Sep 232012
Back to school: Pronunciation

The Laokang apps have gained speaking tests since my original reviews of the Pinyin Test and Tone Test. This actually happened quite a while ago and I apologize to the developer for my slowness in reporting on the added feature. But they are a great way to end our back-to-school series of free or low-cost iOS apps. The speaking test in the Pinyin Test presents you with sets of three syllables, with no tone indications. You record yourself pronouncing each set of syllables with any tones that you want (the test is just of your pronunciation of the syllables). A complete test comprises 26 such sets. The speaking test in the Tone Test presents you with pairs of tones. You can say any two syllables with the given tones. It might be simplest to use “ma” in the way that the listening version of the Tone Test does. A complete … [read more]

Sep 092012
Back to school: iOS dictionaries

Last September, I posted about two free dictionaries that had flashcard functionality (at extra cost): Pleco Chinese Dictionary and trainchinese: Dictionary & Flash cards. In reviewing the state of the iOS Chinese dictionary market, I find that those are still the two that I would recommend to students, so let’s take a closer look at their respective advantages. Both have useful features for learners, such as color-coding by tones and example sentences, but for beginning students, I’d recommend trainchinese over Pleco for a number of reasons: Features that are especially useful to beginners, such as audio and stroke order diagrams, are included at no extra charge. Audio does require an internet connection. English to Chinese search is better. A nifty feature draws your attention to characters with similar shapes to the ones you search for (see image below). App badges remind you to study. It seems easier to use, partly … [read more]

Sep 032012
Back to school: iOS pinyin charts

It’s back-to-school time, so this is the first in a series of posts showcasing some favorite free or low-cost iOS apps for helping you learn Chinese. First of all, new students usually need a reference chart for pinyin, with audio. The best that I’ve seen is AllSet Learning Pinyin (free and add-free as of this writing). It’s easy to keep track of where you are in the chart, thanks to fixed headers and shading. It can display two romanization systems simultaneously (pinyin and IPA are included; zhuyin and others are $0.99-each add-ons). Since I reviewed it, the developers have added an option to play a syllable with each of the four tones consecutively. Allset Pinyin may be unique among pinyin charts in having the final i separated into two columns to reflect the different pronunciation of i after zh, sh, ch, z, s, c, and r. Unfortunately, Allset Learning Pinyin … [read more]

Jul 222012
iOS reader (annotator) apps

OK, the last post probably should have been entitled “Pleco’s Reader Tool.” “Readers” (or “annotators”) are useful for students trying to read texts that are significantly above their current level of ability. Once you load in a text, you can get a definition and pinyin for each word/character simply by tapping on it. In this post, we’ll compare Pleco’s Reader with the iOS app HanZi Reader. Although both Readers do essentially the same thing, their implementations and features differ. Once again, the text in the images is an article from the Chinese edition of the New York Times. Text input Text can be entered in both Readers just by pasting it in; in fact this is the only way to add a new text to HanZi Reader, where you must create a new file, give it a title, specify whether the text is in simplified or traditional characters, and then tap … [read more]