现代汉语规范词典 and Pleco

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This is the Xiandai Hanyu Guifan Cidian (Standard Dictionary of Modern Chinese). I bought it in China but you can also get it on websites selling Chinese language products (e.g. http://www.aolifo.de). It’s a Chinese-Chinese dictionary, all main entries are with pinyin and explanations are Chinese only. I recommend it for upper-intermediate and advanced learners.

Let’s say we want to look up the word “lǔmǎng”.

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We find the entry 卤莽 but the dictionary tells us that the word is written 鲁莽 nowadays.

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And here we find the explanation. The character in the square shows the part of speech (here: adjective). The hand symbol reminds us one more time that we shouldn’t write the word with the characters 卤莽.

Pleco, a very useful Chinese dictionary app for mobile phones, offers Chinese-English and English-Chinese. You can get it for free but if you get the professional bundle (it’s 64,99 €; you can also only choose individual add-ons you need), you get access to a lot more dictionaries and even Chinese-Chinese dictionaries like the one above. So let’s check Pleco for the same word.

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The main entry already shows us that they are two possibilities of writing this word. We scroll downwards to the Chinese-Chinese dictionary.

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GF is the abbreviation Pleco uses for the name of the dictionary. And here we see the exact same reference. We click on the characters in blue.

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And again we get the exact same entry with the explanation. The character in the square is now just grey and the hand symbol has been changed to 注意 (warning).

Now imagine we don’t understand the explanation. We can just tap on the characters we don’t know.

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A small window pops up showing us the pinyin and the English translation. So I highly recommend Pleco for every serious Chinese learner.

If there is any similar dictionary app for Japanese out there, please leave me a message.

Memrise

Have you heard of Memrise? If you’re into studying languages online, you probably have. It’s basically a fancier version of Anki (I talked about it in previous posts) with additional incentives to keep you continue studying. Every time you get a word correct, you get points. After collecting a certain amount of points, you get a badge as a reward that can be seen by other users as well when they check your profile. There is also a leaderboard showing who got the most points (in this week, this month or in total) which can only be seen by your Memrise friends.

Memrise offers incredibly many courses, not only on languages but other topics as well. A lot of courses offer audio (though most of the times it’s only some odd computer voice) and what’s best is that Memrise shows you memes (actually written “mems” in imitation of Memrise) of other users to remember a certain word.

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Here is one I made for a Korean word. If you like someone else’s mem, you can give them a thumbs up (I only got one… insolence!!).

I’ve been using Memrise a lot more often than Anki now. It’s visually more appealing and collecting points is actually a great way to keep up the motivation for studying (Can’t wait to get my next badge!). I must add that I use the Memrise app rather than the homepage (there’s no countdown in the app when you’re studying). And I got the pro version on a discount (a year’s subscription for 20 €). The pro version analyzes your study habits and offers a few more features. But it’s really not necessary to go pro, so you can enjoy a great learning tool completely for free.

Short-term Listening Chinese

If you’re struggling with your listening comprehension, this textbook series will do wonders for you! It comes with an mp3-CD and an answer key at the end of each volume (The answer key is printed upside down, so you will have to turn around your book to read the answers. Pretty cool idea to make cheating tiresome ;)). Each lesson starts with an extensive vocabulary list followed by short explanations (only the volume for elementary has English translations of these explanations as well) on grammar points. It has a variety of listening exercises with increasing difficulty.

On a side note, you may have heard of its more famous counterpart Short-term Spoken Chinese that is widely used by language courses in China to teach colloquial Chinese (the Boya textbook series uses more formal language).

Chinese Grammar – Broken down into 100 items

This book covers the most important grammar points for beginners and intermediate learners. Explanations are in both Chinese and English. All Chinese entries come without Pinyin. The example sentences are not translated, so you need to already have some basic knowledge of Chinese. The answer key comes in a separate booklet that is included in the package when you buy the book. The answer key also provides a short grammar overview in the beginning.

The book is fairly big (210 mm x 285 mm), so it’s not suitable for reading in bed or on the sofa.

Brushing Up Your Vocabulary for HSK

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I love this textbook series! I never found them on Chinese language books websites, so in the end I got them in China. This series covers the HSK vocabulary from Beginner till Advanced level (I also own the two volumes of the Beginner level but they’re not relevant to me anymore). It’s alphabetically sorted (which is a bit of a downside, imagine learning six characters pronounced “fan” in a row and trying not to confuse their meanings) and every page on the left lists around 10 to 15 entries and on the right side are the corresponding exercises. The first exercise is about filling in the blanks with the words you just learnt. The second exercise often shows two or three words that can be easily confused as they have similar meanings but are used differently. The third exercise shows a few sentences and you have to choose the corresponding usage explanation. It also comes with an answer key at the end of each volume.

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Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary – The printed version

I also own the book (that being said I first bought the book and later found out there’s an app). The biggest difference between the book and the app is that the book solely uses katakana and hiragana for the readings. As I mentioned in earlier blog posts, I’m normally a person who loves to highlight and write notes in textbooks. However, this time it’s different. I find the book to heavy to carry around and finding a kanji takes up a lot of time. The book is also a lot more expensive (it was around 40 € last time I checked on amazon) whereas the app was just 18 €. And the app is much more useful as it can also be used offline and it’s virtually always with you. So studying on the bus etc. is really comfortable with the app.

Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary App

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  1. Here you can have the app show you more or less information. Less information basically shows only the English meanings of this kanji. More information is like it is on this screenshot.
  2. Lets you add a bookmark for this kanji.
  3. Lets you look for a different kanji.
  4. Settings.
  5. Basic English meaning.
  6. First comes the on-reading in capital letters (or katakana) followed by the kun-reading in small letters (or hiragana). It depends on your settings whether you see the readings in our alphabet or in katakana/hiragana.
  7. Radical of this kanji. If you click on it, the app will show you other kanji with the same radical.
  8. Shows you in which grade this kanji is taught. E.g. Jōyō 1 means it’s taught in grade 1. The example here is without a number meaning it’s taught after grade 6.
  9. The first number shows the total stroke number. The second one refers to the stroke number of the radical only. And the last one shows the amount of additional strokes to the radical.
  10. Stroke order.