If you’ve been studying Japanese for long enough, you’ve probably considered investing in a Japanese-English electronic dictionary. Ubiquitous in Japan and full of more (and better) resources than you could ever have on your phone, it makes sense to have one if you’re serious about your study.
But with so many models each with different functionalities, it can be hard to pick one out. In this guide, we’ll cover the things you should look for when choosing an electronic dictionary so that you can find the right one for you. If you’re still stuck at the end, we have a list of our 7 favorite options (available in the US) for you to consider.
How to Choose a Japanese English Electronic Dictionary – Buying Guide
Because there are so many different functions on a Japanese English electronic dictionary, we figured it’d be most practical to pick out the most important ones and talk about them one by one. After all, when faced with a daunting task, the most efficient thing to do is divide and conquer.
Depending on What You Want to Look up, Pay Attention to the Included Dictionaries
Depending on your level of Japanese, you may want to have multiple different dictionaries available for you to reference.
Different dictionaries will have different numbers of entries, making some options more thorough than others.
Different Dictionaries Specialize in Japanese-English, English-Japanese, and Japanese-Japanese Translation
For Japanese-English translation, keep an eye out for Kenkyusha’s Shinwaeijiten, which is one of the most thorough dictionaries available. New Progressive and Kodansha are also good options.
For English-Japanese translation, the Randomhouse Daijiten, Genius Daijiten, and The Modern Reader’s Dictionary are among the best you can find.
For Japanese-Japanese lookup, Daijiten and Daijisen are some of the most thorough, but Koujien and Meikyou are also good options.
If Necessary, Look for Specialized Dictionaries, Such as for Kanji or Business Japanese
If you’re focused on studying kanji, look to see if the dictionary has the Kanji Kentei Kanji Jiten, which is the standard for the kanji kentei exam. Depending on your goals, it might be helpful to have dictionaries that cover idioms and sayings as well. Likewise, there are dictionaries that specialize in business or formal/written Japanese.
However, the more thorough the dictionary, the more expensive it’s going to be. So keep that in mind when making your choice.
Handwriting Input for Easy Kanji Lookup
Instead of scrolling through lists of radicals or guessing at readings, wouldn’t it be easier just to write the word? Many electronic dictionaries have touchpads where you can input characters by hand, saving you time and energy.
“Jump” Functionality for Quick Tangents
Some electronic dictionaries have a function called “jump,” which allows you to select words from within definitions and look those up. This is a super convenient feature, especially if you’re looking up high-level Japanese or are not fully comfortable with the language yet.
Flashcard Apps for Focused Study
Aside from just acting as a reference, some electronic dictionaries also allow you to create flashcard lists to study from the words you look up. While these aren’t as sophisticated as the spaced repetition flashcard apps on your phone, it’s a great way to get some distraction-free studying in.
Top 7 Best Japanese-English Electronic Dictionaries to Buy Online
So now that you know what to look for in an electronic dictionary, here are a few of our favorite options. Maybe you’ll find yours here!
7. Canon Japanese Electronic Dictionary (WordTank IDP-700G)
For Simple Word Lookup (But Not Much Else)
If you’re looking for something cheap that’s literally just a dictionary to look up single words, this is it. It includes six different types of dictionaries (Japanese, Japanese-English, English-Japanese, idioms, etc.) all from Gakken.
It’s very basic, has a Japanese-only interface, and you have to search kanji by radical. But it does at least have furigana on the kanji.
|Included Dictionaries||6 (Gakken)|
6. Sharp Papyrus Electronic Dictionary (PW-AM700-R)
Basic Interface with Strong Resources
This basic electronic dictionary has 30 different resources including a medical dictionary, several business resources, a number of audio recordings, and the Encylopedia Britannica.
Its Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries are robust enough for academic use, although its interface is better suited for those with a strong grasp on the Japanese language.
|Included Dictionaries||30 (Koujien, Genius)|
5. Casio Electronic Dictionary (XD-Y6500BK)
Dictionary with Resources for Reading Practice
This electronic dictionary is built for readers. With over 2000 works of Japanese literature, 1000 international pieces, and resources on topics like medicine, history, and economics, it’s great for well-rounded language education.
While most handwriting input-friendly dictionaries have a separate panel on the bottom, this one has a touchscreen. It’s a bit more unwieldy than the conventional placement, but it’s fine if you don’t use the feature too frequently.
|Included Dictionaries||140 (Koujien, Genius)|
4. Sharp Japanese Electronic Dictionary Brain Model (PW-G5300-A)
With Comprehensive Resources for Japanese High School Students
This electronic dictionary is aimed at Japanese high school students and thus has a ton of resources on subjects normally studied in school, including history, math, and science.
This would make a great resource for someone looking to study like a native student. This dictionary also has several pre-installed videos from the Japanese Encyclopedia Britannica.
|Included Dictionaries||165 (Shinmeikai, Meikyou, Genius)|
3. Casio Ex-Word Electronic Dictionary for Professionals (XD-N10000)
For Business, Academic Research, and Specialists
This is one of the most robust electronic dictionaries available. With all of the most thorough dictionaries, a multitude of business resources, and an impressive collection of literature, this is the dictionary for those operating at the highest level of Japanese.
On top of all of its resources, this dictionary also includes brain training games and exercises. However, all of these features do come at a price, and it’s $600.
|Included Dictionaries||180 (Koujien, Meikyou, Kenkyusha)|
2. Sharp Electronic Dictionary Brain Model (PW-A7300-G)
High-Value Electronic Dictionary also with Health Tips
Marketed as a lifestyle-focused electronic dictionary, this little machine includes several health-related resources and tips and even has a brain training application.
Aside from that, it also has a great range of dictionaries and learning resources. And at less than $200, this is one of the best bang-for-your-buck electronic dictionaries out there.
|Included Dictionaries||100 (Meikyou, Genius)|
1. Casio Ex-Word Electronic Dictionary (XD-A10000)
For Research and High-Level Japanese Usage
This electronic dictionary allows you to look up basically anything you would ever need and is great for those doing specialized work. It also includes audio files aimed at improving your Japanese pronunciation.
This is an older version of the XD-N10000 model listed above but has essentially all of the same features at $150 less (though slightly less business-focused resources).
|Included Dictionaries||150 (Kenkyusha, Genius, Reader’s, Koujien, Meikyou)|
How to Make the Best Use of Your Japanese-English Electronic Dictionary
In this age of smartphones, it might sometimes seem redundant to have an electronic dictionary, so here are some tips to get your money’s worth.
Use it when you need to focus. Because an electronic dictionary is basically just a dictionary, it’s a lot harder to get distracted. Use it at work, while you’re studying, or in class. Get comfortable with the keyboard. Once you get the hang of typing your searches, you’ll notice that it’s much faster to type on an actual keyboard input than on a touchscreen.
So there you have it–a comprehensive guide to picking out a Japanese-English electronic dictionary! While they can be a bit of an investment, their breadth and depth of information make them an invaluable asset, and your study is sure to improve once you have one!
By Jacqueline Oshiro
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