Dec 172011

TileSpeak Mahjong is a solitaire-style mahjong game with a significant educational slant. Each tile displays a character and pinyin; when you select a tile, you hear the pronunciation of that character, hence the name.


Screenshot of TileSpeak Mahjong

You can choose simplified or traditional characters with Mandarin or Cantonese pronunciation, respectively (see the first “con” below).

Educational value is boosted by

  • a display of pinyin, a basic English translation, and part of speech given at the top of the screen as each tile is selected
  • color-coding of characters according to their tone
  • a choice of fourteen levels which seem to correspond roughly to character frequency.

Nice touches:

  • attractive backgrounds
  • pleasant music
  • completed games are rewarded with a Chinese proverb (in English; it would be nice to have the Chinese too.)
  • buttons to reshuffle tiles and undo last move.


  • The Mandarin and Cantonese are pronounced by the same speaker, who seems to bring something of a southern accent to the Mandarin, so the pronunciation may not match what you would learn in a class.
  • You cannot have Mandarin pronunciation with traditional characters.
  • Some characters, such as and , are shown with no tone mark on the pinyin (indicating neutral tone), but the tile is color-coded as a non-neutral tone (dé and zhě in these cases). While can certainly be pronounced dé, the mismatch may be disconcerting and negate some of the value of the color-coding.

This is a really neat twist on solitaire-style mahjong. The learning is all rather passive, but the combination of visual and aural reinforcement should help with character recognition, vocabulary, and pronunciation (with the caveats mentioned above). TileSpeak Mahjong has replaced another mahjong game on my iPad and makes a nice, reduced-guilt study break.

TileSpeak Mahjong is a universal app available for free (as of this writing) at the TileSpeak Mahjong - TileSpeak Software.

  One Response to “Free iOS game: TileSpeak Mahjong”

  1. Thanks for your review. My colleague and I developed TileSpeak and this type of feedback is great. We’re actually in the process of revising our product now to be more comprehensive; some updates will include the ideas you’ve put forward in the Cons section. I’ll drop you a note when this completes but in the mean time, thanks for writing about us, we appreciate it.

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