Rikaichan is a Chrome (search Rikaikun for Chrome), Firefox and Thunderbird extension that instantly translates Japanese text as you mouse over it into one of four languages — English, German, French, and Russian. You install Rikaichan as an extension and choose which of the four languages you want to use. Once installed, Rikaichan provides the definition of Japanese words, and even provides information for kanji such as on’yomi and kun’yomi, stroke number, and radical. Rikaichan also provides an optional toolbar that allows you to manually look up Japanese words.
- Completely free!
- Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- Supports multiple languages (English, German, French, and Russian).
- Provides lots of information about kanji.
- Makes looking up kanji on the internet so easy.
- Only works with Firefox and Chrome (sorry, Internet Explorer and Safari users).
- Being able to look up words this easily can put a hamper on your studying. Be careful not to look things up willy nilly without learning something new!
Rikaichan definitely won’t teach you Japanese, but it’s a fantastic supplemental resource for those who like to visit Japanese websites or read emails in Japanese and need a little help doing so. It’s hard to really criticize Rikaichan for any reason because it’s free, works on pretty much every computer ever, and does exactly what it promises.
Even if you prefer Chrome over Firefox, you’re covered. Some awesome person decided to port Rikaichan over as a Chrome extension, which you can find here. However, people who use other browsers such as Internet Explorer and Safari will find themselves out of luck.
So if you’re even a little interested in trying out Rikaichan, go for it! It’s completely free and if you discover that you don’t like it, you can always just uninstall it.
Rikaichan in action on the Asahi Shinbun site.
A closeup of Rikaichan’s interface.