新装版 講談社漢英学習字典 - Kodansha's Kanji Learner's ペーパーバック – 2002/2/1
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The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary answers the urgent need for an easy-to-use kanji dictionary compact enough to be easily carried around, yet detailed enough to satisfy the practical needs of the beginning and intermediate learner.
Its basic goal is to give the learner a thorough understanding of kanji by providing instant access to a wealth of useful information on the meanings, readings, and compounds. Normally, the learner must memorize numerous compounds as unrelated units. A unique feature of this dictionary that overcomes this difficulty is the core meaning, a concise keyword that defines the dominant sense of each character, followed by detailed character meanings and numerous compounds that clearly show how thousands of building blocks are combined to form countless compound words.
Another unique feature is the System of Kanji Indexing by Patterns (SKIP), an indexing system that enables the user to locate characters as quickly and as accurately as in alphabetical dictionaries.
Modern linguistic theory has been effectively integrated with sophisticated information technology to produce the most useful kanji learner's dictionary ever compiled. For the first time, learners have at their fingertips a wealth of information that is linguistically accurate, easy to use, and carefully adapted to their practical needs.
• 2,230 entry characters, including all the kanji in the Joyo and Jinmei Kanji lists
• 41,000 senses for 31,300 words and word elements show how each character contributes to the meanings of compounds
• 1,200 homophones with core meanings explain differences between closely related characters
• 386 variant forms used in prewar literature and in names
• 1,945 stroke order diagrams show you how to write each kanji stroke by stroke
• 7,200 character readings, including name readings
• Over 2,000 cross-references and five appendixes give instant access to a mass of useful reference data
You'd look that number up in the book just like you'd look through the alphabet in an English dictionary, and when you arrived at the page you'd see part of the kanji along the side of the page at the top to help you find the kanji in question and then you're there. That wasn't quite so 難しい after all...
Included with the basic meaning of the kanji are the readings, the stroke order, and common compound words you'd find the kanji in. Extremely easy for a beginner to grasp. I used mine so much that the slipcover wore out and the paperback cover underneath started to wear out as well.. This is a book you'll want to keep with you for quick reference.
The main downside to KLD is its limits. KLD is primarily a beginning to intermediate dictionary and will lose utility at the advanced level, especially if you are reading a lot. If you're looking to become fluent in Japanese you will have to graduate to a heftier dictionary and students intending to use Japanese at the academic level will invariably have to graduate to Japanese dictionaries. Both of these, unfortunately, will use the radical indexing system. Those looking to graduate from KLD (but still use SKIP) should consider Mr. Halpern's more comprehensive NTC's New Japanese-English Character Dictionary and those looking to acclimate themselves to the traditional system should buy the authoritative The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary. Overall, KLD is great for those still learning and those becoming more proficient. It is also the most comprehensive and compact kanji dictionary available to students and easily the most affordable. It's been a few years since I bought KLD and even though I now use the Nelson dictionary, I still occasionally turn to KLD when I don't feel like lugging out the Nelson.
Other reviewers have pointed out many of the advantages. For my part, what I've found to be most helpful are the following features. First, there are several ways to look up any kanji. If you know the pronunciation, you can use that. If not, do it by radical; or by the SKIP method, if you know how to count the strokes. I usually find it easiest to do by pronunciation if known, or by radical if not -- the dictionary is small enough to scan the list of matching kanji by radical pretty easily, and I prefer that to counting strokes. But the key point is that with multiple methods, something will work for everyone.
Second, it has a great visual design. Simply put, this dictionary comes as close to being "beautiful" as any dictionary can. Once you've located the kanji of interest, the clean design makes it easy to find the information you need, and different sets of meanings are broken out very nicely. I usually get pulled in by browsing through the compounds, discovering interesting sets of meanings that are fun to read and think about. This is both educational and fun (at least for me).
Third, it has exact & cleanly presented stroke order for every kanji. Instead of simply numbering the strokes like many dictionaries (if they show stroke order at all), the KLD actually shows them in consecutive sequence, one at a time. So it's very easy to see the exact order and how the kanji is built up. Although stroke order is not that hard to learn, I've been surprised at how often I forget it or get confused, especially in characters with lots of right angles. KLD always sets me straight and is my first place to go for a checkup on order.
All of these features make it perfect as a supplement for classroom learning, because you can easily leverage whatever information you have (e.g., radicals, pronunciation), and fill in the knowledge you need (stroke order, meaning, compounds, etc.)
It is important to note two things that the dictionary does NOT do. It does not provide translation from English; you'll need an English-to-Japanese dictionary to do that. Also, it does not provide any learning method or meaningful didactic sequence of kanji; you'll need either classes or another kanji learning system in order actually to learn the kanji.
If your goal is to supplement another learning system, are at beginner or intermediate stage, and you want to learn kanji better, in more depth, or fill in gaps in your other methods, then I highly recommend KLD. Ganbatte kudasai!