In Paper versus Electric Dictionaries, Electric Wins

It was quite a while ago now I ran a little poll asking if people preferred using Paper Dictionaries, Electronic Dictionaries, or both. Well, turns out the results were pretty much unanimously in favor of Electronic Dictionaries!

With their convenience, portability, and instantly accessible information, electronic dictionaries are probably the best option for language learners these days.

So, here’s my Top 5 Electronic Chinese Dictionaries:

#5: MDBG

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 7.37.04 AM

Why it’s a great choice:

MDBG has been around for a while, it is almost the staple online dictionary for Chinese language students. Quick, easy, and with plenty of display options for search results, it’s no wonder that it’s been around for a long time.

Easily accessible online through any browser, MDBG is a quick and easy reference that I turn to when I’m translating documents. Since I am usually at my computer when I’m translating documents, it’s much easier to pop open MDBG in another tab and reference to it when I need to. In addition, it has these other great features:

  • handwriting recognition for writing characters if you don’t know the Pinyin to type it in;
  • looking up by radicals;
  • Chinese and Pinyin typing interfaces

Check it out here: http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php

#4: LINE dict

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Why it’s a great choice:

LINE is pretty much everywhere these days, perhaps only second to WeChat, and it goes without much surprise they would also put out their own dictionary apps. LINE dict is available online, as well as for both iOS and Android. The online version seemed to me a bit slow and it had issues loading a few pages, so I would overall recommend the apps themselves.

The dictionary is fairly expansive, and it includes some nice features like a sentence analyzer, handwriting support, and stroke order animations. It also has audio throughout the dictionary. Having mobile apps put this one step above MDBG, but if you’re looking on your computer at home, stick with MDBG.

iOS version here.

Android version here.

Online here.

#3: Mengdian (萌典)

Screenshot_20160707-075119

Why it’s a great choice:

As far as pure Chinese language dictionaries go, this is one of the best ones out there. It has a smart new interface and pulls from a larger variety of sources. It’s a good resource to have when you come across any ambiguities in the English definitions for Chinese characters or phrases. I often like to pop into this dictionary to verify that I understand the meaning of the characters that I’m using. They source this dictionary directly from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education.

Included in the app are also dictionaries for Taiwanese and Hakka, which are fun to reference if you happen to encounter those languages quite often (as happens in Taiwan).

Another really great thing about this dictionary is that you can get it for Android, iOS, as well as download it on Windows, OSX and even Linux.

Check out the online version here: https://www.moedict.tw/ There are links to the mobile apps at the top right of the page.

And my number one electronic dictionary is….. actually a tie!

#1: Hanping Chinese Dictionary

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Why it’s a great choice:

I’ve already gone over this dictionary a bit in my Chinese Learning Apps for Android post, which you can take a look at here as well as in the recent tone colors post. The developer keeps the app updated regularly, and there is a whole series of related apps, including a soundboard and a Character popup reference tool (I’ll be covering these in another post).

Hanping is an Android exclusive app, but there’s a free version and a pro version available. The Pro version is totally worth the small investment, and opens up a bunch of great features, including AnkiDroid Flashcards and multi-dictionary support.

The free version is no slouch either, and includes handwriting recognition and audio pronunciation. So if you were on a tight budget, Hangping’s free version is a great option to start with (plus, no ads!).

Check it out on Google Play here.

#1: Pleco:

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Why it’s a great choice:

It’s really hard to beat Pleco in terms of overall functionality, accessibility (both on iOS and Android), and the sheer number of add-ons that you can get. The variety of dictionaries available for purchase is also a huge asset that makes Pleco invaluable to any Chinese student. However, it is a significant investment to get in all of the features you might want to use (aside from a few dictionary options, pretty much all of the other add-ons cost money. For example, the app has a handwriting recognizing but costs $10 for the enhanced version).

Find out more about Pleco here.

Either way, both of the #1 dictionaries are the best you can get for mobile devices, and I highly recommend giving them a try. Both are free to try, with add ons you can purchase later (such as more dictionaries in Pleco’s case).

What do you think? Were there any that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

[Guest Post] Learning Mandarin Chinese: 5 special tips

Below is a guest post from the folks at Learn Mandarin Now. It focuses on 5 special tips for Chinese learners, including a link to an Infographic that I was able to contribute to, which you can see here.

This guest post is unique in that it combines interviews and tips from other language learners that is linked throughout the post. Feel free to leave comments below as well, letting us know what some of your favorite tips and tricks for learning Chinese are.

Without much further ado, onto the post!


As part of our continuing efforts to help you with learning better Mandarin Chinese, we are always looking for ways to bring you new ideas, tips and suggestions.

However, before we go any further, we’d like to thank Greg for his recent contribution to our Infographic and for letting us make this post: both greatly appreciated.

So, anyway, what are these special tips?

Best Resources to learn Mandarin Chinese

We thought it worthwhile to summarise in one place the details about several top resources such as Pleco, Skritter or Italki which have been mentioned frequently during our recent interviews and research with top bloggers and language experts, especially in How to learn Chinese.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not always necessary to spend lots of money to learn Mandarin Chinese and, in fact, there are a number of free, helpful resources available if you hunt around the internet.

Learning Mandarin Chinese in China

Even though there are many very useful online resources available, a number of the people we talked to suggested that the most effective strategy is to go to China and learn the language.

This is certainly one of the best ways to get ahead if you are really serious about learning Chinese and want to improve your skills quickly. In fact, we recently had an interview about this topic with several foreigners such as Jo, who is studying Mandarin Chinese in China.

A great tip for intermediate Chinese speakers: many foreigners these days choose to go and live in second tier cities such as Chengdu where English is not widespread and they can enjoy more opportunities to practice Chinese with locals. Plus, the living cost is much cheaper! So, why not try this?

Secrets to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese

Once you do you get to China to live or work, one of the best ways to improve your language skills when you are there is to try to blend into the local culture and talk as much as you can to native Chinese speakers.

If you are not able to travel to China, there are websites such as Italki where you can still speak with native speakers—indeed, we know of some foreign students who learnt to speak Mandarin Chinese even though they are not in China!

Another tip for intermediate Chinese speakers: “one on one” coaching has proven to be one of the best ways to improve Chinese speaking quickly! If your budget is tight, then here are some resource platforms that you can use for free:

(1) Wechat: the most popular chatting App in China where you can connect with a billion, active Chinese speakers and also make Chinese friends

(2) Youku/Tudou: the most popular Chinese video platform where you can watch the latest TV, films or videos for free to let you catch up with popular expressions, the latest slang and so on.

Should you be learning Cantonese as well?

Many students want to learn Cantonese as well as Mandarin Chinese and this is well worthwhile if you are living and/or working in Hong Kong, Macau or Guangzhou—and maybe have a spouse or close friend who is from Hong Kong. Some ideas and suggestions about learning Cantonese are offered in 10 great tips from a Cantonese speaking expert

Learning Chinese characters

Learning Chinese characters is an important element of learning and, in fact, we offer some tips and the strategy about how to learn Chinese characters in this interview about learning Chinese characters.

There are many different ways to learn Chinese characters, but Skritter seems to be the tool many people recommend, and it’s certainly worth taking a look at.

Sometimes, students cannot decide whether to learn simplified or traditional Chinese characters. However, in our opinion, it’s more important to get started and begin to learn. If you can master either type of character, you can basically understand the other.

Yet another tip for intermediate Chinese speakers: although everything seems to be digital these days, one other great advantage about learning characters is if you want to pass the HSK TEST. The test is from level 1- 6 and is becoming more and more popular in China; having the HSK certificate can increase your chances to get a scholarship in a university in China or getting more job opportunities.

In any event, if you are really keen to start learning Mandarin Chinese, remember to keep reading the interesting articles, advice and tips we continue to provide—and you’ll enjoy your learning journey that much more!

Performing a little surgery

So recently I had the opportunity to perform a bit of surgery on an iPhone. A relative had accidentally dropped their iPhone 4, smashing the screen into a web of glass that even Spiderman would be proud of:

Spins a web, any size

Spins a web, any size

Getting it fixed by Apple meant buy a new phone. Other repair guys were giving us estimates of $90-130, sometimes even saying it would take a few days.

