30 Ways the Written Chinese Dictionary App Will Help you Learn Chinese
The Written Chinese elves have been busy behind the scenes again, updating the Written Chinese Dictionary. The latest version has sneaked in some great new features to help you study that you might not even be aware of. Find out all the tips and tricks to get the most out of the app.
Get the Written Chinese Dictionary app for iOS and Android:
#1 Scan Chinese with Your Phone’s Camera
Open the Written Chinese Dictionary, tap the eye button near the top of the screen and point your camera at some Chinese text. You could be looking at a menu, a sign or anywhere else that you’d like. The Chinese text will be instantly translated with the English and Pinyin, even without an internet connection.
You get 10 free scans every day and we took extra care to make this function work the best when you’re in a Chinese restaurant. Try it out to see how beautifully it translates a Chinese menu for you. No more ordering mystery meat!
Once see the translation, you can tap the “Look it Up” button to get more information about the characters and to add them to your flashcard list to study later.
#2 Learn How to Write Characters
Within the app, you can see an animation of how to write Chinese characters at any time, with or without an internet connection. Watch how to write both simplified and traditional characters by tapping the Writing tab when looking at the details of a dictionary entry.
#3 Create a Flashcard in Less than 1 Second
Don’t waste time and risk human error when copying words and definitions into your flashcards. To the right of every search result, there is a button to instantly add that word to your flashcard list. You can add individual characters or groups of characters quickly and painlessly.
When a new word gets added to your flashcard list, it will have the English definition, pinyin, audio pronunciation, and example sentences on one side and the Chinese on the other side.
#4 Built-in Flashcard Study System
When you’re ready to study, tap the Flashcard icon and you’ll get a list of all the flashcard sets available, including your custom-made lists. Scroll through the words to review all at once, or hit the Study button in the lower-right corner to start a study session.
If you don’t want to go through all of your flashcards in one sitting, tap “Done” to end your session at any time. Once you’re finished, you’ll get statistics for how well you did. Share your progress to motivate other learners and to earn coins.
#5 Earn Coins
For those of you who are not attending a Chinese class with other students, it can be easy to feel unmotivated or like you aren’t making much progress on your Chinese learning. As an incentive to stay motivated, we’re giving you coins whenever you study your flashcard sets, share your progress or the Character of the Day, and post your homework online. Use the coins to purchase flashcard sets and storybooks to enhance your learning further. Collecting coins is also a great way to mark your progress while you study, in order to remind yourself that you are indeed learning!
#6 Character of the Day
Sometimes Chinese teachers like to bombard us with new vocabulary. At the end of the class you might have a list of 30 words or more to learn before the next class. Unless you’ve got 2 hours every night to dedicate to your studies and are also an Einstein, this isn’t a feasible study goal and you’ll set yourself up for disappointment and self-loathing.
It’s more realistic to focus on 1 character per day- but really, really learn it! You’ll find later that many characters appear inside of other characters. So if you truly, madly, deeply understand that character, then it will be your key to others (sorry, I just had to throw that Savage Garden reference in there).
Take your time! And remember to look around you to see if you can find that character or things that remind you of that character in your daily environment. It’s good to get excited and want to learn all the characters at once, but focusing on one character per day is sustainable and works. After just a few weeks, you’ll have a truly solid foundation.
#7 Homework of the Day
Kinesthetic learning, or learning by doing, is the best way to retain the words that you’ve studied. The Written Chinese Dictionary gives you a small homework assignment each day that is related to the Character of the Day. When you’re finished doing your homework, post it to the online Chinese dictionary. Our native-Chinese speakers will check your work and give you corrections and suggestions. It’s a great way to learn with other people within the Written Chinese community and ensure that you’re learning words correctly.
#8 Practice Writing Chinese on Your Phone
Following the simple step-by-step instructions in the app, you can set up a Chinese handwriting keyboard and start practising writing Chinese characters directly on your phone, even when you’re using apps other than the Written Chinese Dictionary.
It will take you about 3 minutes to set up, but it is worth it! Here’s how to do it.
