“Relationship Calculator” – An App To Help Keep Those Familial Terms Straight

One of the biggest challenges many learners face is in trying to learn the different ways of addressing family members. I remember what pretty much amounted a general look of confusion around the classroom as we went over the multitude of combinations. Of course, we were told “well, just parents, siblings and close relatives matters” to which everyone replied:

OK

Still, it wasn’t quite enough. This class was in Taiwan and a general walk down the street, chat with the local breakfast shop owner, or even stories from local friends made it painfully obvious that we needed to know more.

Flashcards are great, but what if you needed to know on the fly? What if, suddenly in conversation, you forgot and had to remember that estranged aunt or the cousin you’d really rather not talk about?

Now, of course, there is an app for that. It’s called “Relative Calculator”, or「三姑六婆—親戚稱呼計算機」. The name of the app itself obviously says more than “Relationship Calculator” and is definitely due an explanation.

The first part, 三姑六婆(sāngūliùpó)is an idiom which means “women in an illegal/disreputable profession”, and it can also mean a “woman who likes to pick fights”. There’s likely a good reason for choosing this, so if anyone has some thoughts throw them out in the comments below. Anyway the less said about this the better, so let’s move on.

The second part, 親戚稱呼計算機 is pretty straightforward. It is literally “Relative Naming Calculator”:

親戚 (qīnqi): relatives

稱呼(chēnghu): to call/address as

計算機(jìsuànjī): calculator

One nice thing, too, is that this app is for both iOS and Android, so we’re covered either way! The interface for both versions is pretty much the same, aside from platform specific differences. Still, this app is Chinese-only and you’ll want to have a dictionary nearby if you need to look any pronunciation or meaning for any of the characters.

First and foremost, after opening the app, it will ask you to select your sex then the relationship, and finally hit enter to get the results:

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You can also use the「的」key to chain phrases together when building a relationship tree:

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Sometimes it will come across situations where you need to pick the relationship based on age, and choose whether or not they are older or younger than you:

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There are times, though, you’ll come across a relationship that it doesn’t have information for and it’ll tell you 「暫時沒有資訊」and you’ll need to hit the CE button and start over.

In some of the testing I did, it seemed to work pretty well, although there are some weird cases that may be worth double checking unless you’re 100% confident you know what it means and how to use it. Also, it takes a little getting used to as far as navigating the different relationships, but once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty smoothly from there on out.

Still, it’s a fun app and definitely worth taking the time to check out.

Download Relatives Calculator for iOS here.

Download Relatives Calculator for Android here.

And of course they have a Facebook page which you can check out here.

SwiftKey for Android Now Supports Chinese!

Every so often I switch the default keyboard just to check out the third party ones. I don’t use them often, but I was happy to see that SwiftKey (one of the first third party keyboards I downloaded) finally supports Chinese input. And, perhaps just in time for Chinese New Year, they’ve also introduced a special theme just for the holiday.

After getting the app, you’ll need to go in and Add Languages. The Chinese input methods are listed by their Chinese names, so you’ll need to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list to add them.

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The update brings the following support:

Simplified Chinese

  • QWERTY Pinyin input method
  • 12-Key Pinyin input method
  • Stroke input method

Taiwan Traditional Chinese

  • Full Key Zhuyin (Bopomofo) input method
  • 12-Key Zhuyin (Bopomofo) input method
  • Stroke input method

Hong Kong Traditional Chinese

  • Cangjie input method
  • Quick Cangjie input method
  • Stroke input method

I’m still on the fence with third party keyboards, but I think it’s nice to finally see Chinese language support rolling out to them. The typing experience isn’t bad, either, and the predictive text was fairly accurate, too:

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Although it would be nice to see a Pinyin input method for Traditional Chinese, hopefully a future update will bring that along!

You can find SwiftKey on the Google Play store here. If you happen to check it out, let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

WaiChinese – A complete tone changer

I have to preface this by saying I am extremely impressed by WaiChinese. I have absolutely always wanted an app that was able to actually track your tones as you say them and it’s finally here! So please go and try it it out!

Now onto the full review!

It all comes down to tones

First and foremost this app is specifically focused on improving your tones and, by extension, your regular daily conversation. Phrases are recorded by native speakers, and I’ve had some recorded specifically for me to focus on particularly difficult tone combinations. The app provides live-as-you-record sound charts so that you can see how the tones are actually said, both yours and the ones the teacher records.

Below are two examples of how this looks in the app. The sound chart on the top is the teacher’s original recording, while the chart on the bottom is the student’s:

kaihui

On this screen you can touch on the “translate” text at any time to see the English translation of the phrase you’re currently studying. In addition, you may notice a green book on the side with a grade on it:

Nihaograde

If you click on the green book that has the grade on it, you’ll be taken to this screen:

Archived

Here, all of the recordings done by a student for a particular word, in this case 你好, will appear on this page. What this means is that a student see and hear how they’ve progressed over time for any word submitted on WaiChinese. The student can also see the teacher’s grade and comment. This provides a great way to focus on improvement for particularly difficult tones and tone combinations.

And in case anyone is curious, the app’s designer has also provided a little peak into the teacher’s view:

Teacherinterface

From here the teacher can see the list of students and is also able to grade them very quickly. This is where WaiChinese fits into a very unique niche: not only is it a great resource for students, but it also becomes an invaluable tool for teachers as well.

Originally I wanted to point out that this is an excellent app for Chinese language teachers to be used in the classroom or in 1-on-1 sessions. But I can also see this being really helpful for learners using Skype or even just language exchange partners. Certainly, at least, the “I have a teacher that will assist me” option makes it seem like this would be a great broad use case for this app.

My Personal Experience

I’ve been using WaiChinese for about a week now and I have to say it has made me much more conscious of my tones. I find myself thinking about them on a more regular basis than I normally would. Plus, the comments from the teacher as well as the visual representation of how my tones are being said, has been particularly good reinforcing how and where I need to improve.

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So I am admittedly very impressed about how this app has made me be much more aware of the tones and how I’m actually saying them–compared to how I think I’m saying them. Especially because, after using this app, I noticed there is definitely a big discrepancy between what it actually sounds like versus what I think it sounds like.

Some Video Goodness

Below is a short demo video showing how the system works:

There is also another great demo video which you can find on Vimeo here.

Conclusions

Ultimately it’s the fact that this app is not limited to pre-configured flashcards, but rather any vocabulary word or phrase you want to learn that can be recorded is available to you.

But really it’s better if you try it out for yourself: So sign up today to beta test WaiChinese–it’s completely free! It’s available both for Android and iOS.

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Tiny Death Star – Learn Chinese and Be a Geek, for Free

The opening for this post probably deserves some more epic music, something maybe like this?

Anyway, leave that on in the background as we go into the latest offering by the people behind Tiny Tower–Star Wars: Tiny Death Star! The best part: it’s also in Chinese! Set the OS’s language to Chinese and the game will automatically load the Chinese translation.

Please note–if you switch back to English, the game will also switch back to English as well. You need to keep your phone set on Chinese to play it in Chinese.

So let’s talk about 星際大戰:小小死星計畫!

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