I’ve studied Japanese both in and outside Japan (mostly inside Japan) for the past 8 years. The best advice I can give from my experience studying Japanese, is that whether you are living in Japan or not, you can only learn Japanese by learning how to be self-reliant. That means giving yourself all of the tools you need to self-teach, including when you’re on google. Trust me, a lot of your studying time will be spent using google to study, whether that’s through looking-up stuff or using Google’s auto-fill to search for the most natural way to say things, reading articles from native Japanese speakers, etc. Also, the topic of this article: There are some free google chrome extensions that can help make your life easier as a Japanese learner! I’ve used a lot of these, but I’ve only found a few to be genuinely useful for learning Japanese. Here are my top recommendations for those who are looking for Google Chrome extensions for studying Japanese.
Rikaikun is love, rikaikun is life. It’s pretty simple. Rikaikun will tell you the meaning and reading of any Japanese words you hover over with your cursor. The internet is not designed with Japanese-English billingual speakers in mind, so I can say that even just finding a way to check the reading of Kanji more efficiently will save you so much…oh so much time. It’s great. You can download rikaikun here.
That being said, there are a few drawbacks I have noticed. Some websites absolutely freak out when you have rikaikun enabled for some reason. Unfortunately, as of the time of writing this article, Gmail seems to be one of these culprits. Lines will be randomly deleted, the format of the site will, and other annoying shenanigans will ensue. Luckily, rikaikun is really easy to turn on and off at will, so this isn’t too much of an issue, and I can still definitely recommend you use rikaikun as your go-to google chrome extension for studying Japanese.
2. Yomichan: An alternative option to rikaikun that performs a very similar function
While I haven’t used it personally, I have seen some people recommending yomichan as an alternative to rikaikun they prefer to rikaikun. I think one of the main reasons for this is because it supports Anki integration (Another very popular app and Google Chrome extension for Japanese learners I will go over later).
3. Hashigo: Enhance your Netflix and Japanese learning experience
I probably get asked more than any other question whether or not I would recommend studying Japanese through anime or other shows and movies you can find on Netflix. I generally…can’t really recommend anime as your main recourse, but live action films and shows are a great study tool. Basically, anything that involves you listening to real people speak in everyday Japanese is golden.
Hashigo is a browser extension that improves upon and redesigns the Japanese captions of videos to make it easier for Japanese learners to study. You can see how it redesigns subtitles in the picture below.
In fact, Hashigo acts similar in a lot of ways to rikaikun and yomichan, but tailored specifically for the Netflix viewing experience. I do find it kind of strange the way it chooses to separate certain words, however. You can see in the above picture (Attack on Titan) that the た in 赤かった is color coded differently, perhaps as a well to highlight the 過去形 past-tense grammar? I’m not quite sure, but other than that minor pet-peeve, hashigo will make it easier for you to self-teach yourself Japanese through different shows and movies.
4: Bonus choice: Anki
This isn’t a browser extension, but is actually both a PC and mobile app that has become increasingly popular with Japanese learners, especially Japanese learners who are living in Japan. Why? Because anki encourages the continuous repetition of new words at a spaced-out-interval that adjusts itself to your comprehension level. I actually didn’t know about anki when I first moved to Japan in early 2015, but looking back, a lot of the methods I used to study Japanese on a day-to-day basis were pretty similar to the way the app works. I attempted to take the ultimate “practical” approach to Japanese learning, where I would only study words that I actually came in contact with during my everyday life in Japan. If I forgot an important word I encountered more than once, then I would really drive it deeper into my brain until I couldn’t forget it. This is pretty similar to how anki works, and I think this is the best way to study the Japanese language. I recommend downloading anki for both your PC and smartphone, while supplementing your study through the other google chrome extensions I recommended above.
Studying Japanese is a game of self-reliance, and giving yourself additional tools is the greatest way to motivate yourself to keep moving forward. Coupled with these Google chrome extensions, adding some physical resources into your study routine is really important to providing context to your brain of why you are studying Japanese. Essentially, the goal is to create urgency by placing Japanese study resources in as many places as possible! Perhaps you should invest in one of the resources below? This site is an Amazon affiliate, so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make. It really supports this website so I can keep providing anecdotes and information based on my experiences living in Japan.
These flashcards will help you learn how to read hiragana, one of the Japanese alphabets
And this is always my go-to recommendation for a beginner Japanese textbook you should start with. Trust me, this textbook is amazing, and this set comes with a workbook as well.
Finally, if you are interesting in learning Japanese, please check out one of the other articles I have linked below. I go over many of the studying techniques I have used over my 7 years living in Japan!