How I Turned World Of Warcraft into a Japanese Learning Experience

World of Warcraft. The most famous MMORPG the world has ever known. It’s played by over 10 million people in roughly a dozen languages. Wouldn’t it be great if one of those languages was Japanese?

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Just imagine logging in to check your Garrison missions, greeting your guildmates with a warm 「こんにちはー」, and getting an enthusiastic flurry of responses in Japanese. A short time later, you see in guild chat that they need one more for a dungeon -「Auchindounをします。@1DPS。誰か行きませんか?」- so you quickly fire off an 「行きます!」and join the group. The run begins with 「よろしくー」and ends with 「おつかれさま」. Then it’s time to log off, so you send your guild a quick 「いったん落ちます」and see a few responses of 「おつです」just before you exit the game.

Pretty wild, right? To think that all those hours you spend playing WoW could also count as immersion, if only there was a Japanese version of the game and a Japanese-speaking community to play with. While there’s no telling if or when WoW will see an official Japanese release, it turns out that hasn’t stopped players in Japan from finding their own way.

In this article, I’m going to explain how they do it. I’ll show you how to add Japanese tooltips for almost everything in the game, as well as how to set up your client to support Japanese input for communicating with other players. In the next article, I’ll talk about WoW’s thriving Japanese language community and my own experience joining and playing in a Japanese guild.

Add Japanese Tooltips with WoWJapanizer – (Recommended Level: Any)

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To help Japanese speakers get into WoW, a player by the name of Milai developed a wonderful addon called WoWJapanizer. This addon allows you to view Japanese translations of most quest and tooltip text in the game. This includes items, achievements, spells, and much more. The text is translated by volunteers, though new content may briefly rely on machine-translation until it can be updated.

This one’s pretty easy to get up and running. Start by downloading the addon here, then unzip it and place it in your World of Warcraft/Interface/Addons directory as you would any other addon. Next time you fire up the game, it should simply work without any additional fuss.

While this tool is primarily meant to make WoW accessible for native speakers, Milai is currently working on a “furigana mode” to help make the addon more useful for learners.

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Setting up WoW to allow Japanese Input – (Recommended Level: 10+)

Most Blizzard games, as well as the Battle.Net app, allow you to use Japanese input without any special setup requirements. Unfortunately when it comes to WoW things aren’t so simple, so you’ll need to follow some additional steps to get it working.

Step 1: Fonts

You’ll need to change your fonts to display Japanese characters in-game. You can download suitable fonts here.

Unzip the newly downloaded Fonts folder, and then place it in your main World of Warcraft directory.

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Please note that this WILL change the font used by various text within the game, but you can undo this change at any time by simply deleting the Fonts folder. The game will then restore its default fonts.

Step 2: System Locale

Even with a proper font, WoW only supports JP input if your System Locale is set to Japanese. You can find info on how to change it in Windows 7 here. This setting is separate from your Operating System language, so you shouldn’t notice any practical impact on your day-to-day activities. If you do encounter problems, simply follow the same process to restore your previous locale setting.

Helpful Hints

WoW doesn’t support Copy for in-game chat by default, which can make it hard to look up unknown words while chatting. You may want to install an addon (such as EasyCopy) to help with this.

Having trouble identifying tiny kanji? Try right-clicking on the title bar of your chat panel and changing your font size to something a bit larger in the settings menu.

Want to log your in-game chat for study purposes? You can use the /chatlog command to log chat on a per-session basis, or get an addon to handle it. Logs will output to your World of Warcraft/Logs folder.

So how about it? Does this make your quest text a little more interesting?

Excited to try chatting with other players in Japanese? Stay tuned for the next installment, where I’ll tell you all about doing just that.

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Matt V

Matt V

Video game designer and lover of JRPGs.


How I Turned World Of Warcraft into a Japanese Learning Experience — 17 Comments

  1. I wonder if the quests are translated correctly, considering it’s done by just some guy. But overall this isn’t too bad. I’d consider playing this if my Japanese was level 30-40 or so, and I could afford playing something this addicting.

    Also, does it really show English on the left side of the quest window? Not good for those doing j-j.

    • As I understand it, there are actually multiple translators collaborating on this project. I think the translations do a great job capturing the spirit of the quest text, and it can be very interesting to see how chose they handle certain things (like “dumb” ogre speech).

      The English on the left is the built-in game UI. The translation pane on the right is what comes from the add-on. Bear in mind that since there’s no official localization, this is how Japanese players see the game as well. Seeing it the same way works in favor of being able to talk with them about it.

      I’ll get into this in more detail in the next article, but English terms are used heavily when discussing the game in Japanese – in the context of WoW, something like “Raidする” (or レイドする) is totally natural. That common English-based vocabulary builds a powerful bridge, allowing you to have pretty involved discussions about the game in Japanese even if you’re only level 30 or so. And let me tell you, being able to connect with people in that way over a topic of common interest does wonders for one’s motivation =)

  2. For those people who play Final Fantasy XIV, it’s super easy to do the same thing. You can just change the language to Japanese from the launcher. It’s how I learned 笑う after my friend repeatedly laughed at my character…

    • That’s a great point, and definitely worth trying for those who play.

