Apr 252011

Screenshot of the game

The clock is ticking!

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.


  • 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 playing, but it’s a good reminder/reinforcement, plus …
  • … there is a practice/browse mode where you can take all the time you want to look at things and practice stroke order.
  • The app pronounces each character so that even if you don’t glance up at the pinyin (or don’t know pinyin), you can know how it’s pronounced.
  • You can go back and review the words you missed (and those you got right) after the game.
  • The vocabulary is chosen from the new (2010) HSK lists; you can choose the level you want to practice.
  • A reasonable selection of words at each level is included free. Add-ons are available including an “everything now and forever” for one for $9.99.
  • Allows sharing via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.
  • Includes a nice introduction to stroke order rules.


  • You can set the starting speed, but the difficulty seems to ramp up in an odd way; in my experience, as soon as I totally miss a word, the time for the next word is greatly reduced. Missing the fifth word ends the game and almost invariably, my missed words are all in a row at the end because it is almost impossible to recover from that first total miss.
  • Occasionally, a stroke would register wrong (either in my favor or not), but overall the recognition seems exceptionally good to me.
  • Seems to be simplified characters only.

Wishlist: It would be nice if …

  • there were a way to add your own wordlists (although maybe you can if you have a trainchinese.com paid subscription?).
  • it kept a list of high scores (rather than just one), allowed for multiple player accounts on the same device, and/or tied into Game Center.
  • there were a variant that prompts with just the pinyin and English so that you have to both remember the character and write it in time (the time frame would need to be longer, of course).

Overall, the educational value of this game is higher than others I’ve seen. It’s already made me aware of some characters that I was in the habit of writing incorrectly and is breaking those habits.

trainchinese Chinese Writer. Free with paid add-ons. iPad-sized.

Apr 222011
iOS Chinese character converters

Sometimes you need to convert simplified to traditional characters or vice versa, or convert between characters and pinyin. With both of these, you paste or type into a text box and can copy the result to the clipboard to use in another app. Both can convert between character types. Proceed to page 2 for the specifics of each. Pages: 1 2

Apr 132011
iOS game: ICQuiz

ICQuiz is a matching quiz with several variations (actually called “Games” in app). Vocabulary is divided into six levels; it is unclear what the basis for those is (蝨 / 虱 shī ‘louse’ is level 2?!) and there is no way to see a list of the words in each level. In one variant, you match six English definitions with the appropriate characters (either traditional or simplified) by dragging the characters. You can change your mind as often as you want. You tap a check icon to learn which you got right. If you missed any, you can re-arrange and then check again. Other variants can test you on matching either pinyin or zhuyin with characters (your choice of traditional or simplified). There are a couple of ways to play the match-character-with-transliteration variants. I say “play” because one way works essentially like a timed game of “Concentration” (aka “Memory”): there is a grid of face-down “cards” and … [read more]

Apr 082011
Hmart flyers

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.

 Posted by at 8:12 pm
Apr 032011
iPad game: RollingZilla

Since I find the online version of RollingZilla (see my review in this blog post) quite addictive, I was happy that I could finally get the iPad version working after the 4.3 update came along. Gameplay on the iPad is somewhat different. There are two modes, one of which is very like the web-based RollingZilla (again, see the earlier review); the other is a multiple choice variant.  The multiple choice variant is a good innovation given that one of my comments about the web game was one’s score was too dependent on typing speed. On the iPad, where most people cannot type as fast as on a full-sized physical keyboard, slow typing has an even greater effect. Another significant difference between this and the web version is that each word that appears in the little Zilla’s thought bubbles is also printed larger in a box at the bottom center of … [read more]