Mar 152010

Following up on my last post about autodidactic language learning, I thought I’d mention another piece of software I’ve found immensely helpful to my language studies: Babylon.

I’ve tried quite a few software dictionaries over the years and find Babylon to be far and away the best. It waits unobtrusively in your systray until needed; when you’re ready to lookup a word, just shift-click on it and Babylon will popup a dictionary window. It works with any text on your system – you can click on a word in Firefox, PDF, your desktop, etc. And even more handy is the fact that you can install loads of different glossaries for virtually every language imaginable, including online services like Wikipedia and premium glossaries for most mainstream off-the-shelf dictionaries and encyclopedias (including Genius, the English-Japanese dictionary that most $300+ denshi-jisho’s are built around).

For those of you who do use Japanese regularly, you might find these glossaries handy. I compiled them myself while studying for the JLPT1, so you won’t find them anywhere else:

  • EDICT, the most complete electronic English-Japanese dictionary available with over 146,000 entries (compiled from the file available on Jim Breen’s website).
  • ENAMDICT, a massive supplementary dictionary containing proper names and places (compiled from here).
  • Heisig Indices, a glossary that allows you to lookup Heisig index numbers and meanings for all characters appearing in Remembering the Kanji volumes 1-3. I compiled this from various data sources I stitched together with a little C++/CLI parser utility.

And while on the subject of language tools, I’ll briefly mention another of my small projects during the recent year’s hiatus from international adventure: teaching myself Python, which I did by implementing a few JLPT-oriented plugins for Anki. They’re are all downloadable from within the software’s plugin manager. Here’s what they do:

  1. Add dates to your progress graphs so you can more easily schedule yourself for an upcoming test
  2. Add JLPT progress to the “Seen Kanji Stats” screen (shown here) as well as a “Deck Kanji Stats” screen to help you find characters missing from your deck.
  3. Record a history of recently searched terms in the Deck Browser for easy repeat-searches
  4. Enable field-specific searches in the deck browser (useful if your cards have example sentences, meaning that a certain term would ordinarily return all cards containing that word rather than just cards with that word in its Expression)

…So once again, happy studying!

  5 Responses to “Babylon Dictionary”

  1. The last time I used babylon was over a year ago. It didn’t have great support back then (most annoying was it didn’t work in firefox, and broke with every software update), and wasn’t updated frequently. Any better now?

  2. Yep, that problem was fixed ages ago 🙂 I’m using 7.5.2r5, which is already pretty outdated, and it works perfectly in FF. It pretty much offers everything I need so I haven’t seen a reason to upgrade versions any further…

  3. testing comments =)

  4. If you want a free solution for Babylon, you can try this Firefox add-on:

  5. Good tip! One of the things I like about Babylon though is that after installing glossaries, it works offline – which is crucial if you’re traveling around a lot. Of course when connected and browsing the web, something like that could be handy 🙂

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