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WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD JAPANESE DICTIONARY: Pocket Edition Revised and Expanded
Japanese/English, English/Japanese

by Fujihiko Kaneda and Bruce Rogers, Editors
Simon & Schuster Macmillan Company, 1997
ISBN 0-02-861725-8

Reviewed by Laurence M. "Lonnie" Wiig

Attention: Please be careful of kanji size when buying a Japanese/English, English/Japanese dictionary!!

If you have a look at the shelves of an English language bookstore offering, say, sixty or more titles of the Japanese-for-Speakers-of-Other-Languages genre, you are almost certain to find at least five Japanese/English (and/or English/Japanese) dictionaries. You may even find ten or more such dictionaries. I am not writing here about Kanji dictionaries or Kanji/English dictionaries.

To clarify the specific kind of dictionary I am referring to, please imagine that you are a speaker of English who is setting out to learn a kanji-less language such as Samoan. You are almost certain to acquire, and benefit from, an English/Samoan, Samoan/English dictionary. You might decide to keep a large, hardback edition of such a dictionary at home or office while toting around a portable, paperback edition in your backpack, book bag, briefcase or handbag.

Now, imagine instead that we are talking about English/Japanese, Japanese/English dictionaries. There are such dictionaries in which all the Japanese words are rendered completely in Romanized Japanese. (I cannot think of any good reasons to acquire a completely Romanized Japanese dictionary.) For the simple reason that Japanese is essentially a non-Romanized language, most English/Japanese, Japanese/English dictionaries that you encounter will include Kanji and the two kana syllabaries. Please be aware, however, that the kanji in most of such dictionaries are intended to be understood by native speakers of Japanese-- even if the intended purchasers are non-Japanese. (You will discover, as you use portable Nihongo dictionaries in speaking situations with native speakers, that the native speakers often want to refer to the dictionary that you are holding in your hand. The dictionary editors intend for the native speakers of Japanese to readily understand the kanji in the Japanese translations at the same time that non-native speakers refer to the Romanized or kana-ized transliteration of the Japanese.)

Compared to other portable Japanese/English, English/Japanese dictionaries, WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD JAPANESE DICTIONARY: Pocket Edition is not likely to score high on total number of vocabulary items per unit of weight. Nor will it score points on providing example sentences, as other publishers' dictionaries will. Don't look here for lots of slang and loanword (gairaigo) entries.

To its credit, I would like to say the following in its favor:

If you knew all the words in this dictionary, most Japanese would think of you as an articulate speaker of their language. The price is reasonable, the weight is light, the book is sturdy, the pages are not see-through thin and the English and Romanized print is easy-to-read.

The most beneficial aspect of this portable dictionary, however, is that the kanji are easy for serious students of kanji to read. (I like to use it while, say, penning a letter to a friend in Yokohama as I ride to work on the train in Oregon.) If you look up a word like "bother," you will be able to actually see that the Japanese translations "mendou" and "meiwaku" include the large, legible kanji ʓ| and f, in contrast to the mini-kanji in other publishers' dictionaries (that often appear to foreign kanji students as "blob-blob" or "gobbledygook-gobbledygook").

For the simple reason that this dictionary employs the most legible kanji of all the portable Japanese/English dictionaries that I can find in Oregon, USA at this time, I recommend that serious students of kanji acquire a copy. (US $12.95)

April, 2002