Category Archives: Reviews

Improve Your Dutch, One Day at a Time

Learning vocabulary in a foreign language can often seem like an insurmountable challenge and a time-consuming one at that. Memorising long lists of words in isolation might seem like a fast, effective way to boost one’s vocabulary but most language learners and educators would agree that the best way to learn new words or expressions is to learn them in context and in manageable chunks.

And Dutch is no exception. Knowledge of English, German, and/or French may give you a slight head-start when it comes to mastering Dutch vocabulary but you will still need to put in some considerable time and effort if you want to communicate effectively in het Nederlands. So take things stapje voor stapje (“one step at a time”) and check out these free “word a day” resources!

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Het Woord van Vandaag

Created by Arno Verweij in 2009, Het Woord van Vandaag (“Today’s Word”) is a website and mailing list that provides daily bite-size vocabulary lessons to English speakers who wish to improve their Dutch.

Het woord van vandaag

Pros: Each entry includes an audio file and syllable breakdown to aid pronunciation, English translations, lexical information, and two or three sample sentences (often drawn from national magazines and newspapers) showing the new word or expression in context. Vocabulary can be sorted alphabetically or chronologically or even by year, month, topic, or lexical category.

Cons: There are no translations for the sample sentences, which means this resource will be of limited use to those who don’t already have a decent command of the language.

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Dutch Word of the Day

Run by self-styled “Dutch guru” Sander Oudkerk, the Dutch Word of the Day blog focuses on teaching language and cultural oddities that aren’t typically covered in most formal language courses.

Dutch Word of the Day

Pros: The articles don’t just cover matters of vocabulary and grammar; they are also packed with information about Dutch culture, history, and social customs.

Cons: There are very few audio clips available to aid pronunciation and the site hasn’t been updated since July 2016. That said, the site’s archives stretch back to 2006, so there is years’ worth of material for language learners to peruse and work with.

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DutchPod101’s Dutch Word of the Day

Innovative Language Learning, LLC, has fifteen years’ experience of creating authentic language learning content and although much of it is locked behind paywalls, their free content is nothing to be sniffed at. Take, for example, their “word of the day” tool, which is ideal for beginners and post-beginners alike.

Dutchpod101's Word of the Day

Pros: The layout is simple, effective, and easy to navigate and each entry makes ample use of imagery, audio files and sample sentences to aid retention.

Cons: The words and sentences used are fairly basic so this resource may not be extremely useful for those who are well past the post-beginner’s stage.

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Of course, if you’d like to speed up the process, you could always browse through the sites’ archives and study several words per day. Just try to limit yourself to learning no more than new ten words a day to improve retention and avoid burnout. And if you’re looking for an educational, yet entertaining podcast to boost your Dutch listening comprehension, check out my review of Say It in Dutch (Zeg het in het Nederlands).

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If you would like to hire me to write for your site or blog, please contact me for a free, no-obligation quote. All enquiries will be dealt with within 48 hours. 

Review: Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Jedi Masters

Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Jedi Masters

Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Jedi Masters (2016) is the third installment in Gakken Plus’ popular illustrated dictionary series which uses classic quotes and vocabulary from the Star Wars saga films to teach English to Japanese high school students. The first volume, Padawan Learners (2014), used dialogue and scenes from the Original Trilogy as teaching material while the second volume, Jedi Knights (2015), drew its example sentences from the prequels. Jedi Masters goes one step further by incorporating all six of George Lucas’ Skywalker saga films as well as the 2015 blockbuster The Force Awakens.

Containing approximately 3,100 entries and over 2,000 shots from the films, this dictionary is a comprehensive, yet extremely user-friendly language learning resource that never takes itself too seriously. It contains a short guide on how to use the dictionary, an English pronunciation guide for Japanese readers, and a detailed index. Each dictionary entry includes the word’s definition, Japanese translation, IPA transcription, word class, synonyms, antonyms, and any other relevant grammatical information as well as example sentences taken from the films themselves.

There are also over a dozen character spotlights – labelled as “Classic Phrases” entries – which are double-page spreads containing a mini biography for the character in question and a selection of their most memorable quotes. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also “Jedi Archive” sections which contain short encyclopaedic entries for some of the Star Wars franchise’s better-known locations, secondary characters, alien species, creatures, weapons, and vehicles.

What makes this dictionary truly special are the 300 or so original illustrations that adorn its pages. These adorable, vividly coloured illustrations were created by Gurihiru, a duo of female comic book artists who are currently based in Saitama, Japan. Chifuyu Sasaki (penciller/inker) and Naoko Kawano (colourist) are renowned for their work on Dark Horse Comics’ Avatar: The Last Airbender comic series as well as a number of Marvel series, and the quality of their work on this series of Star Wars dictionaries is unparalleled.

Although this is a bilingual dictionary, it’s worth noting that it was designed for Japanese high school students who are learning English, and not vice versa. The lack of rōmaji or furigana to aid pronunciation means that this dictionary won’t be of much use to those who don’t already have a basic understanding of Japanese and its writing system. But if you have the patience of a Jedi Master, a decent grasp of the language, and know how to look up unknown kanji in a dictionary, you’ll be able to teach yourself how to yell “You were the Chosen One!” in Japanese in no time.

Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Jedi Masters

The only real downside for me – and this is a very personal complaint – is the lack of content from the animated series (I am a huge fan of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels). But don’t let that deter you from buying it. This is a beautifully compiled book and the interior art alone makes this dictionary a very worthy and unique addition to any Star Wars collection. So if you’re a fan of that galaxy far, far away and you’re looking for a fun way to improve your Japanese, this is the book for you!

You can order your very own copy of the Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary for Jedi Masters via Amazon Japan or via resellers on Amazon and Amazon UK.

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Note: An earlier draft of this review was translated into German and published on the Jedi-Bibliothek site in August 2019. Jedi-Bibliothek is the leading source for Star Wars publishing news and reviews in German. 

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If you would like to hire me to write for your site or blog, please contact me for a free, no-obligation quote. All enquiries will be dealt with within 48 hours.