I read a crazy statistic the other day about internet browsers. It said that in 2016, over 50% of all internet sessions for computers were done on the Google Chrome browser! That is insane!
But I can absolutely understand why: Google Chrome is great! I’ve been using it myself since it came out in 2008 – almost ten years ago!
I love it for the speed and the integration that it has with Google’s search engine. But there is another feature of Google Chrome that a lot of people don’t know about. Can you guess what it is?
Some of you are thinking “oh, of course!” and some of you are thinking “what’s the heck is that?!”
Well, an extension is simply a program that you can install on your web browser to enhance the functionality of it. For example many Ad Blockers that people use are extensions.
When you install one of them, it pops up in the top right corner of the web browser, which makes it easy to access. And most of them are completely free too!
So bringing it back to Google Chrome, they’ve got some really cool extensions that you can use to greatly help out when you study Japanese. And I wanted to share with you the five extensions that I personally use and love.
I hope that you find at least one that you think is awesome!
(1) Google Translate
I wrote a post earlier about using Google Translate to help learn Japanese with both your computer and your smart phone. If you’re interested, you can find it here.
But back then, I didn’t talk at all about the Google Translate extension for Google Chrome.
The first thing you can do with it once it’s installed, is to click it and translate the entire page. This can be useful when you’re on a site that’s completely in Japanese and you need to locate a specific link or article.
That’s cool, but if you always translate the entire page, then you won’t really learn any Japanese. So what’s the real reason I recommend it?
Here it is: When you see a word or Japanese phrase that you don’t understand, you simply highlight it and press the Translate Button when it appears.
When you press it, you will get a box that pops up and it will have translated the highlighted text into English (very nice). In addition to that, you can then press the speaker button to hear how it’s pronounced! That’s amazing!
Now granted, it’s one of those robotic voices like Siri for the iPhone, but it’s still pretty good, all things considered!
There are other ways that you can customize it to match your personal preferences, such as automatically translating the text as soon as you highlight it. That will save you some time from pressing the button, but personally I LIKE to press the button. So I do!
Check out all the different features for yourself sometime and set it up to your liking.
Get it free here: Google Translate Extension
(2) Kyousei Meirio-Chan
This one is pretty interesting, and in my personal option a MUST-HAVE for all people who use a Windows operating system on their computer. Let me explain what it does first, and then I’ll explain why PC users need it the most.
If you’ve been studying Japanese for any time at all, I’m sure you’ve noticed one thing in particular when you read it on your computer. Namely, the kanji looks like crap!
I’m sure you’ve noticed the pixelated look of the kanji on your web browser before…
Now we can’t give Microsoft too much crap, because 99% of the American users only ever read English on their PCs. So why would they work on making the Japanese fonts look good, right?
But if you’ve ever read Japanese on a Mac before, then you’ve no doubt noticed how smooth and nice the Japanese characters look. Which makes since, as Apple is known for their superb graphic designs.
Hey Microsoft, can you throw us a bone here?
One way to fix this for PC users is for the blogger to code a specific font into their blog posts (I just recently learned how to do this), but most of them don’t since they just don’t know how, or because it can take some extra formatting and work.
- Normal kanji on PC: 常用漢字
- Formatted kanji: 常用漢字
The other way (and perhaps better) is for you to download the extension for Google Chrome and enjoy the results. I highly recommend you do it so that all the kanji you see online looks a lot prettier!
ONE WARNING: I noticed that sometimes this extension will turn things like the star symbol or the search symbol into a blank square. If that happens, just toggle the extension off and refresh the page.
Get it free here: Kousei Meirio-Chan
Now this is a really flippin’ cool one! How it works is that every time you open up a new tab, it displays a Japanese word for you to learn.
What was that you said? Free Japanese mini-lessons? Yes please!
What I really like about it is that it gives you several things:
- A picture of the word
- The kanji of the word
- The kana of the word
- The Romaji of the word
- The English translation of the word
So in about five seconds you get everything that you need to learn the new word. Take a little time to go over it, and then continue on with your original intentions with the new tab you opened up.
This has a powerful effect on your Japanese studies. Every day, and several times throughout the day, you are being exposed to new Japanese words. This helps to keep you in a learning mode and can be used as a form of immersion.
After all, the name of the extension is “mainichi” (毎日) which is Japanese for “every day.”
This form of mini-immersion is not as powerful as full-immersion like living in Japan, but it’s probably more exposure to the language than most people get right now.
I also really appreciate the pictures that it uses to teach you the new word. Humans are very visual creatures in nature. When we were young, we mainly learned from picture books, and we never really got away from that as we grew up.
I’ve also noticed a nice balance between native Japanese words, and English loan words. So you should recognize about half of the words you run into. They’ll just have that Japanese accent to them!
Get it free here: Mainichi
(4) IPA Furigana
First of all, what is furigana?
Well as you can probably guess from the “gana” part of the name, it has something to do with hiragana.
Japanese kids like to read manga (I do too). But of course they don’t always know all of the kanji that they see. So the author writes the pronunciation in hiragana above (or to the right) of the kanji.
It’s written in a smaller size font so that it can fit in with the kanji that it’s next too. That means that it can be a little hard to read sometimes.
But that’s one of the things that makes this particular extension so great: you can alter the size of the furigana!
Make it bigger so that it’s easier to read, or smaller so that it’s out of the way. You can also change a few other things like the color (to make it stand apart from the kanji).
That brings us to an important point: you’ll find that with almost ALL extensions, there are a lot of customizable options so that everyone who uses them can set them up according to their particular needs and preferences.
Once you have this particular one installed, you only have click the button in the top right corner of the browser to turn the furigana on or off. Super easy!
Get it free here: IPA Furigana
If you thought that these other extensions were a great way to learn Japanese, then you were right! And I’ve got one last one for you today. It’s called LISTEN.moe
Basically, this extension is a radio. A Japanese/Anime radio!
How cool is that?! You get to listen to great music in Japanese. And it’s super easy to do. Once it’s installed, you just click on the button and press play. You do the same thing to pause it, just in case you’re at work and you boss walks in 😉
Oh, and did you know that it gets even better? I’ve got two words for you: NO ADS!
That’s right, you don’t have to listen to someone try to sell you a car! Or try out a new bar a soap in between songs!
Using this extension is another great way to help immerse yourself in Japanese. Every little bit adds up to a lot given enough time. That, plus the music is really good!
The human brain is an incredible thing. Especially when you realize that everyone used it as a child to learn their very first language, with absolutely no prior knowledge of anything! If you learned your first language from zero (which you did), then you can definitely learn Japanese from English. Or from any other language for that matter.
Having Japanese music on in the background is a great way to feed your ears with the language.
Get it free here: LISTEN.moe
Do YOU use Google Chrome?
Now we come to the end of this post, and I’ve gotta’ ask you: do you use Google Chrome as your primary web browser? As I mentioned before, over half of all people used it last year to surf the web. It’s definitely the most popular one out there.
So why don’t even more people use it?
It turns out that the #1 reason why people use their current browser is because it was the default one installed on their computer!
People just like to use the one that’s easiest for them!
So just to be clear, I don’t work for Google! Whether you end up deciding to use Google Chrome or not makes no difference to me at all.
But I use it for myself, and I just wanted to share with you some of the different ways that it can be used to help learn Japanese on your computer for free.
So with all of that being said, I’ve only got two questions for you and one request:
Are there any other extensions that you use for Google Chrome to learn Japanese? What about some Non-Google Chrome extensions?
Let me know with a comment below!