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May 2, 2011

How to Transition to Monolingual

I've already talked about why going monolingual will greatly help your Japanese, so this post is dedicated entirely to telling you just how to do it. Unlike with a Japanese-English dictionary where your definition consists of a single word or a small phrase, with a Japanese monolingual dictionary you'll often get a reasonably sized sentence explaining the word's meaning – and sometimes as much as a couple paragraphs explaining. It can be intimidating at first, but as with all things, once you adjust to reading definitions you'll be completely fine with them.

So when you look up that first word and see the definition, what do you do? The most obvious thing to do is read the definition. You'll find that a lot of the time the time there are more words you don't know in the definition – so what do you do? Look them up too. Just keep looking up words and trying to understand. This will really only be an issue for the first few groups of words you search for – after that you get used to how definitions work and learn enough of the common vocabulary to read definitions much more easily. Like I said, aim to specialize in a bunch of small areas.

During this transition phase you will get slowed down a lot, but you'll also be learning so much more. Trying to learn one new word will lead you to learning others, which just means you get even more sentence-making value out of your words. After the first few days you'll get back to a more normal pace.

I've saved the best secret for last though. With this little trick you'll be able to make the transition to monolingual so much easier. Are you ready for it? Start looking up words you already know. Yep, that's right. Relearn words you already know using Japanese definitions. Even if you don't know every word in the definition, you already know the word. This means that you can get used to how Japanese monolingual definitions work and what kind of words are commonly used. It's like starting with safety scissors to learn how to cut things upif you mess up you don't lose anything important.

With these two main ideas for making the transition you'll be able to pull it off with ease. Just start with words you already know and look up words you don't know in the definition and you'll become a master of the monolingual dictionary in no time at all.

Trying to find a monolingual dictionary? Go check out Tool Pack Part One and Tool Pack Part Two!

Need a bit more guidance on using a monolingual dictionary? Go check out the Building Vocabulary with an SRS post! 

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  1. Yeah, I already gave a look at the definitions of some words I already knew and are simple, such as 食べる、眠り、電車、漫画、etc. Stuff that I don't think would have a hard to understand explanation. I didn't get them yet, but I'm confident I will be able to use words like those as a starting point for my monolingual transition.

  2. I've tried to pick up learning Japanese a few times now, but next time I really gear up to have a go at it I think this blog will be a huge resource. I just wanted to stop by and say your efforts are appreciated!

  3. I wouldn't have thought of that. I'm going to get Japanese monolingual dictionary now.

  4. Do you have any suggestions as to a good monolingual dictionary to start off with? Perhaps an online resource?

  5. >I think this blog will be a huge resource.

    Replace think with know.

  6. >Your efforts are appreciated!

    Thanks for saying so!

    >Replace think with know.

    Thanks again!

    >Do you have any suggestions as to a good monolingual dictionary to start off with? Perhaps an online resource?

    Adding links to the bottom of the post. Tool Pack 1 has two really good dictionary sites listed.