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)

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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!

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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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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Korean (Hangul) Primer

Following on the tail of the previous entry (Classical Chinese [Hanmun] Primer), I wanted to share more from my adventures at the Joint Library of Humanities and Social Sciences (人文社會科學聯合圖書館) at Academia Sinica.

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These two images are from the Korean-language primer used in the colonial schools under the Japanese. What’s interesting here is the usage of Chinese (漢文, 한문, Hanmun) within the textbooks to guide the student,  noting differences between the form of the Hangul and the pronunciation.

This makes me really curious: how was Korean taught at the time? How was the writing system standardized? How and why was Chinese (漢文, 한문, Hanmun) used in the classroom and textbooks? Although I always end up with more questions then answers, that’s all part of the fun!

Classical Chinese (Hanmun) Primer

I recently took a day and traveled out to the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, heading to the Joint Library of Humanities and Social Sciences (人文社會科學聯合圖書館) in search for some primary sources related to my research area. While I was there, I happened across some Classical Chinese Primers (漢文讀本, 한문독본) that were compiled and edited by the Japanese to be used in the colonial schools in Korea. I thought I would share some snippets I took from these primers.

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I’m really curious how these texts were taught, especially seeing the way Hangul is mixed throughout the text, similar to the way Classical Chinese primers were compiled in Japan at the same time.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a proper class schedule for the schools to know when and how often these books may have been used, or under what circumstances.

Still, it’s a very interesting part of the overall history of Classical Chinese education in Korea.

Whistle While You Work

I’m someone that needs to listen to music while working, especially when writing. I can’t work in dead silence, which is probably why I never study in libraries. Music helps keep me motivated and also gives me the energy to keep going. I prefer instrumental tracks, like classical music (and dare I say) video game and movie soundtracks. However, recently, my friend introduced to Jazz music by sharing “It’s A Raggy Waltz” by Dave Brubeck, and since then I’ve been collecting more Jazz music to put on while I study. Below I’d like to share some of the collections I’ve found on YouTube. The best part? Some wonderful Japanese people have put these collections together–often lasting over an hour–which makes for great, distraction free listening as you study. Here’s a list with some comments about the content of each video! Hope you enjoy them.

JAZZ  雨降りの午後 【作業用BGM】
I particularly like the story this tells–going into a cafe on a rainy day, getting some work done/listening to soft Jazz, and leaving as the sun comes out.

【作業用BGM】 -ラウンジbarの片隅で- JAZZ
【作業用BGM】~受験に向けて頑張るあなたへ贈ります~ピアノ曲集 1時間
【作業用BGM】piano jazz~大人な時間を貴方に~【JAZZ】
These three all soft sets that aren’t distracting and keep me writing or working.

As I mentioned above, most of these sets tend to run around an hour, so you don’t have to worry about switching tracks or finding the next song you’d like to listen to.

To me, music is a very important role in setting the mood. Often, if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated to begin studying or writing, I like to start with a very uplifting track. I’ve found that video game music–especially from RPGs in particular–are very good at building this sense of momentum; a sense of setting out on adventure. This track from Star Ocean, for example, is particularly empowering. Here are two video game themed sets worth checking out:

真夜中の作業用BGM【高音質・厳選ゲーム音楽】
【作業用BGM】さすらいの旅に出たくなるかもしれないゲーム曲集

If you happen to find this music helpful in your studies let me know. Also, if you have any music you particularly enjoy listening to while working, put it in the comments below!

Footnotes

1. These are often referred to as 【作業用BGM】(作業用 = さぎょうよう by the way), so give that a search on YouTube and you’ll find a large variety of music collections. Very much worth your time to check out!