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]

Jul 062012
iOS app: trainchinese Dictionary and Flashcards

Following up on the last post about Skritter, we’ll be looking at another sophisticated flashcard app specifically developed for Chinese, trainchinese: Dictionary & Flash cards. The free app allows use of the dictionary and a free account allows flashcard use for a very small number of new words per week, but this is enough to decide whether you want to upgrade to a paid account. With either a paid or free account, you can also practice your flashcards on the trainchinese website. Study modes The app uses a spaced repetition system to test you less often on words that you know better. There are two basic methods of testing: “honesty” and multiple choice. “Honesty” is the familiar flashcard method where you are responsible for indicating whether or not you knew the correct answer. Multiple choice is self-explanatory. In both modes you can get a hint without penalty. For each method, … [read more]

May 262012
iOS app: Pinyinizer

Pinyinizer is an app for adding pinyin phonetic guide text (ruby text) automatically to Chinese characters. You simply type or paste a text in hanzi into the box and click the “Pinyinize” button. An internet connection is required. The result is a nice display with large characters and smaller, red pinyin above them. You can also hear line-by-line audio. The quality of the text-to-speech was quite good. The app is powered by Google Translate. Tapping a button gives you the option to print or e-mail the Pinyinized text. I could not print from the app, however; it simply hung after tapping the Print button. I needed to completely quit the app before I could use it again. In the iOS and Mac Mail apps, the Pinyinized text looks just like it does in the Pinyinizer app, but without the audio icons. Looking at the message source code revealed (unsurprisingly) that … [read more]

May 202012
Showdown: iOS apps for Chinese OCR

This blog has discussed several options for performing OCR on Chinese texts, but the options all required a desktop or laptop computer (Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat, Sciweavers i2OCR). In this post, we’ll look at several options for OCRing Chinese on iOS devices. The contenders: ABBYY TextGrabber + Translator is an OCR app that supports many languages and ties into Google Translate. LRDict is a Chinese dictionary app that has an OCR feature. I used the lite version for testing. Pleco Chinese Dictionary is an app with several tools for studying Chinese, primarily a free dictionary; OCR is a paid add-on. All of these require starting from an image file, not a PDF. You can take a photo with your device’s camera or import one from the Photos app. My tests used two different photos taken with an iPhone 4S and iPad 3, so your results may vary. Round one A page … [read more]

May 142012
Chrome Language Immersion browser plug-in

The web is, of course, a limitless source of authentic reading material for students of Chinese (not to mention other languages). But only quite advanced students can read most unadapted web pages. So there has been a fair amount of excitement online (Lifehacker, Engadget, EdSurge newsletter) about a plug-in for the Google Chrome browser called Language Immersion for Chrome that aims to turn any webpage into level-appropriate reading material for language students. Well, that may be overstating its goals; perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the plug-in lets you work some language study into your regular web browsing. Once installed, you start from a page in English (for example) and at the click of a button, the plug-in translates some words and phrases into the language of your choice (including either simplified or traditional Chinese). The number of words/phrases translated into the target language is determined by a setting matched to … [read more]