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Jim Breen's Japanese Page

Bill Gordon


3. Unique Aspects of Using Web

The resources of Breen's web site illustrate some of the unique aspects of using the Internet, such as the collaboration of experts from around the world and the strong interconnections between Breen's resources and other material on the web.

Collaboration
Although Breen has assembled a remarkable collection of resource material, his site reflects in numerous ways the intensely collaborative nature of developing an electronic dictionary and of assembling a huge number of resources on Japanese-related software. O'Donnell (1998, 63-64) describes a world connected by the Internet where we can bring "together all the world's available talent to solve a given problem" and where "it is not quite clear who is the author of a collective, cumulative, and collaborative work of scholarship." These statements accurately describe the collaborative character of Breen's web site.

Numerous people provided materials or other support to develop the Japanese-English dictionary and other resources at Breen's web site. Breen personally acknowledges the contributions of over 150 people who played a part in the development of the dictionary, and he describes the contributions made by several of these individuals. For example, a Japanese professor at an English university proofread the entire dictionary file. A person at Sony, who had put together a large online dictionary, contributed many entries for the dictionary. He describes the support of several other individuals who informed him of errors, provided entries, identified obscure kanji compounds, or keyed in entries. Without the Internet, this type of collaboration between experts around the world would have been impossible. Breen acknowledges this, "Virtually the entire compilation process has been carried out using electronic mail and file transfers, and indeed the project would never have occurred without the services provided by the Internet" (EDICT Information, 2000).

But Breen's site is not the only place where collaboration occurs in Japanese-English dictionaries. In May 2000, volunteers formed a group to create a free online Japanese-English dictionary (jeKai 2000). The new dictionary tries to address some of the limitations of print dictionaries and Breen's online dictionary files by incorporating the following features:

  • definitions that explain the meaning of a words as completely as possible
  • as many examples as possible of each word in real contexts
  • photographs and other illustrations, especially for entries about uniquely Japanese things
  • no restrictions on the type or range of vocabulary
  • no restrictions on the length of entries
This dictionary currently has only about 200 entries, which limits its usefulness. However, Breen has already provided links if one of his dictionary entries has a corresponding jeKai entry.
Links to Other Resources
Landow (1998, 105) explains another form of collaboration in which a work on the web always exists in relation to other works in a way that print material can not do. "First, any document placed on any networked system that supports electronically linked materials potentially exists in collaboration with any and all other documents on that system; second, any document electronically linked to any other document collaborates with it." The links from numerous other sites to Jim Breen's Japanese Page demonstrate their dependence and interaction with the many resources found at his site. Breen's extensive links to other resources on the same subject matter quickly shows a user that his site does not stand as an independent work. For example, as described in the previous section, Breen has links from words in his dictionary to corresponding words in the jeKai dictionary. As another example, his information page on individual kanji has links to four other databases on the web.

Conclusion

Jim Breen's Japanese Page represents an extremely valuable resource for its multiple audiences: translation and software specialists, Japanese language users from beginners to experts, and persons with a general interest in Japan. Although some shortfalls can be identified in the site's organization and design, the comprehensiveness and overall high quality of the resources and links make this site invaluable to any English speaker with an interest in the language and culture of Japan. When comparing Breen's online resources to print books and to electronic dictionaries, both advantages and disadvantages can be identified. However, Breen's online dictionary has no peer on the web, and his translation aid based on the dictionary files provides better results than free translation software available online.

The Internet enables authors to realize certain unique benefits that they could not accomplish in print. Many experts from around the world can collaborate on a project that could never be achieved by one person alone. Also, an author can create works independently that are interconnected through the web with other works, and this results in a collaboration between many authors that can provide users with quick access to more in-depth and more comprehensive material on a specific subject. Jim Breen's Japanese Page exemplifies these unique benefits of web-based material.

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Introduction | Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3
Conclusion | Bibliography
"Jim Breen's Japanese Page"
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