Top 3 Must-Do Computer Settings for Japanese Learners: #3

This is the final of my top 3 must-do computer settings for Japanese learners.

All of the settings are ones I super-extra-highly recommend Japanese learners of all levels try out.

#3: Use Rikaichan like it’s your job (and accept that it’s not cheating….unless you use the English)

Rikaichan being used on the blog of あずまきよひこ,, author of よつばと!

Rikaichan is a Firefox add-on that allows you to hover your cursor over Japanese text to see the reading(s), parts of speech, and translations.  You can now surf the web in Japanese with no fear or frustration! And you can also copy and paste things not online into your browser to Rikaichan that text, too!  (So yes, you’ll need to use Firefox as a browser if you’re not already.  Fear not, Firefox is pretty awesome, and it’s free.)

Wait, Liz, isn’t this cheating?  It’s too easy, I won’t learn if I don’t look things up myself the old-fashioned way!

No, I promise it’s not cheating.  And it’s likely you’ll learn just as much, if not more, by using Rikaichan than by looking each unknown word/kanji up in a dictionary (online or otherwise). Why?  Rikaichan makes it easy to get the info you need fast. No opening a new tab, going to a new page, or flipping through anything.  Move the mouse a few inches, and bam, you’re good.  Done.

Less time looking up stuff = More time spent engaging with material + Longer studying stamina + Increased likelihood that you’ll be willing to look stuff up!

That's right, no English! Srsly. Turn it off, you'll be better for it.

For maximum benifit, download the beta version.  Why the beta?  You can easily turn off the English definitions. This helps a TON.  Your native-English (assuming that’s the case) brain wants to do things easily, and the English is riiiight there.  If you’re not careful, your brain will take full advantage of that and it’ll slow your learning.  (If you reallllly need to, you can easily toggle it back on.)  Give it a try for a week and see if you don’t learn your readings faster and faster.

I’ve heard there are other similar programs out there, but I love Rikaichan and I’m sticking to it.  (Especially now that I can turn the English off.)  Have you used another and really liked it?  Preferred it to Rikaichan?  Share in the comments!

And that wraps up my top 3 Must-Do Settings!  Of course, these settings are all just important in my own humble opinion, and you should do what you find works best for you!


11 Responses to Top 3 Must-Do Computer Settings for Japanese Learners: #3

  1. veganliz says:

    PS: Also of note but I didn’t want to make the post any longer: I’ve been using Rikaichan and trying not to read the English for months and months and months (It takes a lot of effort, damn English brain). I finally discovered the beta version last week and just love it. Being able to not display the translation makes it much easier and more effective. 🙂 Give it a go, eh!

  2. Scott says:

    Do you feel there is a general level of fluency needs to be at to take advantage of this?

    • veganliz says:

      Nope, I’d recommend it for anyone from beginners to advanced!

      I imagine it’d be a big barrier hurdle for many beginners, because kanji don’t need to be looked up by radical. Also, beginners, by definition, don’t know as many words or kanji readings, and so could reallllly save time not having to bust out a jisho for everything.

  3. Unfortunately I use Google chrome, it has an extension called “rikaikun” but the developer isn’t working as hard on it as the polarcloud folks.

    • veganliz says:

      Ah, I’ve heard of Rikaikun, but haven’t tried it out. I heard Chrome is great because it uses a lot less memory than other browsers. If you really wanted to try Rikaichan you could get Firefox and check it out. If not, e-mail the developers of Rikaikun and see if you can get the same feature!

  4. fearfeasog says:

    i tried this but i can’t figure out how. can you give a click by click? i’ll keep trying, meanwhile…

    • veganliz says:

      Aw, I’m glad you’re giving it a shot!

      Hmmm….let’s see.

      You first need to download both the beta version of Rikaichan AND the beta dictionaries (The beta dictionaries can be found here Note that you don’t download any of the dictionaries that are compatible with the previous versions, the more obvious ones closer to the top of the main Rikai download page) .

      Once they’re both downloaded, I’m pretty sure it asks you to restart Firefox. Do that….

      Now, the next time you open Firefox, you’ll right click anywhere on the screen below your toolbars. At the waaaay bottom of the menu that pops up (or close to it) it should say “Rikaichan”. Click it.

      You should see a message that says Rikaichan is enabled, it’s usually pretty quick, and purpley-blue. Now, when you hover your mouse over Japanese text, you should see pop-ups that show you the readings and definitions (Just like in this posts’ picture.)

      To turn off definitions, simply hit the “d” key any time a pop-up is present. (Once you hit it for one word, it will keep the definitions hidden until you hit “d” again while a pop-up is up.)

      Hope this helps! Let me know if it doesn’t work and we can Skype it out or I can whip together a screencast.

  5. I went back to using Firefox for a little bit, so far it’s not hogging a bunch of memory. The new rikaichan is awesome, I think I’ll use it without the English definitions for a while.

  6. Mark says:

    Hi all. If you like Rikaichan and have an iPad, check out this app we made, Rikai Browser for iPad.

    It’s exactly what you’d expect.

  7. Nifty Gnomes says:


    We are the makers of Popup Japanese Dictionary, a commercial Windows Japanese dictionary application that provides Rikaichan / Rikaikum style popup dictionary functionality that is not limited to the browser. Basically, the application allows users to look up Japanese word meanings simply by copying to the clipboard. Words can be looked up not only in the browser, but also in emails, PDFs, word processing software, etc, as long as they can be copied to the clipboard.

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