Feb 092013
iPad game: PinyinPal

Finally, someone has taken the tried-and-true format of Scrabble/Words with Friends and made a game for learners of Chinese. It’s called PinYinPal and was developed by Adeline Yeh Mah, who runs the website The basic gameplay should be familiar to anyone who has played Scrabble-like games; as you can see in the image above, I’ve just placed the tiles C, U, and N, which not only form the word cun, but in combination with the letters already on the board, also form the words lu and gan (tones don’t come into it). But this isn’t a simple knock-off;  the developer has done an admirable job adapting the game to Chinese. First of all, since pinyin syllables are mostly 2-5 letters long, it can be difficult to get enough “clearance” on the board. To solve this, each player has three “spacer” tiles that can be used to let you play … [read more]

Dec 282012
iPad apps: iGo Chinese

IQChinese is a series of apps for children; four progressive levels are currently offered. The core of each app is a story. This is supplemented with songs, quizzes, and writing practice. I looked at iGo Chinese vol. 4 for the purposes of this review. The app settings let you choose between simplified or traditional characters. From the starting screen, there are several options. Lesson/Story These are essentially the same thing. The story is 24 pages total. The lessons are this story divided into six lessons of four pages each. Each page is a still image with audio. The text of the dialogue is printed in boxes on the pages. The text always has characters with pinyin underneath. You can’t hide the text or even hide just the pinyin. But you’ll be glad the pinyin was there when you see what the quizzes are like. You can play the story (or … [read more]

Nov 252012
iOS app: MyScript Memo

MyScript Memo seems at first like a simple app for taking handwritten notes, but the amazing thing is that it links into a handwriting-recognition service that works for Chinese (traditional or simplified)! Seriously, it recognized even my terrible hanzi! This is not like using the built-in handwriting input method. You write your whole note by hand and then convert the handwritten text to typed text afterward. And this is a free app (at this time anyway)! If you jot short notes in Chinese, you may find it convenient to do so in MyScript Memo, rather than other apps. You don’t need to change your input and you can write continuously, rather than writing single characters and then picking off the palette repeatedly, as with the built-in handwriting input. Of course, the handwriting recognition may not be perfect, but in my testing it was surprisingly good. Here’s an image of some text that … [read more]

Oct 282012
Capturing notes on the go with ABBYY FineScanner for iOS

The good folks at ABBYY let me have a copy of their FineScanner app for iOS to review. I was hesitant since it seemed to have nothing to do with Chinese, but there’s at least one way that it might fit into your Chinese learning workflow. FineScanner, as you might guess, turns your iOS device into a “scanner.” The app lets you take a picture with your device’s camera and then print it via AirPrint or export it (as either a jpg or PDF) to a number of different services, such as e-mail (FineScanner can even remember your own e-mail address for 1-click sending to yourself), Facebook, Evernote, and Box. You can also open the file in other apps that you have accessible through the “Open with …” command. For example, you can create a pdf with FineScanner and open it with an app like GoodReader for annotation. FineScanner has … [read more]

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]