Denshi Jisho is an online dictionary whose main purpose is to serve learners of Japanese. With an English interface, it provides Japanese-to-English and English-to-Japanese translations (rather than extensive definitions) of words and expressions, as well as a powerful kanji lookup service.
The site is developed by Kim Ahlström and not backed by any organization. Most of the data used comes from Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC project. This includes approximately 110,000 up-to-date entries for general terms, about 12,000 on computing and communications, over 14,000 entries relating to engineering and science and more than 720,000 Japanese names, in addition to roughly 160,000 bilingual example sentences and information on kanji and their radicals. SKIP (System of Kanji Indexing by Patterns) numbers along with kanji frequency statistics are also borrowed from linguist Jack Halpern’s research.
Denshi Jisho offers helpful characteristics which make it a recommendable tool for non-native Japanese students. Searching can be carried out in kana (hiragana & katakana), rômaji (transliteration into the Latin alphabet) or kanji. The dictionary looks for every expression (including collocations) containing the sequence of sounds we may input, and is even able to locate the base form of inflected words.
To help foreigners whose language competence is low, entries mark whether a word is of common usage and add notes between brackets whenever certain meanings are restricted to specific contexts or registers, belong to a dialect or are part of the slang or archaisms, etc.
The kanji lookup system is especially useful. While other dictionaries (particularly printed versions) require that you recognize a kanji fully in order to search for it, Denshi Jisho’s “kanji by radicals” feature offers a really fast and effective method to find characters even if you are not familiar with them not can discern them very clearly.
Here is an example of the steps to follow when we only have a blurry picture of the kanji we need to identify:
If a word that you cannot read is formed by more than one kanji and you are able to recognize at least one of them, you may use it as a basis for the rest of the search. In the case of the word in blue, the second kanji “体” is simple enough to recognize. First, we begin by searching that kanji. As we will see, individual kanji entries are very complete, with translations of their usual meanings into several languages and information on details such as the stroke order.
As expected, we are given a list with all of the words that end in “体”. It would take a long time to check those 534 results until we found the one we are looking for, so we will try to reduce the amount by checking “common words only”. Not all of the words we might want to locate need to be part of the list of common words, but it is likely that they will if the text is taken from an average source.
The other method consists on looking for a kanji through its most visible radicals. Let’s try to find the second kanji on the word in yellow.
A list of kanji which have the radical “攵” has appeared on the lower side of the window. The characters highlighted in a darker blue are those which are part of the jouyou list, which, at least in theory, includes the more regularly used kanji. Most kanji we may come across with should therefore appear among the highlighted ones.
In case we are given too many results and still do not locate our kanji, it would be a good idea to add another radical. On the upper side, the radicals which cannot combine with the one we chose have become unselectable, so it is now easier for us to find the radicals we are missing among the options that remain selectable. Although at first I could not decipher the left side of the kanji we are looking for, seeing the few choices I am left with it is easier to make a decision. I can now suppose that the lower left side of our kanji is the radical “女”.
Now that we are left with only six options, it is easy to recognize our kanji. As expected, it appears highlighted and is part of the jouyou list.
To find the complete word in yellow, we could either look for the other kanji through its radicals or follow the first method again.
As we can see, the process is not complicated and it is rendered extremely quick and simple when, as it should usually be the case, we have a clear picture of the kanji. Denshi Jisho’s radical lookup system is not only handy and convenient, but also a practical way for students to train their kanji memorizing skills as they unconsciously get used to those small units which form the composition of each character.
About – Denshi Jisho (2011). By Kim Ahlström. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
Types of Dictionaries (2011). In e-books of Central Institute of Indian Language – An Introduction to Lexicography. Retrieved February 19, 2011.