Throughout junior and high school, I received English tutoring from a teacher I will refer to as M. I was told by an upperclassman of 2 years that “M is a really great teacher! It`s best to just write down everything he says without leaving out anything.”, so that`s what I did. Thanks to that, I learned a lot. “Finding a good dictionary and consulting it often is the key to mastering a language. If you find it too much of a pain to consult a dictionary, then you won`t get results. It`s common for a single word to have many meanings. Therefore, it`s obvious to look up a word you don`t know but repeatedly look up a word you think you know in that dictionary.” This is one thing M said that I can`t forget.
M recommended the Kenkyusha`s New Collegiate English-Japanese Dictionary (hereafter referred to as the Kenkyusha dictionary), which had just received its initial pressing. I`m sure many know this, but English verbs have a grammatical rule called verb patterns, and depending on the verb, the verb pattern is decided. For example, for the verb describe, a native speaker can`t just get the syntax that includes “describe that...”. Americans or the English have many verb patterns engrained in their heads already, but for a Japanese person, you have to consult a dictionary repeatedly. In the Kenkyusha dictionary, every verb pattern that can be applied to a verb is listed, which is indispensable for writing in English. Nowadays, the English-Japanese dictionaries used for study in circulation have the verb patterns of each of the verbs, but at that time, the Kenkyusha dictionary I used was a pioneer in this aspect. Further, noun patterns and adjective patterns are also described. Again I must thank M`s keen eye and guidance.
On the other hand, when reading something written in English, or translating from English to Japanese, a dictionary abundant in word count and translations is of great use. However, being numerous in examples and being abundant in word count is a difficult coexistence when dealing with a limited number of pages. Accordingly, for an English-Japanese dictionary, you need both one rich in examples, and one high in word count, at the bare minimum.
Nowadays, I put my Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD) to loving use. Suppose I can`t find a translation for a word that exactly fits what I`m looking for in my English-Japanese dictionaries. In that case, I use the OALD to understand the meanings that can be applied to the word and try to figure out a translation that fits the context. I have been helped out of a pinch countless times by using this strategy. It also has many examples, and of course, sentence patterns are properly explained. As a native co-worker said,” The Oxford dictionary is the golden standard.”
Through this way of thinking, I have become very familiar with many dictionaries. Each of them having its own characteristics makes reading through them for comparison quite interesting. Surely this is what you can call “Dictionary Samadhi”! However, due to being at an older age, reading small font can tire me out. Due to that, I am thankful for electronic dictionaries and being able to install them on a computer as well. Net dictionaries are convenient, but relying solely on them limits the scope of your translations. In parting, I would like to rest my pen on the words of M: “The price of a dictionary might get a little steep, but if you think of the extent of work put into compiling it and what you can learn from studying it, it`s quite cheap for what it`s worth. You can`t be frugal with what you spend on a dictionary”.