Learning Chinese

I’m finding this site really useful, and enjoyable, too. (Thanks, Sinosplice.) The post on assigning each tone an emotion is awesome. I’ve employed a similar system myself, but never really formalized it like this. (One day, when I get lots of courage, I’ll post about my own experiences learning Chinese, a topic I studiously avoid in order not to set myself up for mockery from those who are already fluent.)

Relatedly, some friends have recommended the Pleco dictionary as a tool for looking up Chinese characters I’m not familiar with. But before I order it I have to get a PDA, and that’s where I’m hoping some of you have a suggestion. A friend here is telling me to get this Taiwan-made Dopod, which has a phone, video camera, keyboard and every conceivable bell and whistle. He says I can use it to surf the Web in WiFi hot spots, post to my blog at Starbucks and write way faster thanks to the keyboard, as opposed to tapping or writing each letter with a stylus. If anyone has thoughts or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

Several friends of mine are using the Pleco Dictionary with their pocket PC and Palm. They highly recommend it. It’s one of the few products around that has a build-in character recogniser. For a second language speaker of Mandarin, a PINYIN input is sometimes useless if you don’t know how to pronounce the words in the first place. So it saves time looking up the radicals if the software allows you to input by writing. Just one thing though, I’m not sure whether there is a talking dictionary function there. It would be handy if you can listen to the pronunciation of the words as well.

The Dopod looks cool. A functional keyboard is a great feature. But I think that the Pleco dictionary runs well on most pocket pc and palm. I am using a Dell Axim X51 and I’m very happy with it. I practically use it for everything except making phone calls and taking photos.

December 14, 2006 @ 11:07 am | Comment

I appreciate it, Fat Cat. Several of my friends rave about pleco. I think I’ll buy the dopod and the dictionary today. The only thing putting me off is that the dopod sold here comes with a Chinese-only manual, and being technology averse I’m afraid I’ll have trouble using it (never dealt with a PDA before, and I have enough trouble using a cell phone).

December 14, 2006 @ 11:24 am | Comment

ooOOoo – that Dopod looks mighty fine. I was thinking of getting myself a new pda for Christmas and now I’m getting a strange sensation in the bank card area.

Richard – if you click on the support tab on that page you can download the manuals in English. You have to be a member but I assume you can ‘join’ after you buy?

December 14, 2006 @ 11:30 am | Comment

Yes Pipi, I can download the manual and that’s what I’ll most liklely do, though it would be nice to have the little book I could carry with me when I’m geting started. I know some people here who use the Dopod and they love it. And since it’s Taiwan-made, the price here is quite good.

December 14, 2006 @ 11:34 am | Comment

You’re welcome.

Keep up the good fight! (Learning Chinese, that is…)

December 14, 2006 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

Cheers for posting about that site Richard. I am often on the lookout for useful sites for studying. Here are my favourites….I have found chinesepod (http://www.chinesepod.com/) useful, as well as yellow bridge (http://www.yellowbridge.com/) (hsk flashcard test is not too bad) and chinese tools (http://www.chinese-tools.com/) (online dictionary, not great but good enough), if you are stuck without your groovy handheld device but do have the internet. there’s an hsk database here for easy vocab lists.(http://www.chinese-forums.com/vocabulary/)(though some of the translations are incorrect, they are obvious and most are fine). thought i’d post these for anyone who, like me, has to study chinese on the cheap (sob!)

how’s your chinese going? you haven’t posted about that for a long time….

December 14, 2006 @ 6:07 pm | Comment

You really ought to visit Chinese Forums at:


…there are many, many posts on PlecoDict in the Resources & General Study Issues forum and more on hardware on the Chinese Computing & Technology forum. Heck, if there’s a question or issue about learning Chinese, it’s probably been brought up there at least once.

December 15, 2006 @ 12:01 am | Comment

I LOVE the Pleco Dict! When looking up words that I hear, I generally just use the little Langscheid dictionary, since it’s arranged in alphabetical order – you don’t have to know which “tai” it is in “taidu,” if that makes any sense. I do a little better with hearing/speaking than I do with reading, so the character input on the Pleco dict is absolutely invaluable.

Whatever you get, Richard, will have to have grafitti input – that’s what it uses to recognize the characters. I’ve heard you can run it on a pocket PC, but I just use a Palm (a Tungsten E), with an additional memory card. The Palm is a really useful little thing, IMO. I also suggest the hard steel case for it. You should see the dent I’ve managed to put in that case. If it had been the Palm that had taken the blow, well, I’d need a new Palm.

Whatever you get, keep in mind you’re going to be tossing it in a bag and it’s going to get banged up a certain amount, because you will want to have that dictionary everywhere you go.

Oh, another nice thing – you can toggle back and forth between traditional and simplified characters. It has a radical imput as well, or you can imput the Pinyin. With the new version of Grafitti, I’ve found that to be the least satisfactory aspect (though maybe it’s just my Palm) – the dictionary is way better at recognizing character input than letters…

December 15, 2006 @ 3:10 am | Comment

If I were you, I’d stay away from Palm and buy a Pocket PC.

From my experience, the Pocket PC is much easier to learn how to use, especially if you’re a Windows user to begin with. Palms don’t even come with a File Explorer program that allows you to search the contents of whatever memory card you stick in the thing.

If you’re importing flashcard lists and things like that with Pleco (that would probably be very helpful if you’re taking formal classes), Palms in general don’t make life easy.

The handwriting recognizer that Pleco uses works just as well for Pocket PC as it does for Palm. The Graffiti system that otherlisa mentioned has nothing to do with the character recognition function within Pleco. Pleco has its own handwriting recognition software bundled in already and that’s what it relies on when you write a character and press “recognize.” There shouldn’t be a difference between Palm and Pocket PC on that score.

Also, the Pocket PC’s native ability to recognize letters is pretty good nowadays, but I find that pretty useless in any case.

Anyway, that’s my $.02.

December 15, 2006 @ 7:23 am | Comment

Thanks for all the great advice – the Dopod I’m going to buy today uses the Pocket PC interface so that sounds like a plus.

Si, I really am reluctant to talk too much about my learning Chinese for several reasons, but I plan on writing a long post very soon telling where I am with this, and why I’ve been reluctant to discuss it. Thanks.

December 15, 2006 @ 8:02 am | Comment

Hmm, I guess I’m too late to influence Richard’s decision, but I’ve also heard good things about the Dopod — my cousin and a Hong Kong in-law have owned them.

However, I was thinking you should also consider a Palm Treo phone, a combination Palm PDA and cell phone. Having used Pleco’s dictionary on Handspring Visor and a Sony Clie, I was seriously considering reducing the gadgets I have to carry by getting a Treo, in particular the new 680. (I think only the 650 was available as of a few weeks ago, but I’m sure they will be here soon, considering they’re probably made in China.) Unfortunately, I ended up settling for a Palm Tungsten E2 simply because it was cheaper, but now I often lug around at least three gadgets — my phone, PDA, and iRiver MP3 player! (It might eventually be four, once I try the wireless surfing on my Sony PSP.)

I often disagree with the NY Times tech guy about gadgets, but he does recommend the Treo over other smartphones, mainly because of ease of use — all the important phone functions are immediately available, instead of being nested within menus.

December 15, 2006 @ 11:03 am | Comment

Okay, the Treo vs. Dopod. Both sound like they have similar attributes. I’m making my choice today and will let you know which one I go for.

December 15, 2006 @ 11:17 am | Comment

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