How to use Free Software to learn Japanese, and more.

Yomichan and EPWING dictionaries

December 13, 2020 — Tatsumoto

Yomichan is a web browser extension with a pop-up dictionary that allows you to look up unknown words with the hover of a mouse.

EPWING is a dictionary format that was allegedly utilized in portable electronic dictionaries. To view EPWINGs you need qolibri, a dictionary viewer that lets you search multiple EPWING files at one time so for every word you look up you immediately get multiple definitions.

To actually use the software and look up words you need to get dictionary files. A few basic Japanese to English dictionaries are available on the Yomichan webpage, but most dictionaries you need to acquire yourself. Below is a list of links where you can find dictionaries for qolibri and Yomichan.


EPWING

Packs:

Standalone dictionaries:

Yomichan

An archive with dictionaries for Yomichan can be downloaded by following the link below.

Download

Mirror

Sources

The dictionaries were compiled from various places. Below is a list of public folders that were used.

Go to Yomichan settings and select the "Dictionaries" tab on the left side, then click the button "Configure installed and enabled dictionaries…". Press "Import" to import a new dictionary.

About

Each folder in the archive contains a file called "README.md". Open it to see additional information about the dictionaries.

Bilingual

The goal of bilingual dictionaries is to provide you a rough tool to help you get by until you switch to monolingual dictionaries. On this stage JMdict is going to be enough for most people. If you want to explore other available dictionaries, see the recommendations below.

I recommend you get the following dictionaries.

  • JMdict. The same dictionary that you find on Jisho.org. JMdict doesn't have example sentences. If you need them, try the resources listed here.
  • KANJIDIC. A kanji dictionary. It pops up when you click on a kanji in the headword.
  • 新和英. A dictionary made by Japanese people for Japanese people. We can learn Japanese words by using it in reverse.
  • 研究社露和辞典. A Russian-Japanese Dictionary. Russian speakers praise it a lot. Has example sentences.

Monolingual

Once you've started the monolingual transition, it is time to use real dictionaries. JMdict is very limited and only contains simple translations, many of which can be misleading because it's very rare for a word in one language to have an exact, one-to-one correlate in another language. Monolingual dictionaries, on the other hand, are very powerful because they provide detailed definitions and usage examples. With monolingual dictionaries you can learn your target language in your target language.

Pick 3 or 4 monolingual dictionaries you like the most and import them into Yomichan. Don't be that guy, don't import all dictionaries at once. Japanese to Japanese definitions are longer than Japanese to English ones. It's easy to clutter Yomichan pop-ups with dozens of definitions. Qolibri is much better at handling many dictionaries at the same time than Yomichan.

Some people may tell you that, say, dictionary A has more precise and easy to read definitions than dictionary B. In reality the differences between them are not very noticeable, especially if you're someone who's already quite good at Japanese. Almost all Japanese to Japanese dictionaries copy each other. They change one or two words in the definitions here and there to essentially avoid copyright strikes. The provided example sentences are often the same word by word. 新明解 is probably the only monolingual dictionary that offers original definitions, but it's harder to follow because of how often it backtracks.

If you're new to monolingual dictionaries, it will take a few weeks to adjust to them.

Most recommended:

Below is a short list of dictionaries you see being recommended the most in the AJATT community.

  • 大辞林
  • 新明解
  • 大辞泉
  • 明鏡

Here I specify more or less generic names. Often the same dictionary has many versions, in which case the names can differ as well. For example, 大辞林 and スーパー大辞林, or 大辞泉 and デジタル大辞泉. You're free to pick any version you like.

大辞林 and 大辞泉 are quite similar to each other, have good definitions and contain many entries. Prefer デジタル大辞泉 over the original 大辞泉. It has an extra 120 000 entries and contains images. 明鏡 and 新明解 use easy language and are considered beginner-friendly. 新明解 doesn't have many entries and has a convoluted definition structure that employs a lot of redirections marked with and () which force the reader to jump back and forth. But mostly it's very good. 大辞林 and 新明解 contain pitch accent information, so you may want to import them first.

Additional dictionaries:

  • 旺文社国語辞典. A dictionary by Oubunsha. Advertised as easy to understand for people new to monolingual dictionaries. However, I've found that certain defintions use more difficult vocabulay than 大辞林. The file is big because it contains images. There's a version without images called 旺文社国語辞典 第十一版 画像無し.
  • Weblio古語辞典. Archaism dictionary from Weblio.
  • 新辞林. You can treat it as a simplified version of 大辞林.
  • 日本国語大辞典. The biggest Japanese dictionary in the world.
    • 精選版 日本国語大辞典
    • 小学館 国語大辞典
  • 岩波書店 岩波国語辞典
  • 広辞苑
  • 故事ことわざの辞典. Proverb dictionary.

Frequency lists

Frequency lists are dictionaries that display how frequently a word might appear in a given corpus. Often frequency dictionaries have different frequency notations. In some, a higher frequency number may indicate that the word is more frequent. In others, it's the opposite. You can use these dictionaries to judge whether it is worth for you to learn a certain word or not. Words that appear more frequently than others are more useful.

If you have downloaded the full collection of dictionaries for Yomichan linked above, you should have the frequency lists as well. Below I provide a separate link for those who are only interested in the frequency lists.

Download

Mirror

Recommended:

  • Netflix frequency list
  • Anime & Jdrama frequency list

These are a must-have if you watch dramas or anime a lot.

Additional frequency lists:

  • Innocent corpus. Based on 5000+ novels.
  • Narou. Top 300 Narou stories.
  • VN. Visual Novels. I don't recommend VNs because most of them are proprietary, but the frequency list may help you detect common words in other types of content.
  • BCCWJ - Based on Long Unit Word list data.
  • Daijirin. Words that appear in the 大辞林 monolingual dictionary. You may want to take a look at it if you've decided to go monolingual and you need to prioritize learning dictionary vocabulary.

Other

  • JMnedict. Japanese names.
  • 漢字源. Monolingual kanji dictionary.
  • Kanjium. Pitch accent dictionary.

Don't import all Yomichan dictionaries

You need to have a lot of dictionaries at hand because Japanese to Japanese dictionaries always have gaps in them. There will always be words that are in some dictionaries and not in others.

A few examples:

  • 夢海鼠 is only in 日本国語大辞典.
  • 禿同 is only in 実用日本語表現辞典.

Though you might think that using every dictionary in Yomichan is a good idea and load up all of them, I would advise you not to do so. Sometimes the word that you're trying to look up isn't the one that comes up first in the dictionary. If you want to find it you have to scroll down, and if you have many dictionaries imported this is going to be pretty annoying.

So what I recommend you to do instead is to have as few dictionaries as possible and use Qolibri whenever there's a word that you can't find in Yomichan.

Custom CSS note

If you want to use デジタル大辞泉 or 旺文社国語辞典, images may render incorrectly unless you append the following rules to your Popup CSS. If this happens, go to Yomichan settings > "Appearance" > "Configure custom CSS...".

Popup CSS for images
.gloss-image-description {
    text-align: center;
}
.definition-item-content,
.gloss-image-link {
    max-width: 100%;
}
.gloss-image-container {
    background: none !important;
}
.gloss-image-link[data-has-aspect-ratio="true"] .gloss-image {
    position: static;
    max-height: 200px;
}
.gloss-image-link[data-has-aspect-ratio="true"] .gloss-image-aspect-ratio-sizer {
    display: none;
}
.gloss-image-container-overlay {
    display: none;
}
img {
    will-change: transform;
}

Tags: dictionaries, yomichan, epwing