This is a project funded by CETL
Using Dictionaries in
by Martie Jelinek
Types of Dictionaries
Tips & Troubleshooting
3 STUDY TIPS and EXERCISES are indicated thus.
When you are faced with unknown vocabulary or phrases, or you want to check the
meaning of a term, you need to refer to dictionaries, but using Japanese dictionaries is
not quite as straightforward as finding, say, a French or German term. You may need
to use both a kanji dictionary and a phonetic dictionary, and this may be in kana order
or in Roman alphabetical order. This aspect of dictionary use is perhaps unique to
Japanese. Also, as there are no gaps between words, it may not always be clear where
one word ends and another begins.
Translators also need to use various reference materials in addition to their kanji- and
Japanese>English dictionaries. These include Japanese monolingual dictionaries and
encyclopaedia, English monolingual dictionaries, mono- and bilingual dictionaries for
specialist subjects (for example medical terms or architecture), a dictionary of
classical language (古語辞典 kogo jiten) and, of course, internet resources.
So the first hurdle is finding the term you require in the correct dictionary: that is,
knowing where and how to find it.
Next you will need to select the correct English equivalent, where one is listed, and
adapt it to the context of your translation text. Very often the English equivalents
given are not appropriate, so the dictionary is only a guide to meaning and not a
‘translator’s bible’. On other occasions the term you want does not appear in the
dictionary at all, and you need some coping strategies!
This article aims to look at these problems more closely and provide some useful hints
for student translators.
TYPES OF DICTIONARIES & when to use them
These are necessary when you need to look up kanj