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    Learn Japanese With Google

    By thomas | November 22, 2007

    DailyJ is a new blog making great efforts to bring together the Japan blog community. Recently they’ve had some posts showing connections between different blogs and NihonHacks came up in connection with one of Harvey’s posts over at JapanNewbie. I’ll take the bait. :)

    Google Images

    JapanNewbie posted about using Google Images to get a quick visual on unknown words. In his words:

    … at work I came across the Katakana word スパナ (su-pa-na).

    Spanner? Usually Katakana words have roots in English, but what’s a spanner?

    So when checking a dictionary I get…

    スパナ (n) spanner; wrench;

    Ahhh… So maybe it’s a what I think of as a “wrench”.

    To double check, I can put スパナ into Google images… And most of the results look like this.

    What a great idea! Nothing helps to clarify a word like 1,000 pictures.

    Plain Old Google Works Too

    Another trick, one that I pulled from All Japanese All The Time (though I can’t seem to find the precise article), is to use Google to find examples of words in context. When you learn a new word, plug it into Google and you’ll get millions of hits that show how that word is used – in real, natural sentences. This is a great way to clarify the difference between two words with similar meanings.

    Do you have any Google tricks for learning Japanese? How about some non-Google tricks? Post your tips in the comments!

    If you haven’t already, I invite you to subscribe to NihonHacks’ RSS Feed.

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    Topics: Japanese Language | 11 Comments »Trackback

    11 Responses to “Learn Japanese With Google”

    1. shiisa Says:
      November 23rd, 2007 at 12:55 pm

      I use Google all the time at work, from Google images to get a visual idea of unfamiliar terms to regular text Google (usually when I have to write Japanese text and I want to double-check whether people actually say things the way that’s popped into my head).

      Re: “This is a great way to clarify the difference between two words with similar meanings,” whenever I’m faced with something like this, I reach for 似た言葉使い分け辞典, a really terrific dictionary that my native Japanese co-workers are constantly borrowing. As for online resources, my dictionary of choice is, which uses both Daijisen and Daijirin dictionaries and has neat features like simultaneous multiple-dictionary lookup (including a Japanese synonym dictionary — very handy).

    2. Justin Says:
      November 24th, 2007 at 2:44 am

      I never thought of doing something like this. I think in addition to helping you find out what a word is, this is a fun way to do it.

    3. Harvey Says:
      November 25th, 2007 at 1:14 am

      You know what’s funny. You said “making great efforts”. I think that’s an unconscious direct translation of 努力する. You have been in Japan too long my friend!

    4. Tori Says:
      November 25th, 2007 at 5:57 am

      @Harvey hehehe. doesn’t recognising that mean you’ve been in Japan too long too? :P

      Your post made me think about other Japanese google hacks and I came up with one I think is interesting but I don’t know how useful it is. Maybe someone else can build on the idea.

      Being a web nerd and google junkie I thought about using the wildcard (the little *) along with a kanji. Like this 検*

      Possible uses:
      1)Let’s say you see a character in a book or newspaper that you don’t recognise combined with a character you recognise. You could type the half you recognise, plus the *, into google and it gives you combinations. You find the one you are looking for and then you can look it up on an online dictionary (or with rikaichan).

      2)Finding more Kanji combinations (for increasing your kanji 能力). You can put the * before or after the kanji to find different kanji combinations (検* or *検)

    5. ジェイソン (Jason) Says:
      November 26th, 2007 at 1:49 am

      Hmm … now the trick will be to make this available to portable devices ….

      I normally encounter some new vocab while away from the internet. At the moment, I write down the spelling (and maybe some of the sentence) and translate it once I get home at night. Aside from that, I can usually send a quick text message to my wife and get an answer.

    6. JapanNewbie » Checking your Japanese-English Translations with Google Fight Says:
      November 27th, 2007 at 4:54 am

      […] picked up on and added to, the Learning with Google Images post we had a while back after hearing […]

    7. Gabuchan Says:
      November 29th, 2007 at 5:54 am

      My favourite “trick” is using a program called rikaichan. It helps reading of kanji on japanese pages. It is only available for firefox (my browswer of preference anyhow)
      google is great.

    8. thomas Says:
      December 1st, 2007 at 12:06 am

      @shiisa: You seems to be down on the dictionary thing. I mostly just use my canon wordtank, which isn’t very comprehensive, but seems to do the trick. I also use sanseido.

      @Justin: Google is extremely useful for clearing up vocabulary. I’m sure you can use the same trick for German too!

      @Harvey: It would be regrettable if people were to think my English has become strange. From now, let’s enjoy talking about something else!!

      Here’s to too long in Japan!

      @Tori: Cool tip with the wild card. Have you tried it out yet?

      @Jason: My wife gets annoyed if I ask her too many “what does X mean?” questions :). That’s why I carry the electronic dictionary with me everywhere I go. I tried the Google search for “スパナ” on my mobile phone and it worked like a charm. It even brought up pictures of wrenches. If you have an internet plan on your mobile phone, then you can use it on the run.

      @Gabuchan: Yeah, I’ve been meaning to do a post about Rikaichan and Moji (the one I use). They are ridiculously useful, and a reason in themselves to use firefox (though I wouldn’t be surprised if Opera has something similar for it).

    9. Now You Can Learn Japanese Online « Says:
      December 2nd, 2007 at 5:23 am

      […] the internet. Harvey is Learning Japanese with Google Images, Thomas is posting some ways to Learn Japanese with Google, and SpeedAnki is helping me relearn the thousand kanji I forgot after passing JLPT 2kyu. The […]

    10. Alec Says:
      December 19th, 2007 at 3:38 am

      What’s a ‘wrench’?

      Ooh, a spanner!

    11. nanashi Says:
      November 13th, 2009 at 1:29 am

      In terms of function, is in my opinion the best Japanese-English dictionary online, also for mobile ( They have a kanji radical lookup and the search supports wildcards and ‘ ‘.
      The Google image trick is cool, I will try it! Make note that the English Google and Japanese Google will give you different results, even for images.
      Also, some people may prefer Moji as opposed to the Rikaichan lookup bar. It’s a Firefox plugin which integrates a word and kanji dictionary into the sidebar. It also works from EDict, the same as Rikaichan. I’m kind of using both, I’ve already gotten used to using Moji and got Rikaichan just recently.