for me to use and had more functions than I needed.
So, I found the stop-gap I needed, the Seiko RM2000 Japanese/English Dictionary with Roget’s II New Thesaurus, aimed at learners of Japanese. Using my new little machine I was able to translate between English and Japanese without me having the ability to read kanji. Even example Japanese sentences can be read without knowing kanji.
Just having this with me in Japan gave me a sense of security. I hated being in a country and thinking that I couldn’t get my message across in Japanese should anything untoward happen.
However, I realised after a while that the number of words in my RM2000’s memory bank was very limited for anyone getting past the basics of Japanese. It didn’t seem to have all the words I wanted to search for. But to be fair I have used it since buying it to this day – though less and less frequently of late.
Adding to the lack of vocabulary, the fact that there is no kanji dictionary, something essential for a serious learner of Japanese, I feel I am outgrowing my beloved dictionary. In fact, I use this dictionary in combination with my keitai (mobile phone) for kanji study! (Typing hiragana into my keitai and then hitting ‘down’ gives me a list of possible kanji which I often use for checking I haven’t made mistakes.)
Overall, I’d only recommend this dictionary for beginners of Japanese – which is who it was designed for in the first place.
When I started to look at the big scary electronic dictionaries for Japanese people again two years on, I saw that there were many useful features that these devices offer. Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade…