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 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]

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]

Jan 292012
iOS app: Laokang Tone Trainer

If you’re a beginning or intermediate student of Chinese, I hope you tried the Laokang® Tone Test, an iOS app that tests your ability to distinguish the tones of Chinese by ear, which I reviewed last month. Since then, the developer gave me a copy of the Laokang® Tone Trainer. If your Tone Test revealed that your tone distinction could use some work, then you should get the Tone Trainer. If the following review seems long, it’s because there is a lot to this app. The Trainer is divided into four sections: Start, Learn, Practice, and Test. The Start section allows you to get a feeling for how the various tone combinations sound in two-syllable words. An interesting option in this section is the ability to hear tones applied to a selection of English words. This should be most helpful to absolute beginners. Listening to either the Chinese or the English … [read more]

Dec 042011
Free iOS app: Laokang Tone Test

As you might expect, the Laokang® Tone Test 老康®考你声调 is an iOS app that tests your recognition of the tones of spoken Chinese. Each complete test consists of 20 questions in random order. For each question, you hear a two-syllable word, so the maximum score is 40. You just tap a diagram for each syllable to indicate which tone you heard; the circle in the middle of the diagram for the second syllable is for a “neutral” (aka “fifth” or “light”) tone. You can change your responses simply by tapping different tones on the diagrams. Once you’re ready to commit, you tap the green checkmark to proceed to the next pair of syllables. You are not given detailed feedback immediately, but a running tally of correct answers is displayed at the upper right of the screen. Your final score, with a detailed breakdown and an answer key, is given at … [read more]