So what’s a 電子辞書 (denshi jisho)?
Japanese for “electronic dictionary,” it’s a gizmo that’s really handy if you’re learning Japanese. They’re usually full of all different kinds of dictionaries, and now they have things like a drawing pad where you can draw a kanji on the pad, and they will (usually) recognize the kanji you draw on the pad. So gone are the days of tediously looking up kanji by their respective parts.
Sounds great, right?
Well, there are downsides. For starters, 電子辞書 are hard to find outside of Japan. You have to find a way to import them, and that can wind up being very expensive. Also, they’re usually bulky and full of a lot of features you’re not going to use. And it’s one more thing to carry around.
My Sharp Papyrus has an MP3 player and a bunch of other random crap I just never use. I’ve seen others that have TV tuners. Seriously? I just want to look up some words.
My iPhone does just about all of that, only better.
My iPhone Can Haz Denshi Jisho?
If you’re an iPhone or iPod Touch user, you already own something that can easily be turned into a 電子辞書 if you’re willing to spend some money in the iTunes App store.
I’ve already mentioned the excellent 大辞林 (Daijirin) app, which gives you a great 国語 (kokugo— Japanese) dictionary for around $13 US.
If you need something more along the lines of a 英和/和英 dictionary (that would be an English-Japanese/Japanese English dictionary), then you can get the pretty good Genius 2 for $42, or the excellent 研究社 for $31, or the Wisdom for $24.
I love the 研究社 for its sample sentences, and its search robustness, but its interface is a little plain, and it lacks a super jump ability. You have to cut and paste words to search related words, which is kind of a pain.
There are also 四字熟語 dictionaries available as well as medical dictionaries. (The medical dictionaries are hideously expensive.)
To find Japanese dictionaries in the App Store, search under 辞書 or 辞典 (jisho or jiten… but you need to use the Japanese keyboard to generate those kanji.)
What About Drawing Kanji?
What about the kanji recognition? Does the iPhone have that?
Yes, it does. Of a sort.
Add the Chinese Traditional Handwriting keyboard under Settings> General> Keyboards> International> Chinese (Traditional). Then when you want to look up a kanji by drawing it, use the globe button to select the handwriting pad. Select until you see a big rectangular pad, and draw the kanji you’re looking for.
Draw slowly, and use proper stroke order. Then select one of the four kanji that pop up on the side. Voila. Kanji recognition– just like a $350 電子辞書, only it fits in your pocket.