Using Linux to Study Japanese

Linux provides a number of tools to help study foreign languages. A lot

of this comes from the fact that Linux is truly an international

operating system. Developers from all over the globe work to make all

the programs included with a Linux distribution. Gjiten is one of the

latest tools.

Built on top of the GNOME desktop environment, Gjiten provides a

Japanese jiten, or dictionary, using the long-available EDICT and

KANJIDICT dictionary files and presents a GNOME-based windowed front-

end. Unlike dictionaries for most Western European languages, Japanese

dictionaries, especially online ones, tend to be quite complicated. For

example, Gjiten, like most Japanese dictionaries, allows you to look up

the Kanji (literally, Chinese characters) from the Japanese phonetic

Hiragana alphabet.

First, you enter text in Hiragana using an input method to convert

Western European characters into Hiragana. Then, you look up the Kanji

for that sequence of Hiragana characters; however, most Hiragana

combinations have a number of possible Kanji, each with a different

meaning. Electronic dictionaries like Gjiten then display the available

Kanji choices for the Hiragana text and you choose the proper

combination for the meaning you want to convey.

You can download Gjiten from http://gjiten.sourceforge.net. Gjiten

depends on a number of other packages, so the installation can be a bit

complex. You need to download the EDICT and KANJIDICT dictionary files,

set up an X-Window input method, and install a Japanese locale

definition. See the instructions at

http://gjiten.sourceforge.net/gjiten-doc/installation.html for details.

A manual appears at http://gjiten.sourceforge.net/gjiten-doc/index.html.

Other programs of interest to students of Japanese include XJDIC

(http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/xjdic), an X-Window Japanese

dictionary program from Jim Breen, and KanjiPad

(http://www.gtk.org/~otaylor/kanjipad) for Japanese handwriting

recognition. KDrill (http://www.bolthole.com/kdrill) is a Kanji drill

program, while JDrill (http://www.bolthole.com/jdrill) is a cross-

platform Java version of the same program.

In addition, Mike Fabian offers a page on CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and

Korean) support in SuSE and other Linux distributions at

http://www.suse.de/~mfabian/suse-cjk/suse-cjk.html.

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