#9 Breakdown Characters into Radicals
Using radicals as a way to help you absorb and remember Chinese characters is an essential tool for remembering how to write a large number of words. Every simplified Chinese character in our dictionary can be broken down into its radicals with their meanings and pronunciations.
When you lookup a character, tap the See Radicals button and you’ll get the breakdown. This is a great way to make up mnemonic devices to help you remember what the characters mean and how they’re pronounced.
#10 Copy and Paste Text Messages
If you enter a full sentence or paragraph, you can flip over to the Chinese Reader. When there is Chinese text in your phone’s clipboard, the Written Chinese Dictionary will automatically paste it into the search box for you when you open the app. This makes understanding Chinese text messages much easier. You might be surprised how much you actually do understand.
Tap on any Chinese word to see a quick definition and to add them to your flashcard lists. Switch off the Pinyin if you want an extra challenge when you’re practicing reading Chinese.
#11 Everything Works Offline
Flashcards, scanning words with your camera (OCR), dictionary search, stroke animations, stories and everything else in the app can all be accessed offline. So no matter if you’re on a plane or floating down the Yangtze River, you’ve got everything you need ready to go.
#12 Better Search Results When You Translate
When you type in English, many Chinese dictionary apps will spit out a random list of possible translations. This leaves you guessing which word is the one that Chinese people would actually use.
You end up having to re-learn words you taught yourself when you find out no Chinese people can understand what you mean. That’s why this was the first problem that we decided to tackle when building the Written Chinese Dictionary.
If you’re new to learning Chinese, you might not be aware that most of the time, a word in English is best translated into a 2-character word in Chinese (which we call a Bigram).<<Learn More about Bigrams>>
We’ve taken our database, which ranks words by relevancy according to deep research that our company has done coupled with Chinese language research done by MIT, to give you the most relevant 2-character words when you translate from English to Chinese. The result is that you’ll learn the right vocabulary word first and that the Chinese people you communicate with will understand you much faster!
#13 Avoid Rare and Unusual Chinese Characters
Translating from English to Chinese (and vice versa, by the way!) can often lead to obscure characters in Chinese which are not used in today’s spoken Chinese. We’ve identified the very rare characters that are seldom seen in Chinese and given them a cute little owl. When you see the owl, you’ll know it’s a character that’s probably not the one you’re looking for.
#14 Stories Just for Chinese Learners
Reading books in Chinese is very challenging, even children’s books. But reading is a great way to learn a new language. The Written Chinese Dictionary app’s Story Library provides stories that include pinyin, English and fluently spoken Mandarin audio to encourage you to read.
We made these stories with you in mind and you might shock yourself at how well you can understand them! To find out the meaning of a specific character in a story that you don’t recognize, just tap on it to see what happens!
#15 All HSK Vocabulary is Loaded and Ready
Give yourself a goal while studying Chinese by going after a Mandarin proficiency certification. The standardized system that is most widely recognized is called the HSK and it tests you on a specific vocabulary list. All the vocabulary that you need to learn in order to pass the HSK is preloaded and free to study in the Written Chinese Dictionary app.
#16 Login to Keep Your Stuff
It isn’t a requirement to create an account in order to use the Written Chinese Dictionary, but when you do then anything you purchased will be synced to your account. That means if you switch from iOS to Android, you can take your purchases with you. You can also login online to do the daily homework and get additional Chinese study tools. Finally, your flashcard sets will be synced so that you won’t lose your lists.
#17 Join our Living Chinese Dictionary
The Written Chinese Dictionary app has an online brother and just like Frankenstein, it’s alive! Every day Chinese learners from all over the world post their questions, answers, and methods to remember words on the Learn More pages of the Written Chinese Online Dictionary.
Do you have a funny way to remember certain Chinese words? Add your ideas to the online dictionary to share them with other students as well as to keep an easily accessible record for yourself.
#18 Choose Your Font Size
Some of us weren’t blessed with 20/20 eyesight, but that shouldn’t impair your Chinese learning. The app now has the ability to let you choose a font size. Go to Settings to easily switch to a larger font so that you can view everything in crystal clear detail.
