Updates and Electronic Dictionaries

A giant paper dictionary is all well and good, but it’s not very useful for reading Japanese comics at work. It weighs a ton and it gets painful to keep flipping through it, while also juggling the book you are trying to read and a notepad to write the stuff down in. So I decided to start looking for an electronic dictionary. These are popular in Japan, but are also very expensive! A half decent one is around £250, and seeing as their main purpose is for Japanese people to look up obscure kanji on, you need a decent one if you want it to have any foreign language support.

So, I decided to make my own! I bought a cheap netbook…

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An Allfine Netbook

Unfortunately I bought the cheapest one I could possibly find, and it’s a doorstop! It’s as slow as hell, can barely handle facebook and just doesn’t work at all with Youtube. Also the battery lasts seconds! It’s some kind of bespoke battery too, so I can’t just buy another one. It would be alright if there was a socket in a convenient place in my work’s canteen, but there isn’t.

So I needed another option. Conveniently my mobile was also playing up, so it was time for a new one!

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Samsung Galaxy Ace, was thinking of going for the cheaper Galaxy Y

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“Looks” bigger, but is actually slightly smaller than, the old one.

This phone uses Android, google’s popular operating system. There’s thousands of apps available for Android, including some Japanese dictionaries. I have several but haven’t given them a good comparison yet. Maybe I’ll post up reviews of the different ones later, for now here’s a few shots of one called Transkun.

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The main screen

I also got a Japanese Keyboard app. This works a bit like “traditional” text messaging, where you press a key several times to cycle through the different letters. Except on this they are hiragana. In fact this might be how texting in Japan works. As you go along a large number of grey buttons pops up in the background offering suggestions for kanji/complete words that you may be trying to type. On some apps this can actually obscure most of what you are typing, which is annoying.

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 There’s also QWERTY and Number options. Not sure if there’s one to type ‘directly’ in katakana though.

As I said, some of the dictionaries are better than others. I had one, though I can’t remember it’s name, which was terrible. It refused to provide the basic meaning of “Watashi”, a word everybody knows after about 5 minutes of Japanese class, instead going on about a ferry. Also another dictionary called Flashcard Tree doesn’t always provide ‘just’ a translation of a word, only example sentences. Transkun isn’t always particularly clear, either.

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Wait, I’ve only just noticed that it hasn’t found “Watashi” on it’s own, instead only finding one compound that contains that character! What are they playing at?

Oh yeah, I also got another thing to practice Japanese with – a whiteboard!

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Handy for practicing kanji over and over hundreds of times!

As a more general update, I got rejected from JET again. It was probably the personal statement, I recently wrote an article on the complete 250-year history of British adventure comics, and then had to go back through it about 3 times to carefully check all the grammatical errors. I didn’t make such an effort with the statement, so it was probably loaded with them.

But I don’t really care any more either. I had a Japanese girlfriend, I wanted to go on JET to be with her, but I chucked her in November so wasn’t too fussed if I didn’t get on. I was actually completely disinterested in Japan until I met her, and I doubt I’ll bother trying JET any more. I’m still not entirely sure if I want to try a private ALT company, or just get a better-paying job in Britain and have a few more holidays there.

One upshot of having a Japanese girlfriend was that I developed an interest in Japanese comics. I love the comic art form, but mainly the British kind! I see plenty of interesting material in Japan (their industry is probably the world’s biggest, in terms of the output of actual comics) , but almost everything that gets translated into English is shonen battle stories. They’re all the same!

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An exception

Bakuman is about the only manga I follow at the moment, probably because it has a real-world setting with no magic powers.  The English version is up to book 10, but the Japanese version is on book 17, and there will be an 18. I went to the Japan Centre in London (just off Piccadilly Circus, but apparently it moves a lot) a few months ago, and got the first book in Japanese, as well as an issue of Shonen Jump, with a chapter that will go on book 18.

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Also featuring the beginning of a new volleyball story called Haikyuu!

I’ll do some more in-depth reviews of the comics I have read later. I’ve been interested in a certain one for ages, but was unsure about buying it. Today I took the plunge and got it anyway.

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Tegami Bachi

Unusually, for both English and Japanese reprint books, it reproduces the colour pages in colour!

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And the glossy pages ‘reproduce’ the light bulb.

Of course if I want to read any of the sort of comics I like (and western manga fans hate) like secret agents, football and war, I’ll have to learn more Japanese. I have several volumes of Japanese comics in “simple” kana-only form. They’re good if you have a large vocabulary, I don’t, and so the kana simply means I can’t tell where words begin or end. Also several words in Doraemon, a book aimed at primary school children and relatively modern, do not seem to be in any dictionaries! Looks like I’ll have to find some “young audience but with furigana’d kanji” books. Or else some bilingual ones, I’ve seen a few of those in Japan. At least then the English will give me a “guide” to what I ought to be looking for.

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Easy to read, not to understand!

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