Bare Bones Can Be Best

By Dominique Flemings

There is something to be said for Spartan simplicity. Such is the case with today’s website. It’s not much to look at, and I am unable to come up with a witty title involving its name, but I think it might prove to be of some use and interest despite the absence of a pronounceable URL. Wander on over to this website and find a veritable Swiss Army knife of translation tools.

This site exceeds other translators like Google Translate because, in reality, it does not translate as it converts. Most translators will try to convey the general sentiment of your sentence, usually in Kanji, but not precisely what you said; this site gives you a word-for-word translation, which is very useful when you’re looking for the katakana for an English word.

The site also features a capable kana/romaji converter; outside of language tools, it also includes a Japanese/Western measurements converter – useful for me, as I grew up in a part of Canada that clung to the imperial standard and I thus irrevocably think in inches and ounces. Also useful is a function into which has you type in the seven digits of a postal code, and it spits out the prefecture, city and bulk of the address in both katakana and kanji. While these tools are available across the web, it’s quite convenient to have them all in one spot.

I wasn’t expecting much from the FAQ section (strangely there does not seem to be links between the FAQ’s and the converters), thinking it to be mostly concerning the website itself. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is more encyclopedic in nature, providing a fairly decent crash course in rudimentary grammar as well as having some good trivia and vocabulary segments. And yes, to the dear younger cousin who is perpetually asking me to teach him Japanese insults (you know who you are), there is a section on that as well. If I hear any particularly salty phrases come out of your mouth this Christmas, I’m having your mother suspend your Japan Blog Review privileges.

It’s a fun and useful site, overall, though I wouldn’t place too much faith on the translators. For the most part, though, results seem quite reliable, and certainly enough to give you a rough idea of what is being said or what to write.

While certainly no replacement for actually taking the time to learn the language, the website is a good guidebook and worth bookmarking if you deal with Japanese script on a regular basis. Despite the rather bland layout and lack of a name, I still think the convenience and usefulness of the site merit it a solid thumbs-up.


~ by Japan Blog Review on November 6, 2011.

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