Japanese?

asm43

Member
Wondering if you would ever consider producing a Pleco product for Japanese. Pleco is hands-down the best language assistant software for Chinese and I really miss it with Japanese. (I'm sure it would be equally valuable for other Asian languages as well but I have the greatest interest in Japanese personally... I would also expect the market for a Japanese Pleco to be larger than any other language besides Chinese)

It would be awesome to have licensed Japanese dictionaries of similar quality to the Chinese dictionaries provided by Pleco. However, even just Pleco over the JMDict project dictionary would be very useful. I haven't found anything with comparable handwriting recognition and user-friendly UI.
 

ipsi

状元
This has been discussed before. If you do a search on this topic, you should find a bunch of stuff.

Off the top of my head, there are three major problems.

1) Pleco's HWR libraries don't support some fairly common Japanese Kanji, nor does it support Hiragana/Katakana. Adding them would be theoretically possible, but very expensive as I understand it.

2) All the good J-E/E-J dictionaries are tied up in exclusive licenses with the major Japanese dictionary makers, meaning they'd be unavailable to Pleco.

3) Pleco was designed as a Chinese learning companion, and adding Japanese support would essentially dilute their focus, resulting in a worse experience all around.

There are some other issues as well, but those are the largest.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
ipsi said:
1) Pleco's HWR libraries don't support some fairly common Japanese Kanji, nor does it support Hiragana/Katakana. Adding them would be theoretically possible, but very expensive as I understand it.

2) All the good J-E/E-J dictionaries are tied up in exclusive licenses with the major Japanese dictionary makers, meaning they'd be unavailable to Pleco.

3) Pleco was designed as a Chinese learning companion, and adding Japanese support would essentially dilute their focus, resulting in a worse experience all around.
Those are the main three, yes. It's actually not just a matter of character support with HWR, either, it's also of different stroke order / different cursive styles; Hanwang apparently sent a whole team to Japan and built an entirely new set of handwriting statistical template data for their Japanese recognizer. And even if it doesn't affect a learner drawing everything stroke-by-stroke, it definitely matters in the very common "would you please write out this character for me" scenario. That being said, the handwriting license at least is certainly attainable, and we haven't actually checked up on some of the J-E/E-J dictionaries in a while; for example, what do you think of "The Kanji Dictionary" by Mark Spahn?

The money issue is the main problem, though - we've just put down a whole bunch of money in royalty advances for several big new licenses (expect some announcements soon) and we've got several other deals in the works, so our free capital for licensing is kind of tied up at the moment; have to get the products based on those licenses out and making money before we can afford to consider adding anything else. If a Japanese publisher were interested in working with us on some sort of a joint-venture rather than a licensing basis (one in which we wouldn't be expected to put up any capital aside from our time, in other words) that might work, but it's doubtful they'd go with an American company for that when there are plenty of iPhone developers in Japan.
 

John

举人
I have a current top of the line Japanese dictionary - a Casio XD-A1000 - but even that doesn't have OCR like what Pleco will have. AFAIK (but I could be wrong), OCR is not available on any Japanese dictionary.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
John said:
I have a current top of the line Japanese dictionary - a Casio XD-A1000 - but even that doesn't have OCR like what Pleco will have. AFAIK (but I could be wrong), OCR is not available on any Japanese dictionary.
Might be pretty soon, though - the same technological improvements that have allowed us to add it will probably allow the makers of iPhone / standalone Japanese dictionaries to add it too.
 

