Reading Chinese online is a great way to practice your reading and comprehension, but nothing is more daunting than arriving at a web page only to be greeted by a wall of Chinese characters. Here is a list of some browser extensions and online tools that you can use to make reading Chinese online a lot easier!
Some of the following tools and utilities we have looked at in the past, but here we have gathered them together into one easy to reference post (plus there are also a few more tips on how to use the services):
Chinese Pop-Up Translations
Having an instant non-intrusive method to translate words on a Chinese web page is essential, the last thing you want to have to do is navigate away from the page you are reading, or have to open a new tab to find the word in a dictionary. By using a browser plugin you can get an immediate translation directly on the web page you are reading, without leaving the page, this is by far the most helpful type of tool for reading Chinese online.
You can use pop-up translations either for checking the meanings of words, or, as the words are highlighted as you hover over them, you can use this just for seeing which words go together in a sentence.
If you are in Firefox using Pera pera Kun then it’s worth noting that after you install the plugin you will need to install the Chinese dictionary separately.
Chinese Text and Website Annotation
If you’d rather have the pronunciation appear next to each word, rather than have to hover over the words individually, then the Mandarin Spot annotation tool is for you. This isn’t a browser plugin, so it doesn’t matter what browser you are using or what OS you are in. All you have to do is paste some text into the Mandarin Spot annotation tool, choose the pronunciation system you’d like and then press ‘annotate’. You will be provided with in-line pronunciation, pop-up translations when you hover over the words, as well as an English translation – and if you selected the ‘For Printing’ option you can also chose to have all the vocabulary for HSK levels listed below.
Convert to Traditional or Simplified Chinese
If you are serious about learning Chinese then at some point or other you are bound to come across that “other” Chinese, be it Traditional if you learnt Simplified or vice versa. Regardless of how easy people say it is to learn the other Chinese, nothing beats being able to immediately convert a whole website into either Traditional or Simplified depending on your preference. New Tong Wen Tang is a great tool for this, and is available as a browser plugin for Firefox, Chrome and Safari, in addition to a Bookmarklet in case you are in IE or other browser, simply drag the 繁 and 簡 buttons to your bookmark bar and click to convert to the desired Chinese.
Listen to web pages with Text To Speech (TTS)
If you want to practice your listening ability for short paragraphs of text when your Chinese speaking friends or teacher isn’t around to help, then Text To Speech is a great option. If you’re using Firefox then you can take advantage of the free IMTranslator plugin, all you need to do is highlight some Chinese text and then right click on the page and choose ImTranslator Tools > ImTranslator TTS. Then when the new window opens select Chinese from the Language drop down menu and then press the Say It button.
This is by no means meant to be an extensive list, rather a selection of plugins and services that are known to be very useful and easy to use. If you know of any tools that we have missed then please share the love and let us know below!