Short answer is NOPE!
But if you are thinking about it and have some cash to spare it could be a value learning tool for you.
I was toying with the idea of purchasing one for a while but figured I could just make due without one. I started thinking about how many times I day I use free online Japanese dictionaries and how I wasn’t 100% happy with the experience…. so I decided to just go for it. Reading is my main hobby right now so if it’s something that I really want, I should just get it at this point. I don’t think my interest in Japanese novels is going to go anywhere any time soon.
My electronic dictionary requirements
– I wanted a Casio Ex-word
– I wanted one with these three dictionaries included
– 新和英大辞典 第五版
– I wanted a writing pad below the keyboard
– I wanted an older model
– I wanted to spend under $150
It seems like most of the models available are created with students in mind. There were lots of models that ranges from Junior High student level to university level. I found that these models tended to be cheaper in general but lacked the dictionaries that I was interested in. The features seems to be heavy geared for students learning English and just didn’t seem to fit my needs as a Japanese language learner. The English-Japanese dictionary that I was interested in seemed to only be available in the more expensive business and professional models.
The 4 models that I ended up considering were
Why I wanted those specific dictionaries
When I started causally looking into electronic dictionaries this year, it really changed the ways that I viewed definitions of words. I have never really considered the quality of definitions before. At this point in my studies, I am used to using free internet dictionaries.
広辞苑(The Kōjien) is pretty much seen as the definitive Japanese mono-lingual dictionary in Japan. Since I usually look up words in Japanese/Japanese dictionaries, I knew that I had to have this one.
新和英大辞典 第五版(Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary 5th edition) seems to be one of the most popular high quality English/Japanese dictionary out there. It is also known as green goddess. I really wanted this one due to its great reputation. But this dictionary is usually only available on more expensive models and will not be included in low-price student denshi jisho.
NHK日本語発音アクセント辞典(NHK Pitch Accent Dictionary) is for those who are interested in improving their accent in Japanese. It will go over the pitch pattern for many words to help you to be able to pronounce it in a natural sounding way.
I find that all of the definitions I have encountered in my electronic dictionary are high quality and easy to understand. When I was using free monolingual dictionaries online, I found that I had to use a few different dictionaries before I found a definition that was both easy to understand and seemed like it fully encompassed the meaning of the term. I would usually type the term into a search engine followed by the word meaning in Japanese. For example “戦慄 意味”. From there I would open up a few links and read a definitions until I was able to find an entry that suited me. Then due to the fact that I invested so much time into finding a good explanation, I felt like I HAD to create an SRS card for each word. I wanted to get away from that habit and work on lowering the number of SRS cards created per day to help with vocabulary retention.
Why I wanted a Casio Ex-word
There seem to be a few different brands out there, but as I was unable to go to a store and test out the different models, looking at all of the brands available seemed very overwhelming, so I just narrowed it down to Casio from the start at it was the brand of the electronic dictionary that I used when I was in school. Their website was fairly helpful. For most models they had a page dedicated to describing the features found inside each one.
Why I wanted a writing pad below the keyboard
Modern electronic dictionaries have down away with the writing pad and have switched to having users write kanji and the upper screen.
I feel that the writing pad is more Japanese learner friendly as we are more likely to be writing out the characters when looking up new words. I am willing to use a touch screen to write on, but if felt too similar to writing with my finger on a smart phone. Part of the reason I wanted to purchase an electronic dictionary was to give myself an outlet for hand writing kanji. I feel that the stylus pen on the writing pad below the keyboard gives a more realistic experience of writing. I hope that this helps to improve my hand writing even just a little bit. At this point, I haven’t hand written a kanji in years. I need to create reasons to write in my life or else I will never develop wiring kanji as a skill.
Why I wanted an older model
I just feel like many older items are of high quality then more modern ones. I am worried about new products having built in issues due to planned obsolesces. I am sure this is not always true, but due to my experiences I always try to purchased older items when possible. I also wanted a professional model at a cheaper price and used seemed to be the way to go. New professional models can be very expensive.
Where did I look while shopping?
Since I was looking to by a used model, I was looking at main auction sites like Yahoo and Mericari. If you are buying from outside Japan, it can be very complicated to purchase from these sites as many do not ship overseas. There are companies you can use to ship the products too you such as White Rabbit Express. But they are somewhat hard to use as you will not know the true shipping price until after you have already purchased the item. Those companies do seem like a good resource as they state they will inspect the package for you. Since batteries cannot be shipped overseas, its nice to have an extra set of eyes to make sure that that the package won’t get seized at some point.
Shopping for an older model provide to be pretty difficult. They are often sold on action sites, but most of the people creating these posts are not experts on electronic dictionaries. Most sellers do not think to post the model number, leaving me looking at blurry pictures trying to figure out how to research what dictionaries were on it.
Amazon.co.jp was a site that was easy to use and had more sellers that were willing to ship internationally. I think that auction sites had better deals and more models available. It just so happened that I found a amazon listing for a model that I liked at an okay price. I might have gotten a better deal on an auction site, but I did not want to have to deal with using a special shipping service.
What did I buy?
I ended up purchasing a XD-GF10000 made in 2009 off of amazon.co.jp. It was well below my budget at around $50. It had a black and white screen which I considered a bonus. I don’t need a color screen for a dictionary. I also feel like the more simple the item, the less likely it is to break. And I figured it would give me better battery life as well. This item also shipped directly to America which made purchasing it much less complicated. I may have over paid for it, but I figured I cannot be too picky since I am shopping from America. I figured if I was truly unhappy with it, I can try to search again once I move back to Japan.
Was it worth it?
I am really happy with my dictionary so far! I am not sure whether it is a placebo effect or not, but I do find the definitions in this dictionary as extremely valuable. It had helped me to focus on examining the word without feeling the pressure to create an SRS card. I also like how old school the dictionary looks.
The one small issue that I face was that the NHK accent dictionary was not exactly what I thought it would be. Sadly my electronic dictionary does not have audio included in this dictionary. But I do still like how it is set up and it seems easy to understand. I am interested in learning more about pitch accent and plan to use this resource along with Dogen’s pitch accent class with the goal of improving my accent by 10%.
At this point, the only time I have been using online dictionaries is when I am doing research while writing book reviews. Jisho.org often lists the JLPT level if its a word that is associated with a certain level. I find this information useful when creating my recommendations.
While I am very happy with my new dictionary and use it often, I don’t think it is something that most language learners need. If you are more advanced in your language level and are looking for high quality explanations, then it might be worth it for you to purchase one. I would not recommend one to a beginner unless they really needed one for school. The dictionary set up does not seem very beginner friendly and a beginner would most likely not be able to use most of the features.
Anyone else out there still use an electronic dictionary?