May 062012
iOS app: trainchinese Pinyin Trainer

Pinyin Trainer from trainchinese tests your ability to distinguish pinyin initials, tones, and/or sequences of two tones. You can choose to be tested on any one of these or a combination of all three. There seems to be no option, however, for testing pinyin finals. So if you need work distinguishing gān from gāng, for example, this app won’t help. The format is multiple choice, ranging from 2-4 choices for each syllable; there is also an “artist mode” if you want to sketch tone marks. The app keeps a running tally of right/wrong responses. These are not just numbers, but rather a list of the words tested and what your response was. This is great for finding patterns of errors, for example, if you have trouble distinguishing x from sh, or second tones from third. On an iPad in landscape orientation (as in the image above), this list is constantly … [read more]

Apr 282012
Free iPad app: AllSet Learning Pinyin

About a week ago, I tweeted about a new app for learning pinyin from AllSet Learning. AllSet Learning Pinyin is essentially a classic chart with initials down the left and finals across the top. The whole chart does not fit within the iPad screen; you swipe to scroll up, down, and across. You can also use standard gestures to zoom in and out. Subtle shading divides the chart into zones that make it easier to see where you are. All in all, it’s very readable, with a clean, san serif font and generous spacing. Tone marks are printed on each syllable; you can choose from any one of the four tones with the tap of a button. This not only affects the display, but determines the pronunciation of the syllable when you tap to hear it (playing audio can be disabled in the settings). One thing that I would like … [read more]

Feb 122012
Free iOS app: Laokang Pinyin Test

Do you have trouble distinguishing between “xun” and “shun” or “po” and “bo”? You can find out by taking the The Laokang® Pinyin Test, an iOS app that tests your ability to transcribe spoken Chinese syllables into pinyin. For each “question” in the test, you hear three distinct, random syllables. Your task is to type in the pinyin for these as quickly as you can. You do not type in tone marks or numbers (if you want to test your ability to distinguish tones, try the free Laokang® Tone Test, reviewed in an earlier post). You can listen to the question as many times as you like, but slow responses are penalized. As one might expect, the Pinyin Test shares the same thoughtful design as the Tone Test: the fact that the syllables do not form coherent words or phrases (and are pronounced essentially tonelessly) makes it purely a test … [read more]

Jan 092012
Cola, congee, and tofu skin?

You might have noticed the example sentence used throughout the last post: zuótiān wǒ bāng nǚ’ér qù yī jiā chāoshì mǎi kělè, xīfàn, dòupí. If you were wondering how I came up with it, the answer is that I didn’t. I found it on the very useful site: It was the result of an effort to come up with a pinyin equivalent to “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,” i.e. a sentence using all the letters of the writing system. Incidentally, the hanzi for this would be: 昨天我帮女儿去一家超市买可乐、稀饭、豆皮。

Dec 312011
iOS app update: Pinyin Typist 2.0

Pinyin Typist by TroubadorWorks (originally reviewed in this post) has gotten a significant update. To quickly recap, the app’s main function is as a writing pad that allows you to input pinyin with proper tone marks quickly and easily; after typing a syllable, just tap the appropriate number key on the customized keyboard and the tone mark is added in the proper position for that syllable. The update brings a slew of new features. The first big feature is the ability to style text with HTML tags or Markdown syntax. For HTML, both the older, “presentational” tags (like <i> and <b>) and the newer, “structural” tags (like <em> and <strong>) work. If you paste your tagged text into an app that can interpret html, it will be rendered correctly. The lines below were typed and tagged in Pinyin Typist and then copied into the WordPress iOS app. zuótiān wǒ bāng nǚ’ér qù yī … [read more]