Oxford Picture Dictionary English/Japanese

5 / 10
loads of Japanese language vocabulary sorted by topic; glossy, colorful pages full of pictures; each picture corresponds immediately to vocab words on the page; thematic arrangement into categories and subcategories works wonderfully; solid, well thought out choice of vocab words; questions & even activities on many pages; index reference page numbers for every Japanese & English vocab word

using this as a language learning course book requires careful consideration; not really a dictionary nor a language learning course; all words in full Japanese script (kana & kanji) with no transliteration or pronunciation help, meaning that beginners will need another resource to be able to read the vocabulary; any use requires a lot of memorization; language learning resources in book clearly intended for classroom study; clearly intended for Japanese students learning English

The Oxford Picture Dictionary English/Japanese isn’t so much a dictionary as it is a topicalized, themed vocabulary book with exercises and suggestions for further study. If you’re learning to speak Japanese, its glossy, colorful, picture-driven pages with matching vocabulary words may help you expand and contextualize your understanding of Japanese words.

The book’s content – roughly 200 pages – is broken down into general language categories like people, food, work, means of study and plants & animals. Subcategories take up one to two pages apiece, and tackle more specific topics like daily routines, feelings, a family reunion (people) or a grocery store, a restaurant (food).

Some pages have large illustrations while others have a range of drawings in smaller, thumbnail-like boxes. The pictures are always in full color. In every case, numbers or letters within each picture indicate the concept associated with a particular vocabulary word found below or to the side of the image (so a #20 on a girl’s rain boots is easy to locate below the picture: “20. rain boots”).

This “dictionary” goes a bit beyond vocabulary by including helpful questions to stimulate vocabulary use, practice and further discussion. A few pages even include reading exercises and further activities, although these really show how the book is intended for ESL learners, since all questions and readings are in English only.

Japanese words are written in full script, including kanji and kana, which makes the vocabulary difficult to read for beginners (impossible if you haven’t studied katakana and hiragana, and just plain difficult if you haven’t mastered kanji or, at least, bought a kanji reference dictionary). The book ends with brief tidbits about grammar and pronunciation, along with a most useful vocabulary index (both English and Japanese), giving page numbers for every vocabulary word in the book.

The Oxford Picture Dictionary presents a colorful, sleek, organized and highly visual overview of a good deal of basic Japanese vocabulary. It even crafts questions and activities to help students learn words, and the book is fully searchable through the index. With all this useful material, what are the downsides? It’s not really a dictionary, and requires too much memorization to be used as a lesson coursebook as is.

The Japanese script without any furigana or transliteration makes it a chore at best to decipher each word, especially words in kanji. The text is clearly aimed at ESL learners, and leaves its other potential audience – Japanese learners – in the dark by failing to include the kind of information you would need to read these words. If you’re happy settling for a snazzy, thematic vocabulary reference that requires a bit of work to use, you’ll likely be satisfied with your purchase.

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