asm43

Member
How about the Eijiro dictionary? Apparently they have a fairly open licensing model (royalty-based rather than upfront license). I think I'll go with another dictionary reader and Eijiro for now using the excellent Japanese HWR in Windows Mobile but I know that platform is dead. So still interested in what the future holds for Pleco and Japanese HWR & dictionaries... Windows Phone 7 won't even support Japanese/Chinese at launch so I could see myself getting an iPod Touch if I could use Pleco Chinese & Japanese on it.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
asm43 said:
How about the Eijiro dictionary? Apparently they have a fairly open licensing model (royalty-based rather than upfront license). I think I'll go with another dictionary reader and Eijiro for now using the excellent Japanese HWR in Windows Mobile but I know that platform is dead. So still interested in what the future holds for Pleco and Japanese HWR & dictionaries... Windows Phone 7 won't even support Japanese/Chinese at launch so I could see myself getting an iPod Touch if I could use Pleco Chinese & Japanese on it.
The problem with too open a licensing model is that everybody else has access to the same dictionary and it's no longer a competitive advantage; also tends to make people who've already purchased another product containing the same dictionary indignant about having to buy it again (we've seen a LOT of emails about this from people who already acquired the ABC dictionary via Wenlin or another product). Plus to really satisfy people we'd need a lot more than just one dictionary - we've got eight already for Chinese (along with several free ones) and people still want more - so being limited to just one or two decent licenses wouldn't really be enough. But the handwriting license would cost several times more than the dictionary license in any case, and same goes for OCR if we added that.

It would be a tremendously risky undertaking - my nightmare scenario is that we'd invest huge amounts of money into lining up the licenses for a Japanese product only to get into a fight with another company that's also invested huge amounts of money into similar licenses and has more expertise in Japanese dictionaries / more of a presence in the Japanese learning community / etc. To be honest, the "Pleco model" is really only financially viable if we're the biggest guys in the market, and even being in that situation we're making a lot less per hour of programming time than most iPhone app developers (or even iPhone Chinese dictionary app developers) do - the percentage of our revenues that we spend on licensing would be considered downright obscene by most software companies.
 

John

举人
mikelove said:
it's doubtful they'd go with an American company for that when there are plenty of iPhone developers in Japan.
Having looked at this recently, it seems that a lot of the "proper" Japanese dictionaries (by which I mean excluding the EDICT Project community effort (and the many free/low cost Japanese dictionaries based on that such as Kotoba! and Japanese); and EIJIRO which is a glossary but not a real dictionary with comments like "Some care should be taken with this resource, as the English translations can be quite quirky, and at times plain wrong") are already available on the iPhone app store from different developers/publishers, e.g.

J-J:
Koujien (Logovista) (the Koujien is only available in the Japanese iTunes store but the many other dictionaries etc sold by Logovista are also available elsewhere)
Daijirin (Monokakido) (this has Japanese handwriting recognition built-in so there's no need to use the iPhone's native Chinese only recognition)
Daijisen (Shogakukan) (this also has Japanese handwriting recognition)

J-E:
Kenkyusha (the big one, i.e. the so called Green Goddess) (Logovista) (somewhat expensive...)

E-J:
Kenkyusha (the big one) (Logovista) (somewhat expensive...)
Wisdom (Monokakido)
Longman (Enfour)

Kanji:
Kanjigen (Logovista)

Beginners:
Oxford (the MobiSystems version is better as it includes the book's appendices etc whilst the Paragon version doesn't but does have (useless for natives) English audio)
Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary (Enfour) (currently not available due to an "internal matter" according to the developer)

I can look up some unknown Japanese Kanji characters by writing them into Daijirin or Daijisen (using their built-in Japanese character recognition) and then copying and pasting it into one of the other dictionaries. It works but it's not terribly fast! (For this process, I came across Pastebot (a supercharged iPhone clipboard) yesterday which seems it will help.) (Or I can use my Casio electronic dictionary which has a lot more material and has handwriting input etc (although no OCR!) but is much more bulky compared to the iPhone.)

And you can also buy EPWING versions of some of the above and load them all into an iPhone EPWING reader like EBPocket or iDic.

On the subject of OCR, there is an iPhone app which has OCR ability - wishoTouch - but:

* it's rather expensive for what you get (given that the dictionary data is all from the free EDICT Project) - you have to buy the app and then pay more for the OCR feature
* the OCR is slow (as can be seen in this video)
* the OCR is unreliable (at least the few times I played around with it - I hope Pleco's will be much better!)
* the OCR doesn't work in real time, i.e. you have to take a photo using the iPhone's camera first

wishoTouch and another EDICT based app, ShinKanji also support Japanese handwriting recognition but they're both slow and it seems much less reliable compared to Daijirn and Daijisen.

