Sunday, July 29, 2012

Learn to Read Japanese: Firefox Furigana Add-Ons

If you’re a student of Japanese and have gotten into hiragana and kanji, you’re probably familiar with “furigana”. “Furigana” is the name for the tiny hiragana (alphabet) written above or to the right of a kanji to show how it's pronounced, which can vary depending on several factors. 

(Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

Seen mostly in children’s books to help the little guys along, or for adults when a rare kanji is used, furigana are also found in textbooks for learners of Japanese. But what if you could add furigana above kanji in online text, any text, turning any Web page into an instant learning opportunity?

It sounds too good to be true, but as I learned today there are Firefox add-ons for just that. :D Here are two:

Ahahahahhaa… oh dear God, I spent over an hour trying to get this to work, with the teasing promise of “furigana anywhere online” driving me on. Remember the old “The princess is in another castle?” video game line? Imagine an add-on like that.

“Download this… and this… and this… oh, and this thing you’ll need to download to open the third thing, and oh yeah, you’ll need to have a special program to run this one, and another program to get the first special program to run, and I hope you're a coder because we're doing shell commands…”

The only reason I’m even mentioning this one is because I’m on a Mac and perhaps the install is easier on other platforms. No tips because I couldn't get it installed.

So, beaten, buried under downloads, and about to give up, I remembered that somewhere someone had mentioned a different add-on, this one called “Furigana Injector”.

I went. I clicked. I followed directions. All in all, three minutes later I had this beautiful Web page to look at!

This is an article about the World Cosplay Summit going on now in Nagoya, if you're curious. :)

Tips for Injector: When you install, it lets you set the level of kanji you want to ignore and not put furigana over. The lowest level leaves out the easiest 100 kanji.

However, if you'd like all kanji with furigana, you can change that once it installs. Open Firefox, go to Tools, Add-Ons, and then click the Preferences button for Furigana Injector. Erase all the kanji in the text box and then close the box.

On another note, the installation instructions say a little 振 icon will appear in your status bar, but I don't have one. Instead I go to the section of the webpage I want, right click, select "Inject" from the  振 dropdown menu, and give it a second. The "Inject Whole Page" option doesn't work for me, but I've read from other users that it may just be slow depending on what page you're on.

Injector doesn't play nice with the awesome dictionary app Rikaichan, meaning you won't be able to mouse over with Rikaichan after you've added furigana. Rikaichan will also tell you pronunications when you mouse over words, but I prefer the all-at-once "textbook" presentation of Injector, and will probably just do a run-through with Rikaichan for words I don't know before adding Injector to help me read through an article.

So it's not a perfect fit for a Mac, but considering what it does and that it does it for free, I'm quite happy with it. :D

Have you had experience with either of these add-ons or a different one? Let me know what you think of them.


No comments: