Reading and writing

Dec 282012
iPad apps: iGo Chinese

IQChinese is a series of apps for children; four progressive levels are currently offered. The core of each app is a story. This is supplemented with songs, quizzes, and writing practice. I looked at iGo Chinese vol. 4 for the purposes of this review. The app settings let you choose between simplified or traditional characters. From the starting screen, there are several options. Lesson/Story These are essentially the same thing. The story is 24 pages total. The lessons are this story divided into six lessons of four pages each. Each page is a still image with audio. The text of the dialogue is printed in boxes on the pages. The text always has characters with pinyin underneath. You can’t hide the text or even hide just the pinyin. But you’ll be glad the pinyin was there when you see what the quizzes are like. You can play the story (or … [read more]

Nov 252012
iOS app: MyScript Memo

MyScript Memo seems at first like a simple app for taking handwritten notes, but the amazing thing is that it links into a handwriting-recognition service that works for Chinese (traditional or simplified)! Seriously, it recognized even my terrible hanzi! This is not like using the built-in handwriting input method. You write your whole note by hand and then convert the handwritten text to typed text afterward. And this is a free app (at this time anyway)! If you jot short notes in Chinese, you may find it convenient to do so in MyScript Memo, rather than other apps. You don’t need to change your input and you can write continuously, rather than writing single characters and then picking off the palette repeatedly, as with the built-in handwriting input. Of course, the handwriting recognition may not be perfect, but in my testing it was surprisingly good. Here’s an image of some text that … [read more]

Jul 222012
iOS reader (annotator) apps

OK, the last post probably should have been entitled “Pleco’s Reader Tool.” “Readers” (or “annotators”) are useful for students trying to read texts that are significantly above their current level of ability. Once you load in a text, you can get a definition and pinyin for each word/character simply by tapping on it. In this post, we’ll compare Pleco’s Reader with the iOS app HanZi Reader. Although both Readers do essentially the same thing, their implementations and features differ. Once again, the text in the images is an article from the Chinese edition of the New York Times. Text input Text can be entered in both Readers just by pasting it in; in fact this is the only way to add a new text to HanZi Reader, where you must create a new file, give it a title, specify whether the text is in simplified or traditional characters, and then tap … [read more]

Jul 152012
iOS app to OCR Chinese: Pleco

This post fulfills my promise to discuss the additional features of Pleco Chinese Dictionary following up on its victory in the iOS OCR showdown. Pleco is the grand old man of apps for learning Chinese (see the Pleco website); I first used it on a Palm Tungsten C device in 2003. It took some time to be ported to iOS and, while the appearance is unfortunately too reminiscent of its earlier incarnations, Pleco is still a very powerful tool for students of Chinese. Once the app has OCRed text from an image, tapping “Capture” will open the app’s “Reader” (available as a paid add-on) and display the text reflowed (preserving paragraph breaks, but not the arbitrary line breaks of the printed page). The reflowing is great for continuous prose, but is undesirable for things like poetry or song lyrics. I have not found a way to disable the reflowing and … [read more]

Jun 242012
iOS app: Skritter

The Chinese-learning community is all aflutter over Skritter. This is the highly anticipated iOS version of the popular web-based tool for learning Chinese, particularly writing hanzi with correct stroke order. Although I haven’t yet talked about the web version here, I jumped on the chance to review the app (thanks to Nick at Skritter for making it available in beta and to Marjolein @CleverClogs for putting us in touch). The app itself is free, but to take full advantage of it, you need to subscribe to the Skritter service. You get a week’s free trial when you create an account, so that should give you a reasonable chance to see if you want to pay for a subscription. The following review assumes a subscriber account. More than just a writing trainer, Skritter for iOS can be set to test you on any combination of the following skills: writing hanzi, knowing … [read more]