Learn Japanese Now! Free Learning Tool
JWPce, the free Japanese Word Processor
I studied japanese for three years during college, and it was a very fun and enjoyable experience for me. That doesn't mean it wasn't challenging. The main difficulty, at least for me, was to learn the japanese writing system. You see, when I studied english, the way I learned new words, expressions, phrases, etc. was by reading. With a dictionary by my side, my language skills improved drastically after every book I read. With japanese, I couldn't apply the same technique, since I had to know quite a lot of characters in order to read very simple texts.
Of course, part of my japanese classes involved learning and practicing these characters (called kanji), but after 3 years I only learned about 400 of them (there are around 1900 official kanji). I was unable to pick up a book and try to read it, because most of the kanjis used were unknown to me, and to look them up in a dictionary was a cumbersome task. Instead of an alphabetic listing, you have to look up each character by radical stroke count.
Far from giving up, I began looking for tools on the internet, and because I was fairly broke at the time, I was looking for freeware. After browsing around for some time, I came across a nice little program called JWPce, a word processor created by Stephen Chung at the UCLA. It truly answered my prayers.
JWPce is at first sight a very simple text editor. It has only one font and you can't change the font size, or format the page. But that's not what I needed. I could always install fonts for OpenOffice and work with those. Where this program really shines is in its built-in dictionary and kanji information cards.
You can write everything you want in kana (the phonetic alphabets), then select the words you would like to convert to kanji and press F2. Easier still, you could opt for an in-line character addition just by starting the word with a "capital letter" (shift+letter). Any word you typed, either in english or japanese, could be looked up in the dictionary just by selecting it and pressing ctrl+d.
If by any chance you want to look up a character you found on print, you can always use the kanji look-up tool. With it, you can specify the radicals found in the kanji, stroke count or both. You don't even have to know the exact stroke count, you can just shorten your search by specifying the minimum number of strokes to look for (e.g. look up for character with "x" radical, in characters with more than 10 strokes).
When you find the kanji you wanted, you can either see the information card:
or look it up in the dictionary, to get a list of all the words that use this kanji. I have learned a lot with this program using a very simple method:
- Go to Wikipedia and find an article you find interesting
- Choose from the menu on the left the japanese language (日本語).
- Copy the article and paste it on JWPce.
Now you can easily look up any word you don't understand, including meaning and kana spelling. You can even create a list of learned kanji, so that the program only highlights kanji you don't know already.
All in all, JWPce is a great tool for those who are studying the japanese language, and even for those wishing to start. Best of all, it's free!