Looking for an online English to Japanese (and vice-versa) translator or dictionary?
The good news is that there are actually quite a few decent options for web and mobile and today I’ve listed my favorite Japanese translator tools for you.
They do tend to vary in terms of quality and usefulness (e.g. some are well-maintained/some aren’t, some include audio/some don’t, etc.) so I’ll highlight this info below.
English To Japanese Translators
Best English to Japanese/Japanese to English translators
Here you’ll find my list of top English to Japanese translators and dictionaries.
Some of them go into great detail and provide a lot of useful information about the word, collocation or phrase you’re looking up, whereas some are quite simple and only useful as a quick reference.
Translation is always prone to inaccuracy, especially when it’s done by a computer so never trust them 100% without checking first (compare their results).
I’ll start with my favorite English to Japanese tool: Jisho.
In my opinion, this is the single most comprehensive and frankly essential tool on this list.
Unlike other Japanese translators and dictionaries, Jisho allows you to actually draw your search query or record your voice. It’s incredibly accurate. This means you could literally see a sign in Japanese, scribble it into Jisho, and get a translation.
An enormous amount of work has gone into the search functionality, allowing you to perform very precise queries, mixed languages, JLPT-specific terms and a complex hashtag system.
If nothing else on this list, save Jisho (it’s free to use).
This one is actually a Japanese course (mentioned above) but it includes a built-in Japanese dictionary.
You can even access a public version of this Japanese dictionary.
It’s quite simple in what it reports (not overly detailed) but it includes audio, and if you sign up to the course, you can save words too.
Platform: Web, Android and browser extension
This one’s way too obvious but I need to include it.
Yes, Google Translate is often horrendously inaccurate, but they’ve made serious progress over the years and it is getting better (for Japanese and all languages).
Probably the most convenient tool for quick lookups and the browser extension is always handy.
Uniquely, Google offers the ability to take pictures with your phone to retrieve a quick image translation (great for reading sushi menus!).
Like Jisho, you can record your voice to search and Google Translate provides a public API so you can use it in your development.
Yandex has been reported as being more accurate than Google Translate.
I include this here because like Google, it’s a huge, publicly-available search engine with easy access.
The Japanese translations I’ve done on Yandex have all been pretty reliable, and this one also allows for voice input.
Romaji Desu is an ancient site that’s still surprisingly useful in what it offers.
It has various features (including different types of Japanese dictionaries and a translator), and includes audio.
The definitions given are extremely basic but they may be all you’re looking for. For a free site, it’s handy (especially if you need some pronunciation).
I was reluctant to include J-Talk honestly because they’ve restricted the use of the tool unless you support them on PayPal.
Fair enough, but you’ve got so many free options here that it doesn’t make sense to do this.
This one is Japanese to English only, but what makes it super helpful is that you can input large blocks of Japanese text, and it turns into a LingQ-type assisted reader. So you’re able to read through the text, click on words and get detailed breakdowns.
Very helpful but the paywall thing is a mistake on their part.
Platform: Android, iOS and web
Tangorin is excellent (I actually know the guy who made it) and a lot of work has gone into its development (especially the Japanese radicals component). They recently upgraded to a newer platform and it’s been amazing ever since.
The only drawback is that Tangorin doesn’t provide audio for Japanese.
It’s good for a quick English to Japanese reference but the lack of audio is a real bummer.
Platform: Browser extension
Mazii is an extension that allows you to translate any Japanese word on any website and get some info.
It’s basically a derivative of Rikaikun (see below) but not quite as good, in my opinion. It’s also quite buggy.
But if you’re looking for a newer extension that does what Rikaikun does with a simpler definition, this one works.
Platform: Android, iOS and web
Linguee boasts of being an ad-free Japanese translator and it’s quite comprehensive.
I’m not a big fan myself, I find the interface detracts from its usefulness and there’s no Japanese audio. It’s a multilingual resource so not aimed at Japanese learners specifically.
But it’s free and it covers a lot (the contextual info showing the words inside sentences is very helpful) so it’s worth having a look.
Platform: iOS and Android
Bravolol is more of a language course provider than a dictionary/translator, and they cover lots of languages including Japanese.
Despite this, they actually have an excellent English to Japanese translator/dictionary app that is worth downloading.
It’s quite detailed and free to use.
This one’s only available through Apple (boo!) but it’s fantastic and worth adding to the list.
As the name suggests, it’s an offline dictionary for Japanese, and it includes over 200,000 words and expressions.
If you’re looking for an app that doesn’t require Internet connectivity, this one is excellent.
Platform: Browser extension
Also known as Rikaichan.
This is a really handy Chrome extension that turns every Japanese website into an interactive, assisted reader.
Once you installed the extension, you can highlight any Japanese text on any website, and it’ll bring up a translation with an extended, detailed definition.
Not a huge fan of burdensome extensions myself but this one is always on.
Platform: Physical device
Okay, technically this one doesn’t really belong on this list.
It’s not an app or website - it’s an actual device that you carry around with you (about half the size of a smart phone).
There are quite a few of these pocket translators but the Pocketalk is by far the best available, and it does Japanese extremely well.
If you want a device that gives you immediate two-way translations with no hassle, get this one (it’s a little expensive though).
Apps and courses may include more useful English to Japanese translators/dictionaries
To the best of my knowledge, these are the best English to Japanese translators currently available.
These may be more suitable for you (since they’re actually designed to help you learn Japanese).
Know of a translator for Japanese that I didn’t mention?
Share it below in the comment section.