Well, nuts to that I say!

So I offered to just do the repair myself–being a huge fan of iFixit, I figured, what could go wrong? (And anyway there’s that iPhone 6 thing, so if I broke it I’m actually helping them to upgrade!)

I found this company out of California called iCracked. They seemed pretty reputable and offered kits at a decent price ($10 less than iFixit, plus free shipping). I ordered their iPhone 4 kit and set to work!

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Addressing an Envelope in Taiwan – Horizontal

Now that we’ve looked at how to address envelopes in the more traditional vertical style, let’s take a look how to address horizontal envelopes!

Horizontal

As for the horizontal envelopes, the post office yet again gives us some great instructions:

收件人地址、姓名書於中央偏右,寄件人地址、姓名書於左上角或信封背面。郵遞區號書於地址上方第1行,郵票貼於右上角。

Breaking this down, we get the address and name of the recipient (收件人地址、姓名) in the middle, with the sender’s address and name (寄件人地址、姓名) on the upper right (or even the back!). The zip code is written above the address, and stamp goes on the upper right corner.

It’s pretty much the same style envelope we’re all familiar with, except in the way you order the address, which you may remember from this post.

And the order for writing them:

  • 第1行:郵遞區號 [ yóu​dì​qū​hào ]
  • 第2行:地址 [ dì​zhǐ ]
  • 第3行:姓名或商號名稱
      • 姓名 [ xìng​míng​ ]: name and surname
      • 商號 [ shāng​hào ]: business
      • 名稱 [ míng​chēng ]: name (of a thing or business)

In other words (or in English) it is:

  • First Line: Postal Code
  • Second Line: Address
  • Third Line: Name or Business Name

Note that 第 (dì) is used for ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc) and 行 (háng) is used for lines or rows.

NOTE:

In this context 行 is always pronounced háng and never xíng!

式樣 (style [ shì​yàng ]​):

envelopehorizontalSource

Here, too, you’ll notice they also use 啟 (to open [ qǐ ]) next to the recipient’s name and 緘 (to close; to seal [ jiān ]) next to sender’s name. As before, it is more common to see 收 [ shōu ] for “to” and 寄 [ jì ] “from” instead of 啟 and 緘.

And that’s it! I hope this guide was helpful for you. If you have any questions, ask away in the comments below!

Addressing an Envelope in Taiwan – Vertical

Since we’ve got our addresses down, on to envelopes! In Taiwan, there are two ways to write the address on the envelope: the more traditional, vertical, way or the more Western-style horizontal way (all depends on the type of envelope you have and how ambitious you are).

In this post, I’ll be taking a look at how to address a vertical style envelope in Taiwan!

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The Piano Guys Go to China (and teach us something about Yin and Yang)

The Piano Guys have quickly become one of my favorite YouTube sensations. And about a year ago they somehow managed to get a piano on to the Great Wall of China and make this video. It’s amazing, take a look:

This video first of all does a great job incorporating a few classical Chinese instruments into the music, but also showcases the Daoist concept of Yin and Yang (陰陽; yīnyáng)–darkness and light.

yinyang_bagua

 

The outfits they wear play into this concept as well: one with a white shirt and black pants; the other wearing the opposite. You could even argue the piano and the cello going against and with each other is also another way of incorporating this element into their music.

The video was recorded at the 黃崖關 (“Yellow Cliff Pass“;  Huángyáguān) portion of the Great Wall. The story behind making the video is pretty interesting, too, which you can read on their website here.

Follow the Piano Guys:

Website: http://thepianoguys.com/

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/ThePianoGuys

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PianoGuys

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PianoGuys

You Can Read Academic Japanese

Oftentimes reading academic articles in a foreign language can be a rather intimidating task, but this may come as a surprise: reading academic articles in Japanese is actually pretty easy.

Well, okay it does have two little prerequisites: a decent familiarity with Chinese characters and a basic understanding of Japanese grammar. This is nothing a little Remember the Kanji or some time over at The Japanese Pages Fast Track Grammar can’t fix!

Now let’s take a look at what makes reading academic Japanese so easy.

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