This pad is made like a desktop calendar. Each page has one character and little boxes around the outside of the page for you to practice writing it. For each character, you also get the stroke order and a list of common phrases with the character so you can start using it in context. A second volume is also available. . .
After I wrote my initial review of the Chinese Writer game from trainchinese, the developer posted a very detailed response in the comments, which I very much appreciate. A day or two ago they released an update which addresses some of my wish list: There is now a choice of traditional or simplified characters. The game now displays the high score for each character pack in a nice little scrolling ticker. Other changes: The instructions, while clear enough before, seem improved (although my memory of them is not perfect). A “freeze” button has been added onto the more complex character which lets you slow down the speed. A change that wasn’t what I expected: One of the items on my earlier wishlist was to be able to add your own wordlist. I had thought from the update’s description (“build custom packs by searching for characters”) that users could now build a custom … [read more]
From the trainchinese.com people comes a new iOS game where you score by writing characters quickly with correct stroke order. A character will fall from the top of the screen, you tap it to freeze it in the middle of the screen, then you trace over it with correct stroke order as fast as you can. If you make wrong strokes, you get a “wrong” indicator but can keep trying up to the time limit for the word. Fast writing (很快!) will get you double points; really fast (非常快!) will get you triple. Note: this is not to be confused with the app Chinese Writer by the folks at Popup Chinese, which is a nice, free tutorial-style intro to the rules of stroke order. Pros: The app shows the pinyin and an English definition for each character. Due to the speed of the game, you’re not likely to learn totally new characters while … [read more]
If you’re the kind of person who tries to see how much you can read on Chinese restaurant menus and fortune cookie inserts, you might enjoy checking out the flyers from Hmart, the Asian grocery store chain. Friends gave me one they got in the mail, but you can also find them at the Hmart website. Easy way to gradually build your vocabulary of foodstuffs. Traditional characters only.
A big problem I’ve had in learning Chinese is that after a couple of years of study, it’s still really hard to read anything outside of textbooks. So I was really happy to find the “Chinese Breeze” series of little illustrated novellas with audio CDs. What makes these great for people in the relatively early stages of study is that the books use a limited amount of vocabulary and define in footnotes any words not in that set of vocabulary. The easiest books in the series assume a knowledge of 300 common words. The next level assumes 500. This seems to me to correspond roughly to what one would get in the first and second semesters of a college course. I tried a few of the 500-word ones and could read them pretty easily with my 1.5 semesters of continuing education study; sometimes I also knew the words defined in … [read more]