Sep 052011

This post continues the series of posts for people just beginning to study Chinese this academic year, focusing on free, lite, or low-cost iOS apps. Frankly, if you’re taking a introductory class, you probably do not need a dictionary just yet, but a good dictionary for beginners should include examples of how words are actually used. Stroke order diagrams and audio are also useful at the early stages of study. Another desirable feature is the ability to save word lists, so you can review later (preferably with the ability to export the list as a text file so that you can use it in other flashcard apps or sites). Some dictionaries have built-in flashcard functionality for this. So while there are lots of free dictionaries for iOS, this list will highlight ones with some of those features. For more info, please see the page on iOS dictionaries. First of all, … [read more]

Aug 222011
Vertical text in Mac OS 10.7 Lion

Another new feature in Mac OS 10.7 “Lion” is support for vertical text (竖排 / 豎排 / shùpái), that is, text running from the top of the page to the bottom. (Lion’s Chinese text-to-speech feature was discussed here.) Chinese was traditionally written vertically (see this Wikipedia article), as in the image below. You can see 三字經  (三字经 Sān Zì Jīng or “Three-Character Classic”)  at the upper right of the page. Vertical text is dead simple to implement in TextEdit (which is included with the OS): just go to the menubar and choose Format > Make Layout Vertical. The text will begin at the right side of the page and run from top to bottom. Below is a screenshot of some of the San Zi Jing in TextEdit. In this case, I began with the traditional version, so it runs from the top right down to 義 yì. After the gap, the simplified version begins and runs to the … [read more]

Aug 042011
Chinese text-to-speech in Mac OS 10.7 Lion

Apple has long had text-to-speech built into Mac OS X. With OS 10.7, they’ve added voices for Chinese. The voices aren’t pre-installed on US systems, at least, but they are free downloads. Go to System Preferences>Speech. Pull down the “System Voice” menu and choose “Customize.” (Note that in the image below, I have already installed two Chinese voices; go to “Customize” at the bottom to install voices). Select the voice(s) you wish (China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are available for Chinese). Click the checkbox to “Speak selected text when the key is pressed.” (You can customize the keyboard shortcut for this if you wish.) Optionally, adjust the speed of the voice. A cool thing to do with this is to make audio files of texts (e.g., readings or dialogues from a textbook). The text-to-speech isn’t completely natural, of course, and nowadays most textbooks include audio in some format, but if you … [read more]

Jul 192011
Ruby text in the browser?

This is a quick test of ruby display in web browsers. If your browser can handle it, you should see this site’s name 中网 with pinyin transliteration above it. Ideally the browser will display the hanzi and pinyin one over the other. As a fallback, you may see the pinyin in parentheses. 中 网 ( zhōng wǎng ) It should look like this picture: Here is the code used: <ruby> <rb> 中 网 </rb> <rp> (</rp> <rt> zhōng wǎng </rt> <rp>) </rp> </ruby> Note: WordPress does not seem over-fond of the html markup for this. If you switch to the Visual editor, the tags seem to get stripped out, but it displays the “fallback” option of having the contents of the rt placed in parentheses after the rb. Publishing right from the html editor seems to keep everything.

Jul 172011

HeDictionary seems geared more toward Chinese-speaking learners of English (e.g. includes audio and printed pronunciation of English words and things to help with GRE preparation). The Chinese dictionaries are Wiktionary, Google, and Dict.CN, rather than CC-CEDICT.