Since I am currently translating a manga or two for fun in an attempt to kickstart my Japanese studies, I thought it might be interesting to document the resources used when I do it
1) Read a manga panel, if I understand it, translate it on the fly.
2) If all the kanji and kana are legible, translate the ones I know and look up the ones I don’t remember using THE WISDOM if I know how to read them.
3) If I can’t figure out what a kanji is, I attempt to decrypt as many bushu (radicals) as possible and plug them into http://jisho.org/kanji/radicals/ This site is a thing of beauty that has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.
4) At this point I draw the kanji on WISHOTOUCH (iPad app) and hope it pops up. If not, I use the SKIP system in the Kodansha Learner’s Dictionary or http://ejje.weblio.jp/. At this point, if I don’t know how to read a kanji or understand its meaning, I write it down in my translators notes for future reference. Sue Kawashima’s A Dictionary of Particles is handy if I’m just not getting a particular sentence. If I need to go further, it’s time to haul out the massive and all-knowing A Reference Grammar of Japanese.
5) Names can be difficult when using non-Joyo kanji, and if I suspect I am dealing with those or a multiple compound word, http://ejje.weblio.jp/ is often illuminating.
6) Compounds are also a nuisance, and since I’ve started this whole thing I’ve noticed that Spahn and Hadamitzky’s The Learner’s Kanji Dictionary is wholly inadequate. Mind you, it is a learner’s dictionary. Compounds are often present in the entry for one of the kanji but not in the others.
7) Google Translate is last on the line, if I am just not getting the gist of a sentence sometimes it can be of help. It is usually only useful for short, uncomplicated sentences, and even with those Japanese does not translate well, much like Korean since the grammar is nearly identical.