For those of you looking for a good translation tool that pops up when you hover over the Chinese characters, the cheap (free) software is the great "Chinese Pera-kun" plugin for the Firefox web browser. However, what if you don't like Firefox? What about all the other applications that you use, which you have to read Chinese characters on? Like MSN Messenger, QQ, Emails and other applications? Since Chinese Pera-kun is a plugin for Firefox, it only works within the constraints of Firefox.
I'm not sure if there are other products out there like this "MDBG Chinese Reader".. in fact there probably are but the reason this one is so good, at least for me, is that it uses my favourite online dictionary as the source for all the translations. That online dictionary of course is MDBG.
The Chinese Reader program is sadly not free and the price tag for the full version is kind of expensive ($59USD) but the value I got out of the 15 day free trial made me easily decide that it was worth it. Even after the free trial runs out, you can continue to use it but no updates, technical support is forum based only and the performance is a lot slower.
The great thing about it is that I can select text and then step through the text on the translation panel. I can pin the translation panel on the screen so it doesn't move or let it follow my mouse around. It also has a quick look-up dictionary right on the task bar so I don't need to wait for the usual web page to load. Obviously another great feature is that it handles all applications with Chinese text, so now I can much more easily practise my Chinese with people on MSN Messenger without having to slowly translate what is being said in the chat.
In the past, when I got emails with Chinese characters, I would have to copy and paste the text into a translation tool like Google or for smaller sentences, paste into Firefox and use the Pera-kun plugin. However, now I just have the one interface for everything! It's so convenient.
I can even save "favourite words" into a personal list so I can practise new words I have learned later when I have time. Also, when you look at a translation in Pera-kun it only gives you one translation. So if the character has multiple meanings and pronunciations, MDBG gives them all to you at the same time. A great example of this is the character 说 in Pera-kun it always shows it as shuì which means "to persuade" but with MDBG it shows both shuì and shuō, which means "to speak" or "to say".
This second usage is the most common use of 说, so for a beginner Pera-kun can actually be quite misleading and unhelpful in many contexts. Also, when you highlight a series of characters by selecting them with the mouse, it displays them all in the dialogue at once in the same order as they are on the screen, with any English text included. If the two or more characters form a common phrase, they are joined together. As you move your mouse over each of them in the translation panel, the translation appears below the other text, making it much, much easier to read a whole sentence at the same time and not get lost within all the different characters.
Here's a sample picture:
You can click the image for a bigger picture to see it better.
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