Using the JLT Dictionaries on Android

Set-up Necessary Accessories Other Useful Apps

An Android phone or tablet can make an excellent Japanese dictionary.  The powerful JLT dictionaries running on the powerful EBPocket Pro app will help you find or translate anything you want, and accessory apps can make your device even more useful and convenient.

First, set up your dictionaries.

  1. Buy and install the EBPocket Pro app (600円 or the rough equivent in your local currency; there's a free version but it lacks the powerful search features needed to get the most out of a huge dictionary like Eijiro).  

  2. Then, get your dictionaries ready.  EBPocket can use a couple of different formats, but the one we're interested in is EPWING, which has especially powerful search options for large dictionaries.  The first thing to note is that an EPWING-format dictionary is actually an entire folder.  Each dictionary folder contains an extensionless file called "CATALOGS" or "CATALOG" and a subfolder, which could be called anything.  It may also contain a copyright or other file.  Do not move, rename, delete, or try to directly open anything inside the dictionary folder or subfolder.  If your dictionary came as a .zip file, you'll first have to unzip it on your computer (trying to unzip a large dictionary like Eijiro won't work on a phone or tablet).

  3. Next, put those dictionary folders into the "EBPocket" folder on your phone or tablet.   Open a file manager app on your Android (most recent devices have such an app built in, but there are quite a few free ones available, too) and if the EBPocket folder isn't immediately apparent, you may find it under something like "All Files."  If you can't find it quickly, you can find out where it's hiding by opening EBPocket and scrolling down in the settings to "Dictionary Path."  If you've downloaded a dictionary directly to your Android, move it from wherever it is to that EBPocket folder (making sure it's  not zipped).  If the dictionary folder is on your computer, as is most likely, plug your Android into your computer's USB port, then open the Android as a folder on your computer.  Navigate to the EBPocket folder and copy the dictionary folders into it from the computer.  One potential snag: if the EBPocket folder is empty, it may not appear on your computer.  If this happens, then look at the file manager on your Android device and note another folder near the EBPocket folder that doesn't have much in it, and then on your computer copy the dictionary folders into that.  Then, again in the file manager app on your Android, go into that folder, select the dictionary folders, choose "Cut," then go into the EBPocket folder and paste them into it ("Cut" rather than "Copy" because you don't want extra copies of all those dictionaries wasting your precious memory, and it's faster--do not choose "Delete").  

  4. Finally, you need to tell EBPocket to use those dictionaries.  Open EBPocket on your Android, tap the Dictionary icon (a bunch of books), and in the Dictionary menu tap "Edit Group" (Edit Group will be at the bottom).  Tap "Add," then in the pop-up tap the dictionary folder you want and select the CATALOG or CATALOGS file and tap OK.  Do that for all the dictionaries you want to add.  You can select a dictionary from the list and tap the up or down arrow key to move it up or down in the order of dictionaries that will be shown in the menu and in the search results.  When you've got them arranged as you like, tape "Complete" to finish.  

Now, two necessary accessories.

  1. Japanese keyboard or keypad input.  Most of you can simply add this from your device's settings menu (Languages/Keyboards--the exact wording and location differ from phone to phone), but if your device doesn't offer this (mine came with only English and Chinese support built-in) or if you don't like the built-in options, you can add something else.  Swype is cheap and many people like it; I use the free Google Japanese Input (I use the QWERTY style keyboard, not the keypad-style input).  There are many others--look around and you may find something you like better.

  2. Japanese handwriting input.  Again, if you can install this from your device's settings, great.  I used to recommend Swype for this, but recent changes make it hard to enter complicated characters.  Instead, now I recommend the free Google Handwriting Input (be sure to download the offline data).  My test is the 30-stroke character 鸞--if a handwriting input method lets you enter and find that, you'll be able to enter anything.

And some very useful ones:

Optical character recognition (OCR).   These apps are really handy.  If you see some printed Japanese, instead of trying to trace the characters in one-by-one with your finger, just point the camera at whatever and the app will read the text and look it up.  It generally works best with printed text on a clean, even surface.  I recommend two apps for this.   Google Translate (free, maybe already on your device) takes an augmented reality approach--it shows you live video of what it's looking at with the Japanese text replaced by what it thinks is the right English.  It's good for quick-and-dirty translation and will usually give you the gist of the text, but it can make a lot of mistakes that may be important but not obvious.  Basically, your math teacher would complain that it doesn't show its work.  It doesn't show you what part of the text it's translating into a given English word or phrase, so when it picks up non-text items like images, text boxes, bullet points, or stray marks and translates them as characters, or where it's failed to recognize where one word ends and the next begins, that isn't always apparent (and there's no way to correct it). You also can't tell when it has simply misrecognized a character.   But it's quick and easy and usually comes close enough, and it has a few other tricks worth exploring, too.   Yomiwa (400円) is much better at telling text from chaff and knowing where words begin and end, and it also shows you the picture of the original text, the Japanese characters it thinks that text is, and the English meaning of it so that when it does make a mistake you can immediately see it (and easily correct it).   When you need it quick use Google Translate, and when you really need it right use Yomiwa.

NHK Accent Dictionary (NHK 日本語発音アクセント辞典):  As of Sept. 2017, this is very hard to find for Android; it may reappear in the app stores sooner or later, though, so it's worth checking if this sounds useful to you.  It's meant to give guidance to the perfect NHK Tokyo accent for aspiring Japanese announcers, but it can be useful for beginning Japanese learners outside of Japan who need to work on pronunciation but don't have regular exposure to native speakers or for very advanced learners who want to absolutely perfect their pronunciation.  I don't think it's worth the money for people who can already pronounce all the kana syllables properly or have regular exposure to native speakers (unless, again, they're so fluent they want to sound better than the natives around them).   The Android app was pulled because of compatibility problems with Android 7.   NHK used to put out an EPWING version of the previous edition on CD, and if you can find it, it's nice to be able to use it in the same EBPocket app as the rest of your dictionaries--but as that might mean hunting down an expensive used copy or a file on a sketchy sharing site, it's probably best to wait for the new version to appear in the app store again (the new version has also been expanded and reformatted).