July 21, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 3:48 pm

Zhongwen Development Tool (ZDT) – This is a great free program for the PC. It’s a flashcard app, dictionary, text annotator (converts characters to pinyin), web browser, and stroke order tutor all in one. There is a support forum for the program located at Chinese-forums. There are pre-made flashcard sets available for download, and you can make your own. You can export these to PlecoDict if you want. The program uses the CEDICT dictionary, which is an open-source Chinese-English Dictionary. The dictionary will also look up multi-character words and phrases. Good stuff. I’m sure this program will come in handy.

ChineseOS – I’m sure there are better ways of doing this (CJKOS seems standard), but this is the first one I came across, so I’m using it. It allows your Palm to display Chinese characters, and functions as an IME (input method editor). So you can type Chinese characters on your Palm. Very handy. I’m using it mainly to look up words in KDIC (more on this in a minute), and to keep track of/review/practice the characters I know. It costs US$20 or HK$100, but you can use a trial version (full-featured) if you don’t mind the fact that it will only work 15 minutes at a time, and that you have to wait 10 seconds before you use it (the horror!).

KDIC – This isn’t a Chinese-specific program, but it’s handy nonetheless. It’s a dictionary program for the Palm. It can handle up to 8 dictionaries, and up to 1 million words each. I installed Palm CEDICT and it’s working nicely in some ways. I haven’t completely figured out the program yet. I can input a character using the ChineseOS IME, and it will find the definition for me. Other than that, I haven’t figured it out, but it seems promising.

Palm CEDICT – Works with KDIC above. The guy also has two Chinese flashcard programs, along with some dice game.

AdsoTrans – Text annotation and translation website. Copy some Chinese text and it will annotate each character with pinyin and an English translation. There’s also stuff to practice reading with, and other fun-looking features. I haven’t fully checked out the site yet, but it looks great.

ChinesePera-kun – This is a plug-in for Firefox. When CPK is turned on, you can mouse-over any Chinese characters that may be on the page, and a window will pop up with the translation. It works like Adsotrans, which shouldn’t be surprising because it also uses the Adso dictionary (along with CEDICT). I haven’t been disappointed so far; it is a very helpful tool.

Rapid Literacy in Chinese – The third book in Zhang Pengpeng’s series New Approaches to Learning Chinese. This book teaches 750 characters over 25 lessons (30 characters per lesson). As I posted last time, I own The Most Common Chinese Radicals (second book in the series) and am working through it right now. Once I’m done, I’ll begin this book. For the more daring and less law-abiding of you, there is a free downloadable PDF version of this if you look around enough. I don’t recommend that you download this, though, and I won’t be held responsible if you get into trouble because you downloaded it anyway.

Wenlin – This is supposedly THE program to own if you want to use your PC as a learning tool for Chinese. I haven’t used it enough yet, so I can’t comment on how good it is, but so far it seems very useful. The price tag is high ($199), so I’m hoping it is worth it. Again, for the more unscrupulous of you out there, it can be found in RAR format for free, but I wouldn’t recommend it and won’t be held responsible if you get yourself in trouble.

Chinese: A Comprehensive Grammar – Yip Po-Ching’s magnum opus on Chinese grammar. Nearly 450 pages of grammar rules and examples. This will come in much more handy once I’m to the intermediate stage, but maybe I’ll get some more use out of it before then. Again, it’s pricey (about $60). Again, it’s available in PDF format if you look enough. And again, the same disclaimer applies. Don’t do it, and I’m not responsible. I’m just the messenger.

Chengo Chinese and it’s an online game (aimed at school-age kids, I think) for learning Chinese. AlexL wrote a better description than I ever could, so here is his post.

FSI Standard Chinese: A Modular ApproachThe Foreign Service Institute developed this course in 1979 for the US and Canadian governments to use in training diplomats and military personnel. Since it is government material, it is public domain and therefore free to use/alter/distribute as you see fit. A guy named gdfellows has made a site to host digitized versions of all the FSI courses he can get his hands on. The Mandarin follows a different platform from the other languages, but I like the layout very much. Rather than having a Part I and Part II, consisting of 12 units or more like most of their Basic Courses (some have parts III and IV), the Chinese course is broken up into Core Modules, each dealing with one aspect of the language (ie., Biographic Information, Money, Directions, Society, Travelling). There are also Optional Modules for Car, Hotel, Personal Welfare, Restaurant, and Marriage, Birth, and Death. I like this format because of the smaller, more easily digested chunks. Rather than waiting half the course before you feel any sense of completion, you have more milestones along the way. Bear in mind that the course is nearly 30 years old, so there are a few outdated terms (tóngzhì or “comrade” comes to mind). Also, the printed material is quite spartan, all typewritten with badly photocopied black and white pictures, and the audio is of course not exactly CD quality. Definitely not a pretty presentation, but the sheer amount of content and the FSI’s reputation
for quality (it is a government course, after all) more than make up for it.

This podcast is fantastic. They put out a new lesson each weekday, ranging from Newbie to Advanced, all free. The also have a paid section with transcripts, listening tests, flashcards, etc. I just listen to the podcasts, because I’m cheap. All of the hosts are entertaining and do a great job presenting the material. I use this for listening comprehension, and for learning some more up-to-date vocab that the 28-year old FSI course won’t have. Don’t miss the Saturday Show, which is always fun and brings great insight into Chinese culture.

Pinyinput – This is a great IME (input method editor) for typing in pinyin. Install it, select Chinese in the languages toolbar, and select Pinyinput rather than Chinese (PRC) or whatever you have. Type the pinyin words, using numbers for tone marks, and Pinyinput automatically puts the mark over the correct vowel. Nǐ hǎo. Nǐ huì shuō Zhōngwén ma? Etc. – Great forum full of knowledgeable speakers of Mandarin. Many of the posters are expats living in China. It is a goldmine of information, and the members are very helpful.

How To Learn Any Language – General language learning information and advice. Many of the members are polyglots, speaking as many as 9 languages fluently. Most people, however, are just trying to learn a second language and recognize the invaluable resource that this site is. Spend some time browsing through and you’ll learn a ton of useful techniques and learn about more course materials than you thought existed.

China Panorama – I won’t give a link because I don’t want to point you to a site that may cost you more. The best price I’ve found is through the China Language and Culture Store or Hey Chinese, both Ebay stores. Which one is cheaper seems to depend on which week you look and which level you are looking for. Look around enough and you may find it cheaper somewhere else. The main courses are Approaching Chinese, Intermediate Chinese, and Chinese for Tourism. They are video courses from China aimed at overseas learner of Chinese. Each course comes with 10-25 VCDs. The first course teaches 1000 words, while the intermediate course takes you to 2500. The Tourism course goes from there, although I haven’t found out how many new words you learn.


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