ClozeCards

ClozeCards is something I really wish I had in the early days of my studies, rather than huge vocabulary lists and fairly disjointed example sentences. There’s a huge benefit from learning new vocabulary this way, and I like the way that the site encourages you to write the Pinyin (with tones as well) when you go through the sentence. There’s also a nice little popup menu gives the definition and audio.

There’s also a large collection of texts, perfect for any level learner to jump in and learn.

Anki

Anki is pretty much the go-to SRS (Spaced Repetition Software) for language students, and is available on all major platforms including desktop (Windows, Mac and Linux, see download details here), iOS and Android.

There’s plenty of decks available online and it’s easy to import or create new decks yourself. With regular review and proper grading of your ability to remember each card, you’ll find you remember much more than just by using regular old flashcards.

Idiom: Take things as they come

I came across this idiom the other day and liked it so much that I wanted to share it:

既來之,則安之 [ 既来之,则安之] ( jì lái zhī , zé ān zhī )

take things as they come; there’s nothing that can be done about it, so may as well sit back and enjoy it.

While it’s fairly rare, it’s an idiom I’ve seen tacked on to the end of sentences and paragraphs that describe a situation that there isn’t much that can be done about something, so may we as well try and enjoy it.

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

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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.

#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!

On Tone Colors

While looking for discussions on tone colors, I came across this blog post the other day, “Color temperature of Mandarin tones“. I am by no means a designer, but I found it to be a really interesting analysis of a couple different systems used for tone colors. I highly recommend checking it out. In the meantime, I thought it might be worth taking some time to look into tone colors: what they are, how to use them, which system to follow, and if it’s worth using. At the very end I’ll go over how to configure two popular dictionary apps to use whichever tone color system you prefer.

Continue reading “On Tone Colors”

Sticktionary – A New Take on a Classic Learning Method

A buddy of mine contacted me not too long ago about a new project he was working on called Sticktionary. It piqued my interest immediately, since one of the methods I used back when I first started learning Chinese was contextual “stickers” placed on objects around my dorm.

So, let’s take a look and see what new value can be brought to a classic method of learning!

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Continue reading “Sticktionary – A New Take on a Classic Learning Method”

ClozeCards: New Stories, Flashcards and Motivation

I just heard from David, the creator of ClozeCards.com (which you may remember from a previous post). He recently shared the information below with me, and I thought it would be really great to let everyone else know about these new features. The site itself has gone through a redesign, so I highly recommend going to check it out if you haven’t been over there yet, or have yet to see the new changes.

Anyway, I’ll let David go over some of the new additions–perhaps the most exciting of which is the recent collaboration with a Chinese publishing company to bring Chinese short stories into ClozeCards!

Short-stories, flashcards, and motivation.

Using flashcards is probably the most efficient way to learn Chinese. Unfortunately, flashcards offer very little to mark your progress and has no obvious milestones that can be celebrated. I don’t know about you, but for me, learning Chinese becomes much more fun when I see myself improving, when I can do something I previously couldn’t, and when I achieve a goal.

Now, after a long time of searching, I think I’ve found the best of both words: The efficiency of flashcards together with the motivational boost of small, achievable goals. The generous people at Chinese Stories Publishing have given me 11 short-stories, complete with audio and English translations, and I’ve created corresponding flashcard decks and graded the stories by difficulty. These stories are perfect goals: They’re reasonably short (you can learn the vocabulary in less than a week), you can easily how much work you need to put into them, and they’re fun!

I’ve prepared a GIF to show you how the flashcards integrate with the stories. What you see here is me practicing the vocabulary for the story ‘The Hundredth Customer’. The Chinese title is 第一百個客人 (dì yī bǎi gè kè rén). As I fill in the gap sentences with pinyin, each occurrence of the word turns green in the story. Once I’ve reviewed the words a couple of times, they’ll loose their color to make them easier to read.

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What’s more, to help understand the text, there’s both an English translation for each paragraph and a pop-up dictionary for each Chinese word.

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The difficulty level of the stories range from beginner to advanced and the full list can be found here: https://clozecards.com/content/?tags=Audio+Book

Have fun,
David from ClozeCards.com

A Delivery of Tea

It’s Christmas in January for me when a box full of tea comes in the mail!

Seriously. Getting tea in the mail is probably the most amazing experience next to picking up books from 博客來 at 7-11.

I had heard of these guys before, but a recent article I came across this article 【老外愛台灣】Eco-Cha 用二十年的時間愛台灣茶, from Marie Claire Taiwan no less, that further introduced them (and the lucky timing of not having any tea left at home) prompted me to order some.

Called Eco Cha 一口茶 (and points for creativity with the name), they focus on sustainable tea growing and farming, with most of the tea they sell being in small batches. When I was looking into them for writing this post, I noticed they also had an Indiegogo campaign as well, which is worth a look to get a bit more background into where these guys came from and what their mission is.

Although my tea tray itself has seen better days, the new teapot that came with the set I ordered, as well the natural sweetness from the Organic Light Roast Oolong Tea made for a really pleasant and productive afternoon.

As the heaving coffee drinking graduate school days wane away, it’s been nice getting back into the more relaxing days of brewing a pot of tea and reading, writing, or spending time on a mountain enjoying the scenery below.

The tea itself is excellent, the design of the packaging and the care taken in packing for shipment really show that the guys behind Eco Cha take their tea seriously. For that reason, I’ll always be going back to them for tea–even if I still have plenty of tea left at home to enjoy.

If you’re in the mood for some tasty tea and a window into the kind of amazing tea you can get in Taiwan, give these guys a try. You won’t be disappointed.