Over the years, I have often seen people recommending to run one’s operating system and all of your applications in Japanese mode. This will apparently get you to thinking in Japanese more frequently, and you’ll learn a lot of computer related terminology.
But I’ve never done this, for one big reason: it’s annoying as hell. When I am trying to get work done, I don’t want to sit there wasting my time guessing at what the kanji are saying, and messing around with things by trial and error trying to figure out which menu option is the one I need to click on. When you get stuck trying to read something, trying to look up the text can be annoying as the font sizes are usually very small, making it both difficult to read and difficult to use an OCR application on it.
But I recently realized that there was a better way to ease yourself into the all-Japanese immersive PC environment. You see, most software has its interface translations stored in simple text files! This makes it really easy to get a full list of every single part of the interface, in both English and Japanese. There are a couple of different ways to benefit from this. For one, you could just dive straight into the Japanese version of an application, and refer to the English translation file when you have trouble reading something. Or you can approach it more slowly, by first reading through the Japanese translation file, adding words to Anki, and then switching over to using the application in Japanese at a later time, once you have learned the words it uses.
So how do you get these translation files? First of all, just check inside the folder where an application has been installed. In Windows, this is usually “C:\Program Files” or “C:\Program Files (x86)”. After peeking around inside an application’s folder, look for a folder named something like “locales”, “languages”, or “translations”. This will usually contain translations for several different languages, so all you need to do is find the Japanese file, and the English file. Not every application stores its translations like this though, and not every application has a Japanese translation. If you can’t find anything, just move on to a different application.
When you do find translation files, they could have different extensions, such as .ini, .xml, .dat, or something else entirely. But most of them can simply be viewed in a normal text editor like Notepad. Sometimes, you might find files with a .mo extension. Unfortunately, these are not text files and you are unable to view them.
Sometimes, translations and language packs are available as a separate download for some applications. If you can’t find a translation installed on your PC, then try checking the website for that software to see if anything is available.
To give you a quick peek at some of these language files, I put together a small pack with the English and Japanese translation files for “7-zip”, “PotPlayer”, and “notepad++”. You can grab it here to take a quick peek at how these files are typically formatted, and to see if this might be a helpful way for you to ease into using your PC in Japanese!