Do you have an electronic dictionary? graph of japanese opinionDIMSDRIVE Research recently carried out a detailed survey on what people thought regarding electronic dictionaries. They are referring to single-purpose portable dictionaries, not PDAs, mobile phones or other general-purpose portable devices with dictionary software present. They surveyed 7,327 members of their monitor group, 56.9% female, by means of an internet-based questionnaire. The sample consisted of 1.1% in their teens, 17.4% in their twenties, 34.8% in their thirties, 28.2% in their forties, 13.4% in their fifties, and 5.1% aged 60 or older.

A word of advice for any would-be dictionary purchasers – first note that this survey is of Japanese people, so the ones they find popular, even though they may use the English lookup features often, does not necessarily mean they are best for foreigners. In fact, I personally would not recommend an electronic dictionary as the primary source for new learners of Japanese; they require a decent level of Japanese to get the best out of them, and they tend to be rather terse, especially for example sentences. When I was learning, I found the Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary excellent, as did most of the Amazon reviewers, by the looks of things! I’ve got a slightly old Canon WordTank 3000 which I find very good and easy-to-use, but perhaps newer models will have more expansive dictionaries?

Q1: Do you have an electronic dictionary? (Sample size=7,327)

Yes 27.2%
No (to Q9) 72.8%

For both sexes, teenagers have the highest ownership percentage (50.0% of boys and 68.6% of girls), falling down to a minimum of about one in five of those in their thirties, before climbing again to almost half of those over sixty owning electronic dictionaries; specifically 45.9% of men and 49.4% of women of these ages own one. The high ownership rates for youth is probably due to them being necessary tools for English and other study, for older people, perhaps the large screen size and ease of use allows them to recall kanji easier?

Q2: About how often do you use your electronic dictionary? (Sample size=1,955)

Almost every day 9.6%
Three to five days a week 13.5%
One or two days a week 20.2%
Two or three days a month 17.4%
One day a month 9.9%
One day every three months 4.6%
One day every six months 5.7%
Less than one day every six months 15.4%
Never use it 3.7%

Q3: What is the make of the electronic dictionary you use the most? (Sample size=1,921)

Casio 49.5%
Sharp 20.9%
Seiko Instruments (SII) 12.4%
Sony 5.5%
Canon 4.3%
Other 0.9%
Don’t know 6.5%

When asked when they used their dictionaries, the free answers given split into two main categories. First was objective-based reasons, such as when they had forgotton a kanji, wanted to look up an English word, recall the meaning of a Japanese one, or to look up information on medicines. Second was situational reasons, for example at work, at English lessons, on foreign travel, when mind goes blank, to fill idle moments, or when writing documents or letters. Some of the interesting but less common reasons including when doing crossword puzzles, when the answer cannot be found on the internet, when hearing unfamiliar terms on the news, and when playing with the children.

Q4: What features do you often use? (Sample size=1,921, multiple answer)

English to Japanese 58.3%
Japanese to English 44.6%
広辞苑, Kojien, a famous Japanese dictionary 44.5%
Other Japanese dictionary 33.4%
漢和, kanwa, kanji lookup 24.1%
四字熟語, yojijukugo, four-character idiomatic compounds 11.9%
English conversation and other travel-related phrases 7.8%
ことわざ, kotowaza, proverbs 7.5%
カカナ語, katakana go, foreign words imported into Japanese 5.4%
Health-related or medical terms 5.2%
Sample sentences (business, letters, speeches) 4.1%
Lifestyle information (manners, wine reference, etc) 2.8%
Examination or test-related information 0.7%
Other 4.6%
Nothing in particular 2.8%

Q5: What is your most favourite attribute of the dictionary you use the most? (Sample size=1,921)

Easy to look up 33.7%
Easy to read display 8.4%
Size of device 7.3%
Lots of dictionaries 6.9%
Lightness 6.9%
Characters are large 5.0%
Thinness 3.6%
Detailed search results 3.6%
Easy to push buttons 3.1%
Design 1.3%
Can use for revision 1.0%
Can add to dictionaries or functionality 0.8%
Clear sound 0.6%
Durability 0.6%
Other 3.1%
Nothing in particular 14.1%

Q6: Where did you buy the dictionary you use the most? (Sample size=1,921)

Home electrical retailer 50.8%
Internet 8.9%
Discount store 5.3%
Mail order 2.1%
Other electrical store 1.7%
Television shopping 1.7%
Supermarket 1.4%
Department store 0.6%
Other 5.9%
Don’t know or forgot 3.1%
Didn’t buy it myself (to Q8) 18.5%

Q7: About how much did you pay for the dictionary you use the most? (Sample size=1,504)

Under 5,000 yen 7.4%
5,000 to 10,000 yen 17.4%
10,000 to 20,000 yen 31.6%
20,000 to 30,000 yen 27.9%
Over 30,000 yen 10.0%
Don’t know 5.7%

Q8: What reference materials did you consult when buying the dictionary you use the most? (Sample size=1,504)

Display in shop 70.6%
Advertising leaflet 9.8%
Other web site 8.8%
Word of mouth from friends or family 7.7%
Company web site 7.2%
Home electronics store web site 4.8%
Television 4.2%
Magazine 3.4%
Newspaper 1.7%
Other 1.7%
Nothing in particular 5.9%

Q9: Why do you not have or not use an electronic dictionary? (Sample size=5,406, multiple answer)

Can look things up from PC or mobile phone 48.0%
No opportunity to use it 45.5%
Price is expensive 38.6%
An ordinary paper dictionary is sufficient 22.5%
Quicker to look up an ordinary paper dictionary 12.2%
Screen is difficult to read 6.3%
Difficult to use 3.6%
Little information when searching for words 3.3%
Few or no dictionaries I want 2.0%
Didn’t know there were electronic dictionaries 1.9%
Other 3.6%
No particular reason 10.5%

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