Finally, in this round up of iPhone Japanese dictionaries (or rather, what I've purchased and tried - all of the abovementioned except Koujien, Kodansha and the EPWING versions), there's JISHOP which is slow and has a horrible interface (IMO) but seems to feel like Wenlin v1 pre-ABC dictionary (i.e. compiling their own dictionary).
 
Thanks for the information John.

I am still trying to find a high quality iPhone Japanese-English / English-Japanese "learner's dictionary" that is appropriate for someone like myself whose Japanese language abilities just aren't at the level yet where I can use the excellent resources you just listed. Do you have any suggestions in this area?

Regards,

Darrol
 

John

举人
hairyleprechaun said:
I am still trying to find a high quality iPhone Japanese-English / English-Japanese "learner's dictionary" that is appropriate for someone like myself whose Japanese language abilities just aren't at the level yet where I can use the excellent resources you just listed. Do you have any suggestions in this area?
I'm sure your Japanese level is better than mine (I may have the dictionaries/textbooks/etc but actually studying/retaining them is another matter!). If you want something more than Kotoba! (free) and Japanese (both mentioned above and based on EDICT), I would perhaps have a look at the Oxford which is intended for learners ?
 
I'm sure your Japanese level is better than mine (I may have the dictionaries/textbooks/etc but actually studying/retaining them is another matter!).

Well, I am not sure about that. However, I can definitely relate to having much more material than one actually studies. As for retention after studying it . . . well, I'll leave that one for another day since I can't remember what I was going to say about it . . . :lol:

Anyway, thank you for the excellent suggestions. I have seen a lot of both positive and negative comments regarding Japanese on the web, and though it is also based on the EDICT Project, I have looked at the feature set, which looks fairly decent for the $16 price tag, so I am going to give it a try.

@Mike: I am still wishing for a Japanese dictionary program with the features of Pleco, but I guess I will be dreaming about that for a long time to come . . . :roll:
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
hairyleprechaun said:
@Mike: I am still wishing for a Japanese dictionary program with the features of Pleco, but I guess I will be dreaming about that for a long time to come . . .
Seems like it, unfortunately - way too much other exciting stuff going on now between OCR, Android, new Chinese dictionary licenses... we haven't got the spare capital (for royalty advances) or the time to get into Japanese.
 

glyntr

Member
Zhugeliang>
The Japanese version of the document reader feature is an app called "Wakaru" available from the iTunes store.
It was cheap (<$10 from memory) and is excellent - highly recommend it!
 
While a program for learning Japanese may not be in the cards, would it be possible to add support for a Japanese-Chinese/Chinese-Japanese dictionary add-on (we already have French and German!)? There are many Japanese learners of Chinese (I am not one, but being in China, most of my Japanese acquaintances are learning, and I am given to understand Chinese is now quite popular in Japan, for most of the same reasons it is becoming popular in the West).

Lingoes already has a decent library of dictionaries (including C-J/J-C), though I am not sure what their licensing agreements are, but it might be worth looking into.

Plus, it would be helpful for learners of Japanese as well, assuming you already speak Chinese! O(∩_∩)O
 

Z-Lo

秀才
***I would like to second the call for a Japanese-Chinese/Chinese-Japanese dictionary add-on for Pleco!***

Anyone else for a C-J/J-C add on?? Let's make our voices heard!

I currently have Pleco, a Chinese dictionary, and two C-J/J-C dictionaries lined up on my iPhone home screen. It would be great if they were just all in Pleco.

Think about the Japanese market. They've got money to spend on this kind of thing. I am pretty aware of the Chinese learning materials available for Japanese speakers, and I don't think there is any program to compete with Pleco. Just about every Japanese with an iPhone I know here in Shanghai (and I know a lot) uses the $47.99 dictionary by Shogakukan. I think Pleco outdoes it in features. The primary challenge would be the content - that is, procuring a very comprehensive dictionary. I think anything less wouldn't cut it for Japanese.

The only other thing would be putting the interface into Japanese.

And while we're at it, I would love to have the option to put the interface in Chinese. Have mentioned this to Mike before, and apparently it is problematic.
 
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