[Off-Topic] Reading with subtitles over Kanjis in Japanese webpages

2012 May 08, 10:36 h - tags: mac off-topic english learning

This is something I just stumbled upon and because it’s tricky to install the first time I decided to grab the pieces that make it work. It’s so useful I had to post about it.

If you’re learning Japanese this will definitely prove to be an invaluable tool. I am Japanese but I didn’t payed attention to proper Kanji training when I was a child. It shows now, as I can read Kanji only to what would be considered below high-school level in Japan. Still very useful, but it means I can’t read most websites in Japanese fast enough.

I’ve known of a Firefox add-on I’m very fond of for a long time now called Rikaichan. When enabled, you have hover your mouse over the kanji text and it will popup a box with the translation. You must install the Firefox add-on in the previous link and a proper dictionary to your native language from Rikaichan’s webpage. And that’s it.

But if you like to read Manga (Japanese Comics), you’re probably familiar with “Furigana”, which is kind of like “subtitling” over the Kanjis with Hiragana or Katakana, which are the Japanese syllabus based alphabets (the first for Japanese only words, the second for foreign words). That makes reading and understanding the more difficult Kanjis super easy and way faster than hovering over the Kanjis or plain old looking manually into the dictionary for each ideogram.

A normal snippet of a Japanese webpage looks like this:

But with Furigana Inserter the same snippet looks like this:

To install it, first you install the add-on. Then you have to install the HTML Ruby add-on as well. Finally, you have to install this dictionary. It’s a 7-zip file you must decompress and manually drag it over Firefox to install.

If you’re on a Mac, I’m assuming you know what Homebrew is and already have that installed. Because then you can install Mecab like this:

brew install mecab
brew install mecab-ipadic

Finally, it seems like you must manually make Furigana Inserter aware of Mecab by adding a symlink into its extension folder:

ln -s /usr/local/lib/libmecab.dylib ~/Library/Application\ Support/Firefox/Profiles/454dy2eg.default/extensions/furiganainserter@zorkzero.net/mecab/libmecab.dylib

Understand that the Firefox Profile folder will have a different name in your computer. The one in the example is in my Mac. Open the terminal and tab to autocomplete each folder as you type and it should work just fine.

Restart Firefox, right-click in Japanese pages and you will have a “Enable Furigana” option waiting for you. Rikaichan seems to misbehave when hovering over Furigana enabled Kanji, so you may need to disable Furigana to use Rikaichan. But it’s a good compromise and may open a whole lot of new content in Japanese for us to consume.

One reason to use Firefox.


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