      I’ve had a similar experience with single-player RPGs. You pick up a lot of verbs from context just by seeing basic actions play out along with the word on-screen (like 上がる・下がる、開ける・閉める、調べる、etc). Even if you’re not into MMOs, I’d definitely recommend at least a single-player Final Fantasy (or similar RPG) so you can benefit from the awesome power of applied repetition.

  3. Or you just play a game like Final Fantasy XIV that has full Japanese support without any hassle and an incredibly large Japanese user-base.

    • Totally. FFXIV is a great option if it’s a game you’re already playing or at least interested in playing. However, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so I figure it’s nice to have alternatives =)

      While FFXIV is huge in Japan, WoW is still the dominant MMO in the West. There’s a lot to be said for layering Japanese onto a game you already know very well, as opposed to trying to learn a new game and a new language at the same time.

        • I think we’re getting a bit off-topic here. My point is, there’s a significant overlap between [People who play WoW] and [People who want to become awesome at Japanese]. Many of whom read this site on a regular basis. I wrote this article to benefit those people. I’m not really looking to have a debate about which game is better.

          On the contrary, I’d strongly encourage someone who’s experienced with FFXIV and its Japanese community to contribute an article of their own on the subject, as I imagine there are readers here who would really appreciate it. Thanks! =)

  4. Thank you very much for sharing these advices!

    I saw a post a few months ago, about Japanese guilds and the servers that they used to play, but I’ve never tryed to get in touch with them, since my Japanese is still at a low level (lv 8).
    But I’m certainly going to try that addon. I hope that it turn my thousands of wasted “playing WoW” hours in something much more useful. But I can’t complain, WoW has been the base for my English learning. now It can be for Japanese, hehe.

    Thanks again, I can’t wait for your next post.

    • It’s awesome to hear that you were able to make a lot of English progress through WoW. Even as a native English speaker, I learned much of what I know (especially reading) from playing video games when I was young. I’m always excited to find other ways to extend learning through games. I hope this proves helpful for you :)

      I’m going to start writing part 2 after work today. If all goes as planned, it should be up sometime this weekend.

  5. With the font option, only people who also have that font installed can even see your text. However, I notice quite a few people typing in Japanese and Chinese and I can see their text *without* having the fonts installed.

    How are these people doing this? It seems there’s a much more elegant solution out there that doesn’t make all your fonts look bad AND has the text show up for people who haven’t replaced the base fonts.

    • Hmm, I’m not sure. I got the instructions from Japanese players last summer-

      It may be that something addon-related is allowing it to display for you? Or it could be that patch 6.0 introduced a change that rendered the font swap unnecessary. I’ve only ever played with the swapped font since I first learned how to do it, so that’s very much a possibility.

      If it can be confirmed that there’s a cleaner solution, or that changing your font is no longer needed, that would save people a lot of hassle =)

      Once I have a bit more free time, I’ll try it out on a clean install and see if I can replicate the behavior you’re seeing.

      • To answer Bearsmith’s question, wow by default can partially display Japanese, but not always, and not in all areas. IIRC the condition where unicode characters are (somewhat) correctly displayed is if the first character of a text is an ascii character. However, without a proper font, some characters will still be displayed in a weird way.

        The most non-intrusive way to change chat font is through a chat addon such as Prat. Prat has a feature to specify fonts for chat windows and chat input window (both need to be explicitly specified), and by editing fonts.lua file inside the addon folder, you can install your own font to be selected from within the addon configuration.

        Here’s an English article from a guy that I helped out a while ago.

        I’ve heard that Japanese IME may not work well under Windows 8.1 with the game in Fullscreen mode. In that case, changing to Windowed (Fullscreen) solves the problem (though not so elegantly).

  6. Thank you for introducing WoW Japanese community and WoWJapanizer.

    As you mentioned, I have been developing Furigana mode according to
    lots feedback from non-native Japanese learner.
    So, in the latest version, Furigana mode is supported. Please try it.

    1. Turn on Furigana mode from option.

    2. You will see Furigana on the all quests.

    • I’m also hosting Japanese Guild Recruitment service “WoW Guild Power”. This covers most of Japanese WoW community and display its activity based on Armory.

      – We are playing a game in WoW, not a free Japanese school.
      – Also,there is a time-zone barrier to play with Japanese ppl.

      As long as you care these points, I believe Japanese community welcome anyone.


      • Milaiさん w(゚o゚)w!コメントありがとうございます!

        I was actually going to talk about guildpower in my next article (which should be posted soon). I didn’t know that was your project as well. Thank you for all your hard work on such great tools =)

        In that upcoming article, I’ll also go into detail about my experience playing with Japanese players, in hopes of guiding anyone here who may be interested. If you have any additional comments you want to add once it’s posted, they’d be very much appreciated ^_^

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