Sep 302012
New iOS 6 features for users of Chinese

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 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. Text-to-speech 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 … [read more]

Sep 092012
Back to school: iOS dictionaries

Last September, I posted about two free dictionaries that had flashcard functionality (at extra cost): Pleco Chinese Dictionary and trainchinese: Dictionary & Flash cards. In reviewing the state of the iOS Chinese dictionary market, I find that those are still the two that I would recommend to students, so let’s take a closer look at their respective advantages. Both have useful features for learners, such as color-coding by tones and example sentences, but for beginning students, I’d recommend trainchinese over Pleco for a number of reasons: Features that are especially useful to beginners, such as audio and stroke order diagrams, are included at no extra charge. Audio does require an internet connection. English to Chinese search is better. A nifty feature draws your attention to characters with similar shapes to the ones you search for (see image below). App badges remind you to study. It seems easier to use, partly … [read more]

Aug 282012
OS 10.8 new and improved features: Dictionary

Mac OS 10.8 added a Chinese dictionary to the built-in Dictionary app. This is a Chinese-Chinese (simplified characters only) dictionary and so will not be very useful to beginning learners. The dictionary has to be enabled before you can use it: Open the Dictionary app (in the Applications folder). From the menubar, select Dictionary > Preferences. Check the box next to 现代汉语规范词典. While you’re in the Dictionary app preferences, you may want to enable a Chinese version of Wikipedia; both traditional and simplified are available. First check the box next to Wikipedia and then the language choices will appear. If you are looking for a Chinese-English dictionary to add to the Dictionary app, there is 小词典 Xiao Cidian by Rob Rohan. 小词典 uses CC-CEDICT. Download the desktop version (free as of this writing) from the xiaocidian.com and follow the installation instructions on the website. Once installed, you can use it … [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]