Using Linux to Study Japanese

By Eric Foster-Johnson, ITworld |  Opinion

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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