Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nelson's Dictionary

  When student's begin to study Shodo, it's not really necessary” that they be able to (actually,LOL) read the language. As one progresses, at some point one is going to want to brush a project of their own design. The most practical manner of doing so, is through the practice of only utilizing the subject and verbs/nouns of a phrase (in the manner of a Chinese poem/saying). As long as they are placed in proper order/positioning, it will be acceptable. Usually, a person will simply copy a previously published poem/saying (which is fine for practice). When/if someone wants to do their own, then a little more work is involved. Even if you are simply translating a piece, then you will need a Kanji Dictionary. 
  There are numerous Kanji Dictionaries available. The one I recommend to my student's is “The New Nelson's Kanji Dictionary”. For the Calligrapher, it makes the most sense. Nelson's is organized around the traditional Radical Chart/Order. Kanji, are divided into categories, these categories are determined by different Radicals. Radical's are the (most) common kanji, that are used in numerous (other) kanji. These are divided into separate categories that are determined by the number of strokes (in the “radical”). The obvious first kanji (and so numbered) is ichi (a single stroke kanji). Many of the other dictionaries use a similar method, but (to myself anyway) they can be confusing, and take a good deal of time to acclimate to.
  For my student's, I provide a mini class on the use of Nelson's Dictionary. Though the dictionary itself has instructions(on it's use), it's much faster to be shown (in person). Once shown/explained, I give them (my students) individual kanji to find(for practice) to confirm they understand the various methods of locating a kanji using the dictionary (there are actually “3” different index methods that can be utilized (by name, by strokes and by category/radical).
  Unlike the majority of kanji dictionaries, Nelson's illustrates the kanji in a somewhat similar manner that they are brushed, as opposed to being Computer generated (printed) kanji (one can see the brush strokes required in the kanji with the font that Nelson's utilizes). There are numerous popular Japanese dictionary's, that don't provide the (or any) kanji (for the words). To myself, these are useless dictionaries. The Japanese language utilizes too MANY words which sound the exact same. Unless the word is used in a sentence (and YOU can already speak Japanese), then it's impossible to know which one is being used or asked about. 
  When a student first looks at the Nelson's dictionary, it can be a bit intimidating, LOL. But with (even a little) use, it becomes second-nature to flip through it and find the desired kanji.