Frill: A Chinese pop-up dictionary extension for Safari

Frill is a Chinese to English pop-up dictionary extension for Safari that I wrote after I started using Safari as my main web browser at home.

Previously I had been using Perapera with Chrome and loved it, but there weren’t any options for Safari (I’ve covered pop-up dictionary browser add-ons previously). Today, I’ve been able to release the first version after several weeks of sporadic development. Here’s a screenshot of what it currently looks like:

A demonstration of the Frill pop-up Chinese dictionary in action.

For those interested, a few features:

  • It uses the CC-CEDICT dictionary, which has over 100,000 definitions.
  • It supports both simplified and traditional characters.
  • There’s a toolbar button to enable/disable it.
  • It’s free!
  • It’s open source, released under a CC-BY-SA license.


Please feel free to give any feedback, especially bug reports or feature requests. I’d love to hear from anyone using it!

(Note that this extension only works for Safari on OS X. Safari for iOS (iPhone/iPad) doesn’t support extensions.)


Classes or tutoring?

How do you decide between classes or tutoring? I was unsure whether I should join a class with other students or get one-on-one tutoring. Having tried both now, I can finally start to make a comparison.

For some background: today I had my first Chinese class. Last year I had almost 30 hours of one-on-one tutoring but then got a bit busy and put it on hold. An opportunity came up to attend a class appropriate to my level once a week after work, so I decided to give it a go.

Tutoring advantages

  • The learning is more intensive
  • A lot of attention is given to your pronunciation and tones
  • Content can be tailored to your level

Small class advantages

  • Cheaper (depending how expensive your tutoring is, it could be 30%-80% cheaper)
  • Interaction with multiple people allows for discussion and makes the language feel more alive
  • Opportunities to make friends that share a common interest
  • Gives you moments of time where you can sit and ponder things for a bit

Classes put more of the responsibility on the student to make the most of their learning, whereas a good tutor will take it upon themselves to ensure you understand everything they teach you.

I used to have my tutoring on a Sunday morning, when my head was clear and I could really concentrate. After work I’m a bit frazzled and I don’t think I could handle an hour of intensive tutoring afterwards, so a class during weeknights works well for me.

Classes or tutoring: The verdict

While there are a lot of advantages to classes, I think it’s critical in the early stages to have some kind of one-on-one time with a master of the language who can correct your pronunciation and tones. Usually this can only be found with tutoring, but maybe there are some small classes out there where the teacher can manage this.

Once you have developed good habits with tones and pronunciation, both classes and tutoring are good options. Pick the one most suitable for your situation, or even do both :)


If anyone lives in Sydney and is curious about the tutoring and classes I went to, here they are!


Mandarin Study logo

Highly recommended!


ChiFUNese logo

Originally just for kids, they have recently started adult classes.

I hope to provide a more thorough review of the ChiFUNese classes after I’ve done more.

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Chinese character posters

A little while ago I bought some physical Chinese character posters containing the most common Chinese characters and radicals, which I put up on my wall at home. I didn’t really think they’d be much help; it just seemed like it would be cool. They weren’t very expensive so I figured I’d just go for it.

The posters on my wall.

The 1,500 most common Chinese characters on the left and the 100 most common radicals on the right.

The large poster was laminated and came with a whiteboard marker so that you can circle the characters you’ve already learnt (and erase with ease). It’s not shown in the photo above but I found this to be a great thing to do! It really is satisfying seeing your progress visually up on the wall. If you learn all the characters on the poster, you’re well on your way to fluency (assuming you have the grammatical and composite word knowledge to boot).

Where to get posters

There are a number of places out there:

  • Based in Taiwan, this is the one I used and I was very happy with it. They have a nice-looking web site, lots of different kinds of posters to choose from and excellent customer service (all mine happened via their Twitter). The posters were delivered securely in a hard cardboard tube and arrived in perfect condition. If you send them a photo with your poster they will put it in their gallery (see if you can spot mine).
  • Based in Beijing, I haven’t tried this one but they have also have a lot of poster configurations, with a special focus on HSK vocabulary. They’ve also posted fairly high-resolution images of all their posters to give you a very good idea about what you will be getting.

Posters are a good way to measure your progress (helping you stay motivated) and are a great conversation starter, especially when you have Chinese people over! They’re not a replacement for flash cards but are are a nice way to explore the landscape of characters that you will be learning with them.

Feel free to comment below if you have any poster recommendations of your own!

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