iOS 6 adds a number of features for Chinese users that are equivalent to features introduced to the Mac with OS 10.7 or 10.8.
Siri can now communicate in Chinese. You need to specify the language that you want to use with Siri in Settings > General >Siri. You can choose between Mandarin (mainland or Taiwan) or Cantonese. If you want to go back to English (or another language), you need to change the Settings again. The TUAW website has a list of commands for working with Siri in various languages; Chinese is way at the bottom.
Here are some screenshots of me asking Siri about tomorrow’s weather and when my own birthday is.
iOS 6 can now read Chinese to you. Simply select the text that you want read and choose “Speak” from the menu. If you don’t see “Speak” in your menu, you may need to enable it once by going to Settings > General > Accessibility. Make sure “Speak Selection” is “On”.
The TTS can read selections that contain a mix of languages (e.g. Chinese and English). Readings of individual Chinese words were unintelligible disappointingly often, but with continuous text, it sounded pretty much as good as TTS on the Mac. It’s not perfect, of course; I heard liǎo instead of le for 了 once (although it did say le in the context of 吃饭了吗) and it chose to say dàfū instead of dàifu for 大夫.
If you have a Chinese keyboard activated, then you can dictate in Chinese anywhere that you can type, like in OS 10.8. Just switch to the Chinese keyboard and press the microphone icon to start the Dictation feature. Interestingly, when I counted from 1 to 7 in Chinese, it printed regular arabic numerals, not the Chinese characters (see the image below of the “dictionary downloading” message).
This could be an interesting tool for students to practice their pronunciation and/or facility in reading aloud from hanzi. You could sit down with your textbook dialog (or whatever), fire up an app like Notes, and read aloud from your text. If the results of the Dictation do not match your text, it may be that you mispronounced or misread, but bear in mind that the speech recognition may not be perfect. I’d recommend re-dictating the problem words/phrases a couple of times to get a sense whether the problem is with you or the software; better, of course, would be to check with a native speaker.
DictionaryThe first time you try to define a Chinese word, you will be asked whether you want to download a dictionary. Once you do, you will be able to get definitions of Chinese words in Chinese (this is not a Chinese-English dictionary), as in OS 10.8 on a Mac. Just select a word and from the menu that appears, choose “Define”. Definitions will appear in a pop-up window, as in the image below.
You can update to iOS 6 directly from your iOS device (Settings > General > Software Update) or through iTunes with your device connected. Before you do so, however, you may want to read up on the Maps issue, if somehow you’ve missed that in the news.