iOS apps for pinyin and tones


This page includes apps for learning pinyin and practicing recognizing tones. All links are to the iTunes App Store.

  • AllSet Learning Pinyin has a pinyin chart showing the possible syllables. Clicking on a syllable can play audio, with the tone determined by selecting a radio button. IPA transcription can be displayed instead of pinyin. Wade-Giles and/or zhuyin are available as paid add-ons. iPad only. Free (May 2012). Review.
  • iPinyin has a “Pinyin Matrix” that works rather like Pinyin Chart (but harder to navigate, but will play every syllable/tone combination (and only one at a time), even if an actual character doesn’t exist with that pronunciation. You can choose a male or female voice. I couldn’t figure out how the voice comparison was supposed to work. To use the “pairs” feature (the yellow arrow at the bottom of the “pinyin matrix”), double-tap on a syllable, then choose one of the tones. Do the same thing to get the second of the pairs. Once you have a pair, you can hear the two said one after another so you can hear the difference between, say, pō and bō or dá and dǎ. There is a “Handbook” with some good basic info on writing pinyin, where to put tone marks, etc., but  I didn’t get the point of the “Pinyin Song.” The “Flashcard” feature seems buggy and pointless. Free lite version tested, so perhaps some of the issues I found don’t apply to the $4.99 full version (the differences do not seem to be documented) (Feb. 2011).
  • Laokang® Pinyin Test tests your ability to distinguish syllables (without tones) by ear and transcribe then into pinyin. Review.
  • Laokang® Tone Test tests your ability to recognize tones. Review.
  • Laokang® Tone Trainer develops your ability to distinguish tones. Review.
  • Pinyin Chart and Pinyin Chart HD for iPad let you pick a combination of initial and final and then either choose to hear it said with a specific tone, or with all possible tones, including neutral. If there is no actual word with a certain tone, then it won’t give that option (for example, the syllable chua seems only to exist with first tone). A nice touch is that each tone variant is highlighted as you hear it. Free (ad-supported); $.99 pro version to remove ads and nag screens (Feb. 2012).
  • Pinyin Teacher lets you spin wheels to pick an initial and a final. Then you can click to hear that syllable pronounced with any tone that actually occurs. Combinations that do not occur are greyed out. $4.99 (Mar. 2012).
  • Pinyin Trainer by trainchinese actually tests listening comprehension of individual syllables. Some are distinguished only by tone, some by initial or final as well. Includes a guide to pinyin and tones. Free (actually more like a “lite” app since an upgrade is available) (May 2012). Review.
  • Pinyin Typist is not a pinyin reference app for beginning learners. Rather, it is a text editor that makes it easy to enter pinyin with tone marks, by means of a custom keyboard. It is useful in preparing teaching materials that include pinyin. Review and update.
  • The Pleco dictionary’s flashcard add-on has a tone testing-mode, but this just asks you to choose the right tone marks for the word on the flashcard. So it just tests if you remember what they are for the word, not if you can identify the tones by ear. See also the Flashcards page.
  • The app called 4Tones will not help you recognize tones by ear either; it does basically what Pleco does: it shows you a character and you have to choose the right tone for it. This is only helpful if you sort of know some words, but can’t remember what tones they have. Free (Mar. 2011).

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  1. [...] more, check out our page of iOS apps for pinyin and tones. And if you don’t have an iOS device, see our page of web [...]

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