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Best iPhone apps for learning Mandarin Chinese

by Shara Karasic

The iPhone is a perfect tool for studying Chinese. Learning the 5000 characters you need to be able to read the paper takes a lot of time and repetition, so load up your iPhone with these apps and make the most of your time standing in line by studying Mandarin. From Chinese dictionaries to flashcards to phrasebooks to Chinese character writing and Chinese language learning games, these Chinese apps will help you get to the next level.

Chinese Dictionary

Pleco Chinese Dictionary (Free)

Pleco is a Chinese dictionary that allows you to search for words using Pinyin (the system of spelling using the Latin alphabet to transliterate Chinese). It supports a wide array of free and paid add-on dictionary databases, full-screen handwriting and Chinese word document search. There is also a radical index (radicals are the roots of Chinese characters) so you can look up characters by radicals. Other advanced features include mixed character and Pinyin searches, wildcard/full-text searches, stroke order diagrams, audio pronunciation and flashcards. Pleco is a must-have app for serious students of Chinese.

Chinese Pronunciation Symbols

BoPoMo Help – Zhuyin Pinyin Aid (Free)

BoPoMo (or Zhuyin Fuhao) is the Chinese phonetic system that represents all the sounds of the Chinese language. BoPoMo Help gives you a chart of all the BoPoMo characters and you can hear audio for each one. You can also listen to tone examples. In addition, you can get the same pronunciation chart using the Pinyin phonetic system, which uses the Roman alphabet to represent the Chinese sounds.

Chinese Character Flashcards

5000 Chinese Audio Flashcards ($2.99)

5000 Chinese Audio Flashcards is for serious students of Chinese looking to memorize the basic characters and solidify their vocabulary. Learn the 5,000 most frequent characters through repetitive drills. First you see a character, then you choose the correct pinyin (which represents the sound of the character), and then you choose the proper definition to get the character correct. You can also hear audio for each character and download custom character decks from www.flashcardfu.com or share your decks.

Chinese Radicals Audio Flashcards ($0.99)

214 radicals compose every Chinese character — you can think of them as “root words” that help you read Chinese. This app goes beyond typical character flashcard apps, and drills you on both the pronunciation and the meaning of the radicals.

WCC Chinese Flashcards (Bigram) with Audio ($9.99)

Good for intermediate Chinese learning. WCC Chinese Flashcards (Bigram) goes beyond normal Chinese learning flashcards that drill on one character at a time. Learn bigrams, meaning two character phrases. You see the phrase, then can listen to it and view it in simplified/traditional characters as well as get the Pinyin pronunciation that includes the proper tones. You can also find out the meaning of the component characters. A good tool for building your vocabulary.

Chinese Writing

Chinese Chinese ($9.99)

This apps helps you learn Chinese writing. You are shown a Chinese character (traditional) and you trace it in the correct order. The first lesson is a tutorial on the basic elements of characters. There are seven lessons with 32 words each. You have to draw each character correctly to get to the next one. When you get more advanced, you can click to get rid of the grid and try to write the character without tracing it. One thing this app lacks is audio pronunciation of the characters.

Chinese Language Learning Games

Catch Me If You Can! (Level 1 - Pancake) ($0.99)

Listen to the audio of Chinese phrases and then choose the correct characters from a grid. Quickly gets challenging with four or five character phrases. It’s a great way to learn new characters. This app is part of a series.

 

Hanzi Warrior ($1.99)

A fun game where you have to match BoPoMo characters to their Pinyin equivalents, or find tiles that don't have matches. Successfully complete missions and achieve levels to access bonus levels that further test your mastery. See how quick you are.

 

uTalk HD Chinese ($7.99)

This app is useful for beginners to learn basic vocabulary and phrases through a series of progressively harder games on the topics first words, food, colors, phrases, body, numbers, time, shopping, and countries. Images representing key vocabulary words are presented and you listen to audio for one of the words and have to select the correct image. Harder games cement your vocabulary by timing image selection and by using a memory game. The UI and audio are crisp and clear, and a neat feature is that you can hear each word being pronounced by both a man and a woman.

Chinese Phrasebooks

Mandarin Chinese Pro ($4.99)

Mandarin Chinese Pro is a good basic phrasebook app, with over 210 categories from greetings to transportation to ordering food. Whether you are visiting Beijing or Shanghai, or just using this app to practice conversation, you’ll find it useful.

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