Classes started at my institution of higher learning last week so this post is the first in a series for everyone just beginning to study Chinese (esp. my friend Robin and the folks in Extension E1). These are free, lite, or low-cost apps. If cost is no object, or if you are already committed to continuing with Chinese, you’ll find lots of other iOS resources on this site (just choose the “iOS” tag from the tag list).
Recognizing sounds and tones and learning how they are represented with pinyin
Pinyin Chart is pretty much exactly that: a big table, similar to the ones found in just about every intro textbook, with initials along the vertical axis and finals on the horizontal. You can click on any syllable and hear it pronounced with the various tones.
Pinyin Trainer by trainchinese provides a useful guide that describes the pinyin system and tones with audio so that you can hear the difference, for example, between chù and qù or shī and shì. The main feature of the app, however, is a quiz mode that plays a syllable or two. You have to either identify the tone, pinyin, or both for what you hear. The free version has a daily usage limit and ads; full upgrade, as of this writing, is $2.99.
Chinese Pinyin Teacher by Pop-up Chinese has a “Learn” mode and a “Practice” mode. The Learn mode lets you choose an initial and a final in pinyin, which you can then hear pronounced with the various tones. The Practice mode plays a syllable and you have to spin dials to select the correct initial, final, and tone.