Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Is A Good Chinese To English Dictionary App For Learning Chinese?

One of the most frequently asked questions on my FB page for parents which have a number of parents whose kids are learning Chinese but they do not speak or write Chinese themselves is this "What Is A Good Chinese To English Dictionary App For Learning Chinese? This post is for them.

I have a lot of apps downloaded on my iPad for teaching my kids and for them to use when doing their homework. They are both in Chinese school. They are also required to learn Malay. We, the parents do not know Chinese. So I have a number of educational apps including dictionary apps and translation apps to help them learn.

One of my favorite apps for learning Chinese is Pleco. Pleco is a dictionary app that helps us learn Chinese as well. In this post, I will share with you how we use the Chinese to English Dictionary app Pleco as a resource and aid for learning.

When we first downloaded the app, we merely used it as a dictionary app to find words that we did not know the meaning of. However, now that we have got used to the app, we find that we can use it in an even better way, as a study aid. Pleco is so much more than a dictionary app. It is a Chinese learning app. Hopefully this post can help you understand how to maximize and use it to its full potential for your benefit. Many people download the app and use it like a dictionary  like we did at first but it can do so much more. Here's how.

This is how we use it to help the kids to learn Chinese. We don't make use of all the functions but even then this is very good for us. We are using the free version of the app.

1. Here Is How To Search Using The Pleco App Dictionary

You can search by handwriting, Chinese pinyin, English or Chinese characters or by radical.

The light green arrow points to something that looks like three parallel lines. Those lines toggle you to another page which allows you to do a lot more things including open your dictionary, history, bookmarks and more.

The dark green arrow with the world icon allows you to toggle between different keyboards to do your search in either English, pinyin or by handwriting. The picture shows the handwriting keyboard which I like best because it allows one to practice their Chinese handwriting. (Note: To use the handwriting input function, make sure you have the handwriting keyboard added to your device. For iPhone or iPad, got to "Settings", then "General" followed by "Keyboard". Then select "Add Keyboard" and choose "Chinese (Simplified) - Handwriting keyboard). You will then be able to toggle or choose your methods of input by tapping the world icon.

You can also toggle to the pinyin keyboard and search in pinyin in which case you may need the pinyin indicator signs as shown by the yellow arrows.

Finally, you can toggle between searching in English or Chinese as shown by the red arrow.

You will receive your answer in text as well as listen to the audio. Pleco also helps in Chinese pronunciation because of its audio playback.


How To Search Using Pleco
How To Search Using The Pleco App

2. Pleco Is More Than A Dictionary App. You Can Use It As A Chinese Learning App

Once you have clicked on the red parallel lines, it will open up this screen. You can help your child learn by organizing or bookmarking the words or Chinese vocabulary currently being used in their Chinese textbooks or syllabus. Clicking on the "Dictionary" tab will take you back to dictionary to search for more word. The "History" tab shows you a history of all the words you have searched for.

How To Use Pleco App To Learn Chinese
How To Use Pleco App To Learn Chinese

3. You Can Organize Your Search Into Folders Using The Organize Bookmark Function.

When you click on "Organize Bookmarks" you can set up categories and folders for the words you wish to bookmark for later learning. Once you have set up your folders, you can search for words to add into the folder. After searching a whole list of words, for example the whole vocabulary list in a certain chapter in your child's textbook, click on "Dump To Bookmarks" and choose the folder to keep them in.

You can also import or export your files or download or upload your files via "File Manager" all using wifi. You can also read your searched terms on the clipboard reader which allows you to adjust your text size, fonts and do other cool things including adding text and reading in night mode or saving in a folder. However, I don't use these features very much.


How To Organize Or Bookmark Words Into Folders In Pleco
How To Organize Or Bookmark Words Into Folders In Pleco
4. Even A Child Can Use Pleco Once You Teach Them The Basics

This is how we have organized our bookmarks according to the Chapters in my son's textbook. Clicking on Chapter 18 shows all the words he has to learn from that Chapter in the folder. I asked him to key in the words into the folder himself.  He can use and understand the Pleco app much better than me once taught the basics. He is 10 years old by the way.

How To Use Pleco As A Supplementary Learning Aid For Textbooks
How To Use Pleco As A Supplementary Learning Aid For Textbooks

5. Another Useful Feature Of Pleco

Finally, below is another feature of the Pleco app which I find useful. When you search for phrases or idioms which contain several words together, you can click on the tabs I highlighted in green, yellow, red or purple. The green shows you the meaning of the whole idiom. The yellow shows you the meaning of each individual character that makes up the idiom. The red shows you the words or phrases that can be found within the idiom while the purple shows you example sentences. I find this most useful in understanding idioms. Knowing each character and the meaning actually helps you to understand the idiom's literal meaning which helps you think about a story for that idiom and helps you remember better.



