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James Lougheed

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Published by jloug099@uottawa.ca on 2012-03-27


Now, I don’t want to start a controversy, but for the sake of this blog, it cannot go unsaid. Google Translate has developed into quite a useful and relatively accurate tool. And although you language students and professionals may find the statement rather blasphemous to the field, you can’t argue with the increase in validity it has shown over the years. I use it as a quick dictionary and when I have translator’s block and need suggestions. Really, it is for good reason. When it comes to translating English and French, and most other European languages, it can be a good free tool to have at your disposal. But again, it is only good with European languages. As an avid lover of Asian languages, Google Translate leaves me up a creek without a paddle.  


I do understand Google’s plight: Asian languages are, for the most part, harder to translate into Western languages and vice versa. It is not that they are needlessly complicated or that Google has a harder time processing the information. They are just entirely different grammatically and idiomatically. Evidently, since East Asian languages did not develop anywhere near European ones, the way things are said can be quite different. When we use the common example of “it’s raining cats and dogs,” we would rather say “下倾盆大雨” meaning that big rain that can bend basins is falling. There is a big shift in concept, even without the vastly different grammatical structure. It isn’t surprising that Google has some troubles.  


Where does that leave us? Well, it seems we have to look to other resources, even when doing quick and straight-forward translation. And although I have yet to find a good translation tool that works well for the languages I have studied, I would like to share with you a dictionary tool that I have used time and again that can help with your translation woes: Perapera Language Tools!  


A “pop-up dictionary and study tool for Japanese and Chinese,” Perapera Language Tools are free to download and function as add-ons with both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. And though they have only Japanese and Mandarin Chinese available to download, a Korean dictionary is apparently in development.  


The main thing I love about plug-ins is their automatic integration into my web browser. With Perapera- kun (a cutesy pet name for the tool), you can simply browse your favourite websites and move your cursor over any recognized Japanese or Mandarin writing to start using it. Once you do, the selected word’s possible translations are displayed in a bubble, whether there is one or there are ten.  


For the blog, I analyzed both of these dictionaries. For the Japanese dictionary, I used short excerpts from the homepages of Mixi, a popular Japanese social networking site, and Renren, a Facebook- equivalent Chinese social networking site.  


Japanese Perapera    




Google Translate’s solution: Mixiprovides a comfortable connection to all people, As the mission is to

                                                   create the world can become a protagonist that everyone, We will continue

                                                    to challenge new.


We are presented with a sensible solution that, minus the poor grammar, captures the main ideas of the paragraph. But let’s take a look at some words that need specific clarification.      


Connection: (n,uk) connection; link; relationship; (P).


Protagonist: (n,adj-no) leading part; leading actor (actress); (P)



Challenge + new: (adj-na,n,adv) new; fresh; novel; newly; freshly; re-; (P) + (n,vs) self-challenge; trying hard to do something; (P)



Mixi: (n) Mixi (Japanese social networking website) 


As you can see in these examples, PP is quite good at giving context, at least more than Google Translate provides. In the second sample, although we are still not given a sensible equivalent, we can understand more of the context with PP’s solution of “leading part,” indicating that it plays a leading role. In the third example, we can more clearly see that Google Translate put the words “challenge” and “new” in the improper order. And finally, we also see that PP identifies and explains some proper names, such as people and places.


Like any good dictionary, Perapera-kun lists its definitions with parts of speech for help with sentence structure, including: noun (n), godan/ichidan verb (v5/v1), archaic (arch), partical (prt), no-, na- and i-adjectives (adj-no, -na, -i) etc. And for those who are learning kanji (characters), the tool can zero in on kanji to display their own definition, readings, radicals, strokes, and it highlights the root and ending of a verb for conjugation.


Chinese Perapera




Google Translate’s solution: Everyone Network is a real social network, to join her, you can:

·         Contact friends, learn about their latest

·         Photographs and logging life, to show themselves

·         And your friends share photos, music and movies

·         Freedom, security control of personal privacy

·         Find old classmates and meet new friends




 Latest: (zuì xīn) latest, newest / (dòng tài) development, trend, dynamic state, movement, moving




Logging: (rì zhì) journal, log (computing) / (jì lù) to record, record (written account)… CL:個|个



Meet: (jié shí) To get to know sb, to meet sb for the first time



Everyone Network: (rén rén) everyone, every person   


Similar to the Japanese dictionary, Mandarin Perapera is effective (for the most part) at clarifying words and defining in an explicative context. For the example of “latest,” Google Translate cuts the word that should follow, “trends” or “status.” We also see that PP gives a greater context for words like “meet” in the text. The downfall is that its knowledge of proper nouns, as far as I have seen, is not as extensive. In the last example, we see that the dictionary does not register 人人as the name of a website, just translated literally as “everyone.” (I assume that this is because the creators were students in Japan, so it is not as updated as the Japanese dictionary)


Once again, for those who have yet to master Mandarin, there are a couple tools (though fewer than that of its Japanese counterpart) that can help you. This includes a pinyin pronunciation indicator, a dual simplified and traditional character display and a list of counters for countable nouns.




Overall, I think Perapera-kun is a great tool for learners of Japanese and Mandarin who want to integrate learning more actively into their daily web surfing. Also, it is great for understanding the gist of websites without having to rely on Google Translate – along with the satisfaction of learning on the way!


Additionally designed for students learning the fundamentals of grammar, Perapera Language Tools effectively break down words within a sentence to show where one word ends and one begins, along with explanations of individual kanji – a must for beginner students and experts alike (especially with the different character sets and alphabets the language has to offer).


Perapera-kun is by no means a perfect program, and does not contain as many entries as Dixio (a program that I studied in an earlier blog), but it is quite comprehensive in both vocabulary and definitions. I would suggest this tool for anyone learning, perfecting or just generally using either Japanese or Mandarin Chinese in their work or at home on a regular basis. If you have any suggestions or remarks regarding this program or any similar programs you would like to recommend, please feel free to leave a comment below.


1 comment

Wow, that sounds like an interesting program. I sure will give it a try.
It seems like a fun way to learn a bit about the symbols and how the sentences work.