#19 History Record is Another Study Tool
Flipping back through words you’ve looked up before is not only saves time, but it’s also a great way to review the words you’ve learned and to add words you need often to your flashcard list. Whether you search in English, Chinese characters or Pinyin, it’s quick to see what you’ve already looked up and quick to flip back to the dictionary results of those words.
#20 Pop-up Search/Add to Quicklist and Sound
In the Chinese Reader, the Story Library and for any Chinese words that have more than 1 character, tap characters you don’t recognize to immediately see their meanings, hear how they sound, add them to your Quick List flashcards, or run a full search for them in the dictionary.
#21 Example Sentences Included
Memorizing the definition of a word sometimes isn’t enough to really allow you to use the word comfortably in your spoken Chinese. The Written Chinese Dictionary app includes example sentences that help teach you how to use new words.
#22 Tone Colors for Visual Learners
Tones, tone, tones! Chinese people will repeat words back to you over and over again unless you get those tones right. Remembering which tones go with which character is not an easy task.
Flip the tone color option ON in the Settings page of the Written Chinese Dictionary and you’ll see each character in a color that corresponds to its tone. This helps your brain remember which tone it belongs to. If you prefer not to use tone colors, you can easily switch them OFF.
#23 Free Mandarin Audio that Sounds Natural
With so many words that sound alike, pronunciation is absolutely key to learning Chinese. It’s important to check words that you’re unsure about with a native speaker’s pronunciation. Free audio files inside the app have all the natural voice pattern changes when more than one character is put together. Get your tones right and you’ll start sounding like a pro.
#24 Simplified/Traditional Toggle
The reasons why some simplified characters are written the way they are can sometimes be very abstract and confusing. Switching over to glance at the traditional version of the character can be very useful in understanding its meaning and pronunciation.
You can set whether you want to see Simplified or Traditional Chinese in the Settings but we’ve also made it easy for you to quickly switch back and forth from the Definition, Writing, and More Info screens.
#25 Full List of Chinese Radicals
Start learning the ABCs of Chinese by studying radicals, the building blocks of Chinese characters. Tap the Radical button to see all the building blocks that fit into Chinese words. Learning these radicals is essential to being able to retain and accurately remember large amounts of Chinese characters. Tapping on any radical will bring up a list of commonly used characters which incorporate that radical. Find out how to use radicals to learn Chinese.
#26 Cantonese/Mandarin Pronunciation Guides
The Written Chinese Dictionary app defaults to studying Mandarin, as it is the dialect most widely spoken in China. For those studying Cantonese however, there is both Jyutping and Yale pronunciation guides for every character in the More Info screen.
#27 Main Radical Root
Finding the main radical in a Chinese character can give you a backbone to its pronunciation and/or meaning. It’s like finding the Latin or Greek root of an English word. We can’t emphasize enough about learning radicals, so we’ve added this tool so that you can focus on the main radical of each character. We’ve even made the main radical a dark red color in the stroke animations to help you remember its root.
#28 More Resources
Want to join a Chinese learning community or find more study materials? We’ve got a list of extra resources built right into the app that’s growing as we find and create more resources for you, the brave Chinese learner!
#29 Listen to Paragraphs and Sentences
Hear what an entire sentence sounds like in Chinese or even a paragraph with our new audio function. You can type in your own text and hear it read back to you. Example sentences now come alive with audio playback.
Close your eyes and try to guess what the sentences mean. This is a brand new way for you to challenge yourself in your Chinese studies.
#30 Learn to Read 75% of Chinese in One Flashcard Set
You can use the Written Chinese Dictionary and all of its functions without ever paying a penny. However, if you’d like to take your learning further then this is the favorite and most useful purchase you can make in the app.
You might have seen our Chinese Posters which include 521 of the most common Chinese characters.
When you’ve finished studying those few hundred characters, you’ll be able to read over 75% of all written Chinese. This is an amazing set of characters so we’ve also made it into a premium flashcard set within the Written Chinese Dictionary app.