How To Use Pleco To Help You Understand Phrases, Idioms And Proverbs
How To Use Pleco To Help You Understand Phrases, Idioms And Proverbs

6. How To Use Pleco To Help You Understand Phrases And Idioms

For example, in the idiom shown above and below, the meaning is "deafening". However, if you click on "chars" or characters, you can get the separate meaning for each character. I have highlighted them in yellow. The first being "shake", second is "ear", third word means "wish" and fourth word means "deaf". If you click on "words" you will get a phrase made up of the first two characters which means "ear splitting". Put all those together and you can understand the meaning of the idiom "deafening" pretty well or your child can make up his own story for example "shake the ear so loudly till deaf" = "deafening".

Breaking Idioms Or Phrases Down Into Individual Characters Help You Understand Its Meaning Better
Breaking Idioms Or Phrases Down Into Individual Characters Help You Understand Its Meaning Better


I have an electronic dictionary at home. However after discovering Pleco, I find myself using less and less of the dictionary and more of Pleco.

Here is Where To Download Pleco for iOs including iPad and iPhone or for Android users.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Road Less Traveled - From SJKC To SMK

We're doing it again. Leaving school decision till the last minute because we couldn't make up our minds. It was the same way when we were deciding whether to send our children to SK or SJKC.

Time flies and in a blink of an eye we are now at the crossroads to Secondary School. While we ponder over Secondary School Choices In Malaysia,  other parents have decided and secured a place in a school of their choice for their children  who are going to secondary school in 2015 while here we are still thinking.... thinking....

We went to visit several schools yesterday. The SMK which was nearest to my house and which was the school we had ticked off as first choice in the school form given to us was our first stopover. That visit left me very disheartened. The school was dirty, many of the window panes were broken and not replaced, the toilets were not clean. The labs had seen better days. Can teachers and students feel motivated and inspired in such an environment?

There was no proper hall. It will definitely be a downgrade in terms of facilities from their current primary school which has a large hall plus an auditorium, a music room, computer room and more. Sigh. Can I put my children there for the next 5-6 years? We spoke to the guard and the canteen lady who had worked there for 15 years. (Sometimes it is good to speak to workers of the school. They have their own stories to tell). They both said that it was ok as long as you don't let your child mix with the wrong company ie meaning those who smoke and play truant meaning there are those sorts of students in the school.

The next SMK we visited was brand new but we couldn't go in to have a look since it was a Sunday so we'll have to wait on that one. Updated: We manage to drop by unannounced to view the school premise and speak to the teachers and the guard. Really nice new premise and facilities but the impression we got was while the school is doing well academically, there are gangsterism and vandalism issues. What a pity.

The third one was an all girl's SMK. This was much better than the first school with nice clean lawn and classrooms and labs. Everything looked very much better taken care off but then we had our boy to think of. If the girl attends this school then we'd have to look for another school for the boy later on and then there would be all sorts of logistics and transport problems plus they would have less to share with each other. They have things to talk about now being in the same school, the teachers, the events, and they share the same holidays.

The fourth school we visited was an SMJK which boasts all the facilities and is well known for academic performance but do we want to put our children in a highly competitive environment like they have been for the first 6 years in primary school? They hardly had enough time to sleep or play. Studying was all they did.

The title of this post is The Road Less Traveled and it is definitely so. None of my girl's classmates are going to a normal SK. They have either left for Private school or will leave for Private or International Schools or they will go for SMJK or CIS or controlled schools. Her friends at school have been telling her that it will be a waste for her to go to SMK. They have been telling her all sorts of horrible things about SMK and discouraging her.

Why is SJKC to SMK the road less travelled? Almost no one wants to go to an ordinary SMK. Even if SMK is the school of no choice, it must have at least one of the following titles : Control School, Cluster School, High Performance School or SBT (Sekolah Berprestasi Tinggi) etc. Is it because parents have become so kiasu. I don't think it is due to that. If you were to personally pay a visit to a normal SMK and a private school you will see how the schools are world's apart just by looking at the physical facilities. Although I have heard my fair share of stories of SMK teaching, I won't comment since my child is not yet in one.

Not only schools, one has to decide whether your child will sit for SPM or IGCSE or the UEC offered by CIS. Are you seeing alphabets by now?

So what do we tell our girl? We tell her that her school will not be what she is used to now. We took her to have a look at the school premise so she can see for herself. We told her what to expect and what not to expect. We told her that we will support her all the way and she will have to work hard herself in order to continue doing well. (She has been used to the teachers spoon feeding her in primary school). We told her she will now have to switch from studying hard in Chinese to studying in Malay and we will help her with her English at home. We told her we will be saving so that we can give her the best education in the later years when it matters.

Why does it have to be so tough to decide? Forget about racial divide and politics and all that, we have no time to think about any of that. It is hard enough to decide. As parents we are only concerned about getting the best education for our children in the best environment possible. After all they will be spending a lot of time at school, almost equal amount of time if not more than the time they spend at home.

Acronym List From This Post

SK= Sekolah Kebangsaan (National Primary School)
SMK= Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (National Secondary School)
SJKC= Sekolah Kebangsaan Jenis Cina (Chinese Primary School)
SMJK=Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan (National Chinese conforming Secondary School)
CIS= Chinese Independant Schools
UEC= Unified Examination Certificate
IGCSE= International General Certificate Of Secondary Education
SPM= Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia

Useful Links: 

Remember to bookmark this page for reference when it comes to your turn to decide on a secondary school. You will find these links very useful indeed.

  1. List of Schools In Malaysia
  2. List of SMJK in Malaysia
  3. About Chinese Independent High School In Malaysia (including list of Chinese Independent Schools In Malaysia)
  4. List Of All Secondary School Schools In Each State In Malaysia
  5. Education In Malaysia (Including What Is SMJK?)
  6. Price Of International School Education In Malaysia
  7. Homeschool And IGCSE
  8. List of Private Schools In Malaysia (non exhaustive)
  9. Choice of Schools In Malaysia (an overview including high performance schools, cluster schools, smart schools, premier schools, vision schools, controlled schools, central schools and sports schools).
  10. Secondary Education Option In Malaysia (An article from School Advisor, a web portal to help parents choose private or international schools). You can search for private and international schools in your area from this portal.

Free Printable December 2014 Calendar For Kids - Snowman Design

I'm really enjoying making these free printable calendar for kids. For today, I have done two calendars for kids for the month of December 2014. Both of these December 2014 printable calendars are in Snowman design. I was thinking of doing more in Santa Claus design, Christmas tree design but I think I will leave that for another day.

If you have a design you have in mind for your child, feel free to drop your design idea in the comments box as well as a contact and I will see if I can come up with a personalized design for you or if you would like to have your child's name on it for example, feel free to write to me. It won't be hard for me to include it in my Snowman or other design calendar for children. No charge. It is free but only if I can find the time to make them.

All clipart and fonts are from Microsoft Publisher 2010 which I used to create the Calendars.

Here are two of my snowman design Free Printable December 2014 Calendar for kids. Click on the picture or the caption to download the free printable pdf file.

1. This snowman design December 2014 Calendar For Children has three snowmen and is in icy blue.

December 2014 Calendar For Children Snowmen
December 2014 Calendar For Children (Snowmen with Blue Background)

2. This snowman design December 2014 Kids Calendar is in Christmas colors of red and green.

December 2014 Kids Calendar Snowmen
December 2014 Kids Calendar (Snowman with Red and Green Background)


Previous Calendar: Free Printable November 2014 Calendar For Kids (Thanksgiving Theme)
Next: Free Printable 2015 Calendar For Kids (Boys And Girls)

If you like this page, please pin image below. Thank you.

Free Printable December 2014 Calendar For Kids
Free Printable December 2014 Calendar For Kids

Friday, October 17, 2014

Happy Diwali 2014

Happy Diwali 2014
Happy Diwali 2014
Happy Diwali 2014 or as we say it in Malaysia Happy Deepavali 2014. I took a picture of this beautiful kolam last year at one of the shopping malls. I hope there will be more this year. Diwali is celebrated on Thursday, 23 Oct 2014 this year.

The kids will be off from school for three days. For those of you looking for diwali crafts to do with kids, you can check out this Diwali Crafts For Children board on Pinterest. It has lots of great ideas there.

While the children play, parents can send out Diwali Cards or Deepavali Greetings to friends, relatives and cowokers using any of these Diwali Greeting apps. Diwali Greetings in Google Play for Android devices or Happy Diwali in iTunes for iPhone and iPad.

Of course, we must not forget songs during festivities, here is a good Diwali Song For Kids from YouTube: Diwali Is Here In English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.

Related Posts:

Animated Diwali Stories For Kids
Diwali Craft Ideas For Kids

Happy Diwali 2014!







Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Malaysia School Holidays 2015 - Takwim Sekolah 2015

Malaysia School Holidays 2015
Malaysia School Holidays 2015
So it is officially out at last the official dates for the Malaysia School Holidays 2015 or Takwim Sekolah 2015. Usually the moe (the Ministry of Education Malaysia or Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia) will come out with it around October. However many parents will be on the lookout for it earlier because they plan for holidays in advance. As a result the Malaysia School Holidays calendar is usually predicted or forecasted by travel companies etc.

If you are one of those that have been looking at the forecast Malaysia school holiday calendar for 2015 then fret not because the official school holiday calendar for Malaysia for the year 2015 is out on the Moe website. You can go to the website to download, print and paste it on your wall at home or keep in your planner from here. Portal Rasmi Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia. A pdf format of the school calendar for the school year 2015 is available for download from there.

These days I don't print and paste anymore. I just take a screenshot or photo and save on my iPad.

Interesting dates of note:

  • School starts on 4th January 2015 for schools in Kedah, Kelantan, Johor and Terengganu
  • School starts on 5th January 2015 for schools in Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Pahang, Sabah, Sarawak, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Labuan & Putrajaya
  • Total no of school days is 205 days
  • Total no of term holidays is 85 days
  • There is also something new which is "Hari Ganti" from 16 Nov to 20 Nov to replace the days off during festive periods. Hopefully that means no Saturday replacement classes.
That's it. Happy planning for your holidays